As part of Albuquerque’s Pride Week celebrations, a candlelight vigil in remembrance of lost loved ones in the LGBTQ community was held at Morningside Park on June 8.
“Over the past 47 years we have been working on this thing that we call pride,” said Neil Macernie, president of Albuquerque Pride.
After 41 years of celebrating pride in Albuquerque, this year’s vigil held special importance. On June 12, 2016, an attack on Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, left 49 people dead and 53 wounded.
The attack shook the LGBTQ community, forcing victims to come out of the closet when they were not ready, making survivors question their reasons to live and taking away any sense of safety.
“Lives were cut short, dreams were silenced, and what could have been has now become what will never be,” Macernie said.
Albuquerque Pride organizers displayed the pictures and names of all 49 club attendees who were killed at Pulse, and at the end of the vigil read their names as dove-shaped balloons were released over the park.
Vigil attendees wrote names of their lost loved ones on balloons which were also released as the sun was setting.
Macernie wanted the vigil to be a day for people to grieve and allow the weight of the losses to sink in.
“People have been keeping themselves busy to the point of numbness and frustration,” he said. “Tonight is our opportunity to be present for one another, to provide support and to provide love for healing to begin.”
Though the focus of this year’s vigil was reflection and remembrance, both the crowd and the speakers were hopeful that change was on its way.
“I think that with more and more people being out, and the visibility and all of that, that it’s not such a shock anymore,” said Janice Devereaux, a program assistant for the LGBTQ Resource Center at UNM.
Devereaux, a Chicano and Native American athlete who was very involved in her church, came out as transgender almost 20 years ago, when many feared they would “lose everything” if they came out.
“When I first came out as trans there was no real talk about non-binary and gender nonconforming,” she said. “I went from one closet into another, and it really opens my eyes talking to young people who are able to express themselves in ways that I couldn’t when I was coming out.”
After watching members of the LGBTQ community be persecuted for their sexuality, gender or orientation, Devereaux said she has days when she feels like giving up, but young people inspire her to keep fighting.
“These kids just blow me away, with the different levels of awareness that they’re at,” she said. “We cannot give up. I know that in the times that we are in right now it would be very easy to just say the hell with it and throw up your hands, and there are many days when I feel like that, but I talk to young people and they give me hope. They give me the hope to get out of bed sometimes, because if we don’t get out of bed we let down everybody who fought so that we could be here right now. Your very existence today is an act of resistance.”
Celia Raney is the news editor for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @Celia_Raney.