Equality Florida Press Secretary Testifies Before Congress on Anti-LGBTQ Extremism & Violence
Equality Florida Press Secretary Testifies Before US House Oversight Committee on Anti-LGBTQ Hate
WASHINGTON, DC - On Wednesday, December 14, Equality Florida Press Secretary and Pulse Nightclub shooting survivor Brandon Wolf testified before a US House Oversight Committee hearing to address rising anti-LGBTQ hate in America. The Committee also heard testimony from two survivors of the deadly shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs and the club’s co-owner. The hearing comes amidst numerous bomb threats against children’s hospitals that provide gender-affirming care for transgender youth, a domestic terror attack on a North Carolina power grid that was immediately celebrated by anti-LGBTQ extremists, a Department of Homeland Security terror warning issued regarding increased threats against the LGBTQ community, and the deadly shooting at Club Q, in which the shooter has been charged with multiple counts of hate-motivated crimes.
Details for the hearing are below.
WHAT: US House Oversight Committee Hearing on Anti-LGBTQ Hate
WHEN: Wednesday, December 14
WHERE: Tune in virtually: https://oversight.house.gov/
Full Transcript of Brandon's testimony:
Thank you so much Chair Maloney and the Committee for having me today. You know, being LGBTQ in America in 2022 means looking over your shoulder before you hold hands with someone you love. It means watching your very humanity be litigated day in and day out on every cable news network and across every social media platform. It means wondering if today is the day that hate comes armed with a clenched fist or worse, an AR 15. It means wondering if today your little slice of normal, the thing you told yourself you didn't deserve, comes to an end.
My day came on June 12th of 2016. Pulse Nightclub was one of the first places I ever went that I didn't look over my shoulder. I didn't stiffen my wrist or deepen my voice to avoid detection, and that night, everything about Pulse nightclub was normal. I went to the same bartender I always went to, ordered the same drinks I always ordered, and as the night wound to a close, I stepped into the same bathroom I'd been in hundreds of times before. It was a poster on the wall with the painted faces of Drag Queens I knew well. It was a half empty cup teetering on the edge of the sink like it might fall off. The water from the faucet was ice cold that night. There were gunshots. Endless gunshots. The hair standing up on the back of my neck. The stench of blood and smoke burning the inside of my nose. The nervous huddle against a wall. A girl trying desperately, so hard not to scream that I could feel her trembling on the tiles underneath us. There was a sprint for the exit, all atop this bang, bang, bang from an assault weapon.
A man filled with hate and armed with a SIG Sauer MCX charged into Pulse in my city of Orlando an LGBTQ safe space and murdered 49 of those we loved. My best friends Drew and Juan took 19 of the over 110 rounds that man pumped into the club. I'll never forget the thousands of desperate calls I placed to Drew. Or his family’s heartbroken screams when I had to tell them that their child would not be coming home. And I can never unsee both of their lifeless bodies in cold, hard caskets.
For years, cynical politicians and greedy grifters have joined forces with right wing extremists to pour gasoline on anti LGBTQ hysteria and terrorize our community. My own Governor, Ron DeSantis, has trafficked in that bigotry to feed his insatiable political ambition and propel himself toward the White House. We have been smeared and defamed. Hundreds of bills have been filed in order to erase us. Powerful figures have insisted that the greatest threats this country face are a teacher with they/them pronouns or someone in a wig reading redfish bluefish. And all along we warned. That these short-sighted political maneuvers would come with a human cost. But they've continued anyway, even as queer kids told us that they were scared, that life was getting less safe for them. Even as hate violence has escalated, as children's hospitals have faced mounting bomb threats, as armed protesters started showing up at pride festivals and brunches. As a donut shop in Oklahoma was firebombed for daring to host a drag show, even as five innocent people in Colorado Springs went into a space that was supposed to be safe for them and came out in body bags, the attacks have continued.
We can be better than that. We have to be better than that. Right wing extremism relies on this manufactured belief that its poison is inevitable, that resistance is hopeless. But I contend that taking a stand is necessary, that it is our duty. We need to say without apology that people who endanger entire marginalized communities for social media content and fundraising fodder have no place in our politics. We need to hold accountable those who traffic in venomous bigotry to score cheap political points. We need to address how our obsession with easy access to guns takes dangerous hatred and makes it fatal. And we need to say unequivocally, right here, right now, that LGBTQ lives matter, that trans lives matter. And that in this country that is not up for debate. Words have consequences. Unbridled hate comes at a cost. Our stolen loved ones are not a talking point. They're missing faces at birthday parties, empty seats at dinner tables. They paid the price for militarized hate in this country. It is high time that Congress gets serious about the cost of anti LGBTQ hatred and commit honoring those in its crosshairs with real actions. The simple truth is this. We just want to live. Is that so much to ask?
Equality Florida is the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community. Through education, grassroots organizing, coalition building, and lobbying, we are changing Florida so that no one suffers harassment or discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.