Counting the cost with pride


Detective Brian Downey (centre) attending a Gay Officers Action League event at One Police Plaza, New York, last week | Peter Foley/Wall Street Journal | 16241ga

The ramifications and aftershocks of the Orlando shootings just over a week ago are still being felt in the US and elsewhere.

The shootings have led to a number of gay people coming out.

Just hours after the music at the Pulse nightclub was interrupted by the roar of gunfire, a teenager with a nose stud and tight jeans peered across his dinner table here. “Dad,” Carvin Casillas said, “I’m kind of gay.”

The worst mass shooting in United States history by a single perpetrator, which left 49 people dead and 53 injured, has sent the nation reeling and ignited heated conversations about firearm access, terrorism and homophobia. It has also had the incidental effect of pushing some gay people in this increasingly Latino community out of the closet.

Some had their sexuality revealed by accident: Gertrude Merced learned that her 25-year-old son, Enrique, was gay only after she heard the news of his death. Others, though, have chosen to expose their inner lives, stirred by the outpouring of support for Orlando’s gay community or wrought with sorrow and unable to keep their secrets in anymore.

The Police in New York have had to pay more attention to links with the gay community after the shootings.

…The detective was walking away from a vigil where his boss, New York Police Commissioner William Bratton, spoke to a crowd of mourners outside of the Stonewall Inn. As Mr. Bratton spoke at the historic gay bar, some in the crowd chanted, “You kill people.”

“That vigil was not an accurate portrayal of who the [gay] community is,” Detective Downey said. He added, “The police commissioner is not a killer and I’m not a killer.”

The massacre of 49 people in an Orlando nightclub earlier this month awakened what some say are longstanding tensions between the New York Police Department and members of the city’s gay community.

Detective Downey, an openly gay member of the NYPD and the force’s primary liaison to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, was thrust into the middle of the acrimony. In the span of 24 hours, the 36-year-old went from celebrating his ties to both worlds (at Brooklyn Pride) to scrambling to keep them together.

Looking after the relatives of the victims – and the survivors themselves – is also going to be hard work for the whole community.

On Tuesday, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch visited some of the people injured in the attack and the relatives of some who were slain. She spoke of those who might choose to hide their sexuality out of fear of such violence in the future.

“Let me say to our L.G.B.T. friends and family, particularly to anyone who might view this tragedy as an indication that their identities — their essential selves — might somehow be better left unexpressed or in the shadows: This Department of Justice — and your country — stands with you in the light,” she said.

The shooting will have effects for a long time to come.