LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - Shock and fear. That was the reaction from some members of a USM Gulf Park organization that is working to raise awareness of gay rights. The tragedy in Orlando has them asking: Could it happen on their campus?
"Gay bars are the one safe space that the LGBT people have, especially in the South. So that the attack happened at a gay club, it's like, if we can't be safe there, where can we be safe?" asked USM History Associate Professor Dr. Douglas Bristol.
Dr. Bristol couldn't believe it when he learned of the weekend massacre at an Orlando nightclub. Bristol is the faculty adviser for the Alliance for Equality at USM Gulf Park, an organization for LGBT students and supporters.
"The reality is I think it'll push a lot of people in the closet. It'll make them more fearful than ever of being identified as gay. In the past, a lot of these attacks have happened on university campuses. Seeing that, that was my first fear is what if it happened here?" he asked.
"My initial reaction was shock," said USM Senior Tim Brownlee.
Brownlee is a member of the Alliance for Equality and calls himself an ally of the LGBT community.
"If this doesn't cause people to reevaluate their standards, to reevaluate their position on the value of gay people of human beings, deserving of the right to exist, then events like this will only happen again," said Brownlee.
Dr. Bristol is also hoping the violence in Orlando and the outpouring of support will change people's minds about those who have different sexual orientations.
"Supporting the LGBT community in Orlando right now shows that Americans are going to defend their values, which is people should have the freedom to be who they are, that we are a country that embraces diversity and that is the rationale for fighting groups like ISIS is that we have ideals as a nation and that's about freedom and liberty," said Bristol.
Dr. Bristol is also the newly-elected chairman of the Institutional Diversity Committee for USM. He said one of its goals is to review safety procedures and make sure the students and faculty know what to do in the event of a threat.