In light of Saturday’s horrific shooting at Pulse Nightclub, the LGBT Latino community is stepping out of their shadow.
Often seen as an invisible demographic, the world now is now becoming familiar with a group that is prominent throughout the southern United States, especially Florida.
The shooting, seen by much of the media as a hate crime, has forced many to ask whether the attack specifically targeted the Latino community.
Most of those killed were of Hispanic descent, hailing from countries like the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Colombia. Of the 49 victims, 23 were Puerto Rican.
On Saturday, Pulse nightclub hosted its popular Latin night event. Yet what should have been a celebratory evening of music and dancing to celebrate Latino culture turned deadly when a gunman entered the club and shot more than 100 people.
As of right now, no one has answers as to why the gunman committed this act of violence. But members of the LGBT community are vocal in saying that this was a hate crime towards not only gays and lesbians but the Latino community as well.
Eric Martinez, a gay man of Puerto Rican descent, lost a friend in the attack. He told CBC News, “Both things unfavorable to certain people — people who don’t like gays, people who don’t like Latinos.”
Although some organizations focus on helping Latino families cope with grief, some have noted a lack of services available for Latinos in the LGBT community. Additionally, some families were reported to not have known anything about their loved one’s sexual orientation before the attack.
LGBT communities in Orlando and across the country are hoping this attack will shed some light on the social and medical issues faced daily by this invisible demographic.
Young gay and bisexual men commonly suffer from health issues, including anxiety, depression, self harm, and suicide attempts. These mental health conditions can lead to a domino effect of other ailments, from heart disease to stroke to even common conditions like asthma, which increases the risk for sleep apnea by 40%.
Additionally, Latinos are one of the fastest-growing demographics in this nation. In Florida alone, Latinos account for more than a quarter of the state population, and the state is home to about 850,000 people of Puerto Rican descent.