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This is More Than the Orlando Shooting

June 13, 2016

Today, I feel sad. I feel blah and numb. Today, I question all of the strides which we have moved us forward. As an older LGBT community member, I remember a time when it was not okay to be gay. It wasn't acceptable to hold hands or kiss in public. I also remember outing myself under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in order to stand up with other soldiers who were being discharged from the military simply for being gay.

I remember a time when the only safe space I had was at the nightclub when I was with other people who were just like me. Over time, a vast majority of the LGBT community has been able to let our guard down. Society, it seemed, had started to accept us.

But transgender women of color and LGBT communities of color have not been a group who has enjoyed this ability of increased safety and social-standing.

In the blink of an eye, that trust and safety has been ripped from us.

This is more than the Orlando shooting. This is a war which has been waged against us by evangelicals, conservatives, politicians who are funded by the Koch brothers and so many more. The hate that this shooter had was only spurred on by dangerous rhetoric such as "bathroom bills" and "religious freedom restoration" acts. And these same politicians now dare to offer condolences via social media and news sound bites.

Marriage equality has given us the sense that we are equal.

But until all LGBT Americans are able to freely be who they are without fear of reprisal, rejection, violence or prejudice, then we are not truly free.

Until trans women of color and LGBT people of color are not killed daily, we are not free. Until kids are no longer bullied or pushed to the point of suicide, we are not free.

Until we as LGBT Americans are afforded the same opportunities to do all things such as donate blood or adopt and foster children, we are not free.

Until LGBT people are no longer treated as second-class citizens by politicians who refuse to recognize the separation of church and state, we are not free.

While ISIS is disgusting and has done horrible things to LGBT communities, I would offer that the most horrendous behavior committed against LGBT people in the United States has been and is committed by Evangelical Christians who hide behind their perverted religious views.

In the aftermath of the Orlando shooting, it is my hope that the LGBT community will reflect on the insurmountable loss that our community has suffered. I pray that the outpouring of support that has been felt around the world at vigils and rallies will carry on into the weeks and months to come. To borrow from the movie Milk, "Out of the bars and into the streets!"

It is time that we stand shoulder to shoulder and march for our entire LGBT community not just the L, G or B. It is time that we stand together to ensure that no more trans women of color or LGBT person of color dies as a result of hate, prejudice or discrimination.

An earlier version of a portion of this content was posted on Aaron's Facebook page.

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My HIV Journey

Aaron Laxton

Aaron Laxton

I am simply a guy who on June 6, 2011, received the news that over 33 million people have received: I am HIV positive. I decided in that split moment to record the journey that I was embarking on so that I might help others as they receive that news.

I am not a doctor and I do not endorse any agenda other than simply living a healthy life. I am an activist and advocate and simply want to make the world a better place. I hold a degree in sociology and psychology. I am a product of the Missouri Foster System and this is one of my main passions, second only to the work I do with HIV/AIDS outreach and prevention.

I embrace a sex-positive model. People are going to have sex; it is a natural part of who we are. However we need to make sure that it is safe. I can be found on weekends throughout St. Louis, Missouri, passing out condoms and safe-sex kits.

I am now an M.S.W. student at Saint Louis University's College of Public Health and Social Justice and the School of Social Work.

Whether in St. Louis, D.C. or around the nation, I always jump at the chance to help change not only policies to better serve those that need help but to also change the landscape of the society that we live in.

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