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Lowcountry's Hispanic LGBT community coping with Orlando shooting

Lowcountry's Hispanic LGBT community coping with Orlando shooting

Identity can be a funny thing, complicated by your family heritage.

"I personally identify as a member of the queer community rather than lesbian or bisexual community," said Maria Figueroa, who lives in Charleston. "I am half-black and half-Puerto Rican, so I identify as bi-racial and bi-cultural. But Hispanic is the moniker I choose."

Figueroa's home with her girlfriend Savannah is filled with love. Post-it notes adorn the front door in the shape of a heart. She proudly flips through a scrapbook of trips they've taken together.

But it doesn't always feel that way on the outside.

"As a member of such a number of stratified and vilified communities, every day of our lives and the actions we take is subject to prejudice, to question, to debate and to politics," she said.

She said it was why the Orlando shootings hit her so closely.

RELATED: Warning signs in Orlando shooting missed?

"Every day of our lives and the actions we take is subject to prejudice, to question, to debate and to politics. To try and politicize our lives without politicizing our deaths is something that hurts. Not only was a place attacked that was designed solely as a place of respite and love and community for a marginalized group of minorities, but it was a particular night designed to celebrate and enjoy the Hispanic and Latino heritage brought to the LGBT community because we are here," Figueroa said.

"I'm not from the U.S. I'm from Mexico. I came here when I was six years old. In high school, I came out as gay," said Jonatan Guerrero, who grew up in Georgia and moved to Charleston for college. "I'm still in shock but then again looking at it in a positive way. I'm moving forward, thinking how are we going to change things."

Figueroa said a compromise in new national gun legislation should be a start in a way to honor the dead. She also thanked the Charleston community for its open-mindedness and encouraged everyone to follow its lead.

"Right now the LGBTQ community and Hispanic and Latino communities are just asking for acceptance and understanding and for tolerance, well-wishes and for change," Figueroa said. "I hope it inspires empathy, education and I hope that above all it inspires a sense of community because before anything else were people."

Together, they show no one's identity should be something for which they die.

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