“Christopher was my merely child. As I used to tell him, ‘You can’t do better than perfect.'”
That is how Christine Leinonen explained her relationship to her son to the teary-eyed crowd at the 2016 Democratic National Convention on July 27, 2016. Her son, Christopher, and his boyfriend, Juan Ramon Guerrero, were two of the 49 victims who were killed at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida .
“Christopher’s paternal grandparents met and fell in love in a Japanese internment camp, ” Leinonen noted, comforted by two of her son’s friends at the podium. “So it was in his DNA that love always trumps hate.”
While nothing can truly heal the loss of a child, Leinonen and many other mothers in her shoes can at least rest assured that their children’s memories will never be forgotten in Orlando.
The Pulse nightclub is slated to construct a permanent memorial honoring the victims of the June 12, 2016, massacre.
The LGBTQ nightclub’s owner, Barbara Poma, filed paperwork with the State of Florida on behalf of the OnePulse Foundation earlier this month to fund and construct a monument honoring Christopher and the other victims, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
The incident marked the largest mass shooting in American history.
The specifics of Pulse’s future as a nightclub are still a little bit unknown, seeing as the community is still reeling from unprecedented tragedy and loss. But Poma is set on two things: Pulse will return as a safe space for the LGBTQ community, and it will always honor those who lost their lives this June .
“Anything we would ever do would include a memorial, ” she told the Sentinel.
Tragically , what happened at Pulse is symbolic of a much larger systemic issue: cases of violence against LGBTQ people and, particularly, queer people of color.
While simply being LGBTQ means you’re living more at-risk of discrimination, black and Latinx queer people especially those who are transgender are “massively overrepresented among victims of anti-LGBT violence, ” Fusion reported, pointing to data from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.
The majority of people who died at Pulse were LGBTQ people of color .
Although we’ve taken monumental strides forward toward equality in recent years on issues like marriage equality and same-sex adoption, that level of progress hasn’t been felt on every issue across the board.
In fact, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported in 2011 that LGBTQ people “are far more likely than any other minority group in the United States to be victimized by[ a] violent hate crime.”
In her heart-wrenching speech at the DNC, Leinonen encouraged us all not to feel helpless, but to opposed so that no other parent needs to experience what she has.
That fight for justice, she said, surely includes gun control.
“At the time[ Christopher was born ], I was a Michigan state trooper, ” she explained. “When I went into labor, the hospital put my off-duty handgun in a safe. I didn’t argue I know common-sense gun policies save lives.”
“I’m glad common-sense firearm policy was in place the working day Christopher was born, but where was that common sense the working day he died? I never want you to ask that question about your child.”
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