On Sunday, June 12, Pulse, a gay nightclub, in Orlando, Fla. suffered a mass shooting that killed 49 and wounded more than 53, marking it has the deadliest shooting in United States history. The attack shocked communities all across the world, and Tech was not exempt.
Tech hosted a reflection in the Flag Building on the following Tuesday, hosted by the LGBTQIA Resource Center, the Office of Student Diversity Programs, and the Counseling Center, where students and staff were able to share their feelings about the attack.
Dr. Aby Parsons, the director of the LGBTQIA Center expressed her thoughts on the impact of the event.
“We wanted to provide the space for all members of the Tech community — students and employees alike — to come together to draw strength from one another, share reflections and be in community and solidarity,” Parsons said. “In times of tragedy and trauma, sharing in the collective strength and support of a community can be a valuable means of processing grief, anger and confusion. The purpose of the event was to assist our Tech family in that healing process.”
Over 100 students and faculty attended the reflection, although students also attended events in Atlanta. Amanda Bernardy, a second-year CHBE student, attended a candlelight vigil at Ten Atlanta on the day of the attack with a group of friends.
“I know [the shooting] brought a lot of people together,” Bernardy said. “I think the community is really good about showing love towards each other and other people, even in the face of a tragedy like this.”
Many students sought out similar resources following the attack.
“Some [LGBTQIA community members] have sought our support from the Counseling Center, from some of our campus ministries, and my office,” Parsons said. “Many were saying that, for them, it just reminded them of how vulnerable LGBTQIA folks still are in the U.S. and how much danger we all face just by living our truths every day. For many in our community who experience LGBT bars and clubs as places of community and sanctuary, they no longer feel safe in those spaces.”
“[The vigil] was a really good experience for me,” Bernardy said. “My opinions are my opinions politically, but as far as people go, and human rights and protecting life, all of that stays the same.”
Matthew Bowling, a second-year BA and acting chairman of the Georgia Tech College Republicans, expressed his belief that such an attack transcends gender and race.
“This attack was undoubtedly an act of violence against the LGBT community, and I’m sure has caused great grievance and fear amongst the coalition, but also people must realize this was an attack upon the United States of America and a group of its citizens,” Bowling said. “When an act of violence this heinous occurs, it affects the entire student body, regardless of race, gender or sexual preference.”
As for a solution to the problem, there is no clear answer. Parsons has advocated for the Institute’s senior leadership, faculty and student leaders to go through Safe Space training and Trans 101 programs, both of which are offered by the LGBTQIA Resource Center in the fall. Parsons also said that she would like to train Greek organizations to become Greek Allies for the LGBTQIA community.
“It is everyone’s responsibility to create spaces where LGBTQIA people feel safe, included and valued, including here at Tech,” Parsons said.
Parsons also spoke about the future of LGBTQIA communities at Tech, saying that she would like to see more inclusivity in terms of housing and affordable health options for LGBTQIA students.
“I would love to see us finalize a gender-inclusive housing policy for our transgender students, and to offer health insurance that covers gender confirmation surgeries,” Parsons said.
Bowling took a different approach, advocating for the concealed carry of firearms on Tech’s campus.
“I am a strong proponent of the Campus Carry Bill that was in the state capitol this past spring.” Bowling said. “If anything, this incident is another reminder that there will always be people in our community who cause random acts of terrorism, and I personally believe that as a student in Atlanta, Georgia, where crime and violence are constant concerns, that students should be able to protect themselves in situations such as these.”
Students and faculty were not the only ones to respond to the attacks. The Georgia Tech Police Department lowered the campus flag to half-mast on the following Monday.
The LGBTQIA Resource Center, the Office of Student Diversity Programs and the Counseling Center are open to receive students and address their concerns. For more information, students are encouraged to visit lgbtqia.gatech.edu for access to training programs and staff members’ contact information.