Silent and solemn faces were lit by the soft glow of candles as members of the OU community stood together grieving the loss of life in the 2SLGBTQ+ community.
Around 20 members of OU’s community joined together on the South Oval at the Unity Garden in a candlelight vigil held by the Gender + Equality Center Monday night to memorialize those harmed and killed through violence targeted at the 2SLGBTQ+ community.
The gathering was in response to the Nov. 19 shooting at Club Q, a 2SLGBTQ+ nightclub in Colorado Springs. The shooting left five dead and 18 injured.
Quan Phan, GEC LGBTQ+ program coordinator, opened the vigil by speaking about the shooting and emphasizing the importance of community during this time.
“There are no words that can describe the sorrow that we feel, nor sufficient to feel the pain that we collectively suffer. However, seeing the community gathering here tonight gives me hope and comfort,” Phan said. “We’re here together, not only to honor the people impacted at Club Q, but also to share the loss and pain from each other, helping each other, realizing that we're not alone.”
Erin Simpson, GEC director, said she did not want to give platform to the “hateful rhetoric” that spurred the Club Q shooting.
“I'm interested in talking about (those) who protected, and together, saved their friends, family and a bar full of strangers," Simpson said. "Make no mistake, there is a time and place to engage in how we got here and the rhetoric that pushed us here, but tonight, I am interested in turning my face toward the family I have found."
Alexandria Petre, an OU law student, said she came to the vigil because, as a member of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, she wanted to support those that are feeling the loss and need comfort in this time.
Ezra Koenig, LGBTQ+ Student Alliance president, said it is important to have events like the candlelight vigil to support students.
“It makes a big impact as an institution to say, ‘Hey, we see you. You’re hurting. We see that there has been harm, and we, as a department and an institution, are here to support you through that,’” Koenig said.
Koenig also emphasized the importance of standing against “willful ignorance.”
“A lot of people think that queerphobia, homophobia and transphobia doesn't happen anymore, but it still happens,” Koenig said. “It's happening every day. It can be small, it can be big, but it happens.”
Keane Hauck, a psychology junior and GEC peer educator, said he feels events like the vigil are important to fight fear that comes with tragedies like the Club Q shooting.
“When it comes to violence that is targeted with hatred in mind, it's so easy to see those things and to just feel scared and to feel alone, but you’re not alone,” Hauck said.
Ann Schafer, GEC associate director of education and outreach, said she hopes in the wake of tragedies like these students know that they are loved, cared for and supported by OU.
“We don't want students to isolate their grief (but to) be able to share that, because we want to listen, we want to talk to them and want to help them heal,” Schafer said.