The following is a letter to the UCLA Anderson community from Out@Anderson Co-President Steph Lo (’17), reflecting on the mass shooting at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday, June 12.
My girlfriend, Kelsie, and I were up early Sunday morning getting ready to march in LA PRIDE when we found out about the news in Orlando. It hit me in waves. A mix of confusion, disbelief, and disappointment. I recited numbers, details, and headlines in my head, but all I felt was numb. I sat on the edge of the bed not saying a word and then I finally turned to Kelsie. "There are no safe spaces anymore." As I muttered the words aloud, I began to cry. And I honestly haven't stopped crying since.
It's tough to explain the sadness I feel right now. I didn't personally know anyone in that club; I don't even know a single person who lives in Florida. I know myself, though, and I know people who would have been in a club just like Pulse, in any other city, on any other night, to celebrate each other, the LGBT community, and our shared experiences. I know how incredible it feels to be somewhere in public where I'm certain I'll be free of judgment and can interact with my girlfriend in the exact same way I'd interact with her behind the doors of our own home.
Orlando shook me in a way I'll never forget. Perhaps I'll never feel more empowered than I did walking down Santa Monica Boulevard with Kelsie the morning after the shooting, with thousands of other queer individuals and our allies, as we collectively vowed to keep marching toward equality, despite all of the threats and challenges we face. The vigil Kelsie and I attended Monday night at City Hall was a reminder of L.A.’s diverse community, its strength and its unwavering resilience.
And yet, I'm still sad. I've been sad every day, to various degrees. Things are still hard to process and I've been avoiding people because I don't want to have to lie and tell someone that I'm doing well if they ask simply, “How’s it going?” Instead, I've sought solace in my CrossFit gym, a community that's always felt like home to me; I've eaten at my local neighborhood restaurant for days in a row, because it's where Kelsie and I have always felt welcomed by the staff and its owner. Last weekend, Kelsie and I left town to spend time with each other and to heal. I hoped to come back with a fuller heart and a fresher outlook.
To all of our allies, thank you so much for your support over the last week. Many of you have asked how you can help, and while I wish I had a list of resources for you to peruse, the solution does not seem that easy to me. If you feel inclined, there are many funds that have been set up to help the families of the victims of the shooting. But, I'm here to ask for something else. I’m here to ask for your time and reflection.
If you want to help and if you're up for the challenge, then please think about one thing you can do to create a safer and more inclusive environment for people at Anderson next year. I don't care if you write it down, say it out loud, or pledge it publicly; just think about one actionable way to help and commit to it.
If you've never felt unsafe before, think of the many groups that have and ask yourself why they’ve ever been put in that position. And if you're still not sure how to proceed, please feel free to reach out to anyone at Out@Anderson (O@A) to ask about their experiences and the allies who have supported them in the past. I won't take my safety for granted ever again, but I also vow to do my best to promote safe and inclusive spaces for others.
Anderson has an incredibly diverse student body and it’s one of the reasons why I’m proud to be a student here. There are many stories and experiences to be shared, and we have a lot to learn from each other. At the end of the day, my biggest hope is that we can all demonstrate kindness, patience, and empathy for one another despite our different backgrounds, ethnicities, identities, and beliefs.