Students gathered on the steps of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art last night to honor the victims of last June’s shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The vigil, organized by members of Bowdoin Queer-Straight Alliance (BQSA) and the Latin American Student Organization (LASO) emphasized the importance of intersectionality, particularly in queer communities and communities of color. 

“When these shootings happened, my parents called me and they were like ‘Chris, you’re gay and you’re brown, this could have been you,’” said Chris Hernandez Turcios ’18, who led efforts to organize the event. 

At the vigil, students lit 49 candles on the Museum steps, one for each victim, and read aloud all the victims’ names and ages. Hernandez Turcios and Ernesto Garcia ’17, president of LASO, gave short speeches in English and Spanish to a small crowd of students who turned out despite a light rain. 

Sophie Sadovnikoff ’19, a leader of BQSA, helped Hernandez Turcios organize the event.

“There are very few exclusively queer spaces and we consider a lot of [those] spaces safe spaces,” she said. “So to have one of those taken from us in such a violent way ... it really freaked me out.” 

The vigil was a part of Out Week, which BQSA sponsors each year. Hernandez Turcios said he wanted to emphasize intersectionality at the vigil and during Out Week, both as it pertains to the shooting and to Latin American and queer communities at Bowdoin.

“More than 90 percent of the victims were Latino and it was targeted towards the LGBT community along Latino lines,” said Garcia.

“They were all there because it was a salsa night,” Hernandez Turcios said. 
Garcia noted the importance of recognizing intersectionality not only with regards to the Orlando shooting, but also at the College. 

“It’s really hard to find events [at Bowdoin] where you have people of color who also identify as not straight,” he said. 

Both Garcia and Hernandez Turcios hoped that bringing LASO and BQSA together for the event would emphasize the overlap of oppression based on race and sexuality. Because the Pulse shooting was a high-profile event, Hernandez Turcios thought that holding a vigil would honor the victims and provide a powerful forum that all students could understand. 

“I don’t want to proselytize,” he said. “I didn’t want to have a workshop or a discussion because I feel like when we have discussions about intersectionality and queerness and race we have the same 20 to 30 people who come.”

The vigil was emotional for many of the students present; some also saw it as a space for unity. 

“Queer-identifying people tend to face a lot of fear in everyday life because you sort of never know how people are going to react to you,” Sadovnikoff said. “Having to face that fear in spaces where you usually didn’t became really difficult. So making sure that those spaces continue to exist on this campus and that we really make the space for them in our lives and remove that sense of fear has been really important.”