A sea of broken hearts

There are so many broken hearts today in Orlando--so many friends and family members all over the world gripped by grief over the senseless murder of their loved ones.

Those of us who didn't know the victims also have shed many a tear, and will do so many more times. It's heartbreaking to see their names and their ages, to picture them dancing and having fun, just minutes before their lives were maliciously cut short.

Every time I see a name, so many of them Latino names, and read a bio about who this person was, what they had achieved, what they'd hoped to do in their life, how many loved ones they left behind, my heart breaks over again. I feel like they could have been one of my cousins or one of the young Latinos and Latinas I work with every day, and it's just unfathomably sad to have lost them this way.

Their murders show we have so much more to do as a society when it comes to ending anti-LGBT bias and discrimination.

In the LGBT community we've always known that despite legal wins related to marriage equality, we have a long road ahead of us to achieve not just equal rights, but also achieve full cultural acceptance. We know LGBT kids are bullied every single day in school, and people live in fear of losing their jobs if someone learns they are LGBT. We know some people are still afraid to hold their partner's hand in public, afraid to wear the "wrong" piece of clothing, or just to use the bathroom that matches who they are.

We also know that the last few months have seen the introduction of far too many mean-spirited, discriminatory laws pretending to focus on public safety but which, in reality, only serve to tear away at the dignity and safety of LGBT people.

These legislative proposals -- some successful, others not -- have created an atmosphere in which some people feel more justified than ever in vilifying LGBT people.

A lot of political rhetoric this year has purposely tapped into a fear of "the other," those who are thought to be different. In reality there is no "other." LGBT men and women, Latinos, Muslims -- we are all part of these United States. We all get up every single day and contribute a lot to make this country, our country, great.

It's powerful to know that all of us have something we can do to combat hateful rhetoric at a time when so many of us feel so helpless. We can show support and love, first and foremost to the victims, their families and communities directly affected. Then, we can show support and love to all of our neighbors -- LGBT and allied, Muslim, Christian, Jewish and others impacted by the human tragedy we are all living through today.

It's heartening to see the lines of people wanting to donate blood (though many gay and bisexual men are still turned away from blood banks because of who they are), and so many beautiful messages of support from community leaders and average people of all ethnic backgrounds, orientations, and identities.

The grieving is far from over. But we won't stop living our lives, and coming together with our friends, to build community, to talk and laugh and to dance.