‘It was important to center the LGBTQ Latino community in all of this’


Jorge Gutierrez: “This is about the deep violence that in many ways this country is so obsessed with.” PHOTO/Famili

Janine Jackson interviewed Jorge Gutierrez about the Orlando massacre

Janine Jackson: In the wake of the horrific attack at Pulse in Orlando, it was all too clear what story some corporate media wanted to tell. Frank Bruni in the New York Times told readers, yes, it was LGBTQ people who were killed and injured, but the attack was really on “freedom itself,” because we in America “integrate and celebrate diverse points of view.” A Guardian journalist walked off the set of a Sky TV interview in which the host insisted the Orlando attack was on “human beings” enjoying themselves, and questioned why he, a gay man, would want to take “ownership” of the crime.

Media are backing off that “clash of civilizations” storyline a little bit, but their eagerness to cram the event into a xenophobic, anti-Islam narrative they’re comfortable with was telling. There’s a value to expanding our definition of “us,” so that we empathize whenever anyone is harmed, but then there’s also vaguing things out so much that you distort and misunderstand what’s happening and what’s at stake.

What if instead of lecturing us, media just listened to the people who were impacted? Joining us to discuss some of the many things that the Orlando killings give us to think about is Jorge Gutierrez, founder and national coordinator of Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement. Welcome to CounterSpin, Jorge Gutierrez.

Jorge Gutierrez: Hi. Thank you so much for having me.

JJ: Many things, of course, are involved here. There’s access to absurdly lethal weapons and access to mental healthcare. There are a number of valid conversations that can grow from this. But it seems important to keep focus on who was targeted and who was killed. But the queer Latinx community is not one that big media have any deep knowledge of, for sure. The video that Familia released, and that’s been widely shared, spoke into that void. Tell us about why you made that video, and what was the message of it?

JG: Waking up on Sunday morning to such horrible news and knowing that this happened at a gay club, it happened on a Latino night where there was Latino and black folks and trans folks were there…. But we didn’t see that being visible in what the media was sharing all through Sunday. And so we thought that there was a need from us to center our lives and our community, and uplift our community in all of this. And so for us, it was a response directly to the erasure from mainstream media of the LGBTQ Latino community, and also a response from us, like you said, about what really happened.

And so we know that this conversation is so complex, and that there’s so many layers to it, but for us, it was important to center the LGBTQ Latino community in all of this. In some ways, we were creating our own narrative, our own story, our own media, because we felt that the mainstream media was ignoring the fact that more than half were Puerto Rican victims and then also Mexican victims and Salvadoran victims. And so we know that over 80 percent of the victims were Latino. And so for us, that was how we wanted to center the conversation.

JJ: Yes, we’ve heard people like Rep. Pete Sessions stumble his way through, you know, it was a young person’s club and some people were gay, but they were mainly Latino—as though some people just can’t see things together. And it’s this thing of intersectionality, you know, the term introduced by critical race theorist Kim Crenshaw, not to mean being two things at once, which we all are, but to mean the way that some people’s particular experience can be erased or made invisible by the way that we consider things along just one vector at a time.

People were gratified, for example, to see CNN’s Anderson Cooper when he was talking to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who opposed same sex marriage, and he was saying, you know, the language that you used in that fight, that gays and lesbians do social harm, you know, that language has repercussions. It isn’t that what happened on June 12 isn’t another order of horror, but there is an effort, isn’t there, to connect it to the violence against LGBTQ people of color every day?

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