LGBTQ People Of Color React To The Pulse Orlando Shooting : Code Switch The tragedy in Orlando shook many people in communities that already feel vulnerable: LGBTQ Americans, Latinos, Muslims, immigrant families, and those living at the intersection of these identities.
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How LGBTQ People Of Color Are Dealing With Orlando: Code Switch Podcast, Episode 4

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How LGBTQ People Of Color Are Dealing With Orlando: Code Switch Podcast, Episode 4

How LGBTQ People Of Color Are Dealing With Orlando: Code Switch Podcast, Episode 4

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/482301554/482317138" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CARLOS GUILLERMO SMITH: Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, Oscar Aracena-Montero.

SHEREEN MARISOL MERAJI, HOST:

This is CODE SWITCH from NPR - race and identity remixed. I'm Shereen Marisol Meraji. Today's show is dedicated to Leroy Valentin Fernandez, Antonio Davon Brown, Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, Joel Rayon Paniagu and all those who were killed and injured in Orlando, their families and loved ones.

We promised to cover the difficult stories about race and identity, and it's hard to think of one that's more difficult than this. The story is still unfolding, but what we do know is that the tragedy shook folks in communities who already feel unsafe - LGBT Americans, children of immigrants, Latinos, Muslims and people who live at the intersection of all those communities. And that's who we'll be hearing from today.

Let's start with Carlos Guillermo Smith. He lives in Orlando, and he's with the LGBT civil rights group Equality Florida. We already heard his voice at the start of this podcast reading the names of the victims at a vigil there. Carlos has been talking to the media nonstop since the shooting because he says he doesn't want the fact that a majority of these victims were Latino to get lost or erased from the news coverage. But Carlos told me, after Monday night's vigil, he took a moment to let what happened sink in.

SMITH: Many, many folks were still putting their flowers down and breaking down in front of the memorial that's - that's been formed now, you know, with flowers and candles and everything. And one of my friends, who's the husband of my colleague, saw me sitting there by myself. And he just came and sat down and put his arm around me, and that was when I really broke down. And the few - a few more of my colleagues saw us sitting there, and they - they came in and they sat down to be part of the moment, where we all just grabbed each other and held onto each other and just tried to - tried to take a second to appreciate that we were all still on this Earth together.

MERAJI: Carlos Guillermo Smith, I want to thank you so much for being here with us on CODE SWITCH.

SMITH: Thank you for having me, Shereen. I really appreciate it.

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MERAJI: And CODE SWITCH's Adrian Florido is with us from Orlando. Hey, Adrian.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: Hey, Shereen.

MERAJI: How are you doing?

FLORIDO: It's very sad to be here, but it's good.

MERAJI: I'm glad you're there, specifically because you're bilingual and you're really talking to the Latino community affected by this. One of the things that Carlos Guillermo Smith told me he's been talking to press nonstop about is how this affected not only the LGBT community, but also the Latino community in Orlando. And in this case, it disproportionately affected Puerto Ricans. So can you talk about what you've been hearing on the ground?

FLORIDO: Well, it's - it's really - I mean, it's hard. I mean, it's hard for them. I mean, it's not hard for just them. It's hard for everyone, but it's hard for them because it feels like an attack on them. And I think a lot of people are still sorting out what this guy's motives were, right? But whether his intention was to target Latinos or not, the fact is that most of the people who were killed were Latino. And on the one hand, they don't want to sort of be tribalist, you know? But on the other hand, it's like you feel the pain in a different way, and so you have to express it in a different way. And I think that that's kind of an interesting...

MERAJI: I was just thinking - I mean, there is that idea of these are our people and the Latino-ness of it. And there's also, this is an American tragedy, and this - this happened to Americans. And so there's - there's this layer of being otherized (ph) and also being a part of the American fabric.

FLORIDO: You know what's so interesting about that, is I was talking to a woman yesterday, and asked her, like, does it feel different because there are so many Puerto Ricans? Does it make it extra painful? And the answer, obviously, for her, was yes. But it wasn't yes in part because her friends were killed, but also because, she said, that, as a Puerto Rican, who, by birth, because she's Puerto Rican, is a U.S. citizen - as a Puerto Rican, she's kind of always grasping for sort of her Americanness, right? Like, she's grasping to be accepted to be accepted as the U.S. citizen that she is but feels the kind of discrimination that any other kind of Latino faces in this country. And this shooting felt to her like it sort of stripped away even more of her ability to kind of cling onto that.

MERAJI: Why? Why? What was it about this particular thing that made her feel less connected to being American instead of more?

FLORIDO: I don't know that it's making her feel less connected. It's a strange kind of dynamic because, like, we think of these mass shootings - it's like these kind of particularly American kinds of tragedies. And for her, it was more like we're trying to belong here, you know? We're trying to be seen as Americans that we are. And when we're targeted like this, it felt like a hate crime to her, and so it felt like someone was telling her you don't belong...

MERAJI: Right. But that's how she feels about it.

FLORIDO: But that's how she feels about it.

MERAJI: That's her feeling. That is the complication, and there's so many complicated things about this story. And one of them - well, for me, I mean - I'll just talk about in my own family. I am Puerto Rican, and, you know, there is a member or two of my family who have said some anti-Muslim things in the last few days. And I'm just wondering, you know, what are you hearing on the ground? Is there some tension between groups?

FLORIDO: Oh, yeah. This is definitely a dynamic. I mean, this is - at the wake I just came from, there was a woman who stood up and said like, look, there are people out there especially on social media who want this moment to sort of tear us apart. They want it to pit us against each other, get us against other brown people, pit us against Muslims or whatever. And she's like we have to be very careful not to let that happen.

And there is tension. I mean, there's also tension within the community, I think, around the issue of homosexuality because, you know, like all Americans, Latino-Americans are moving more toward acceptance, but not across the board. And generationally there are still differences.

I was listening to Spanish-language radio yesterday, and this one woman called in - I included this in the story I did for All Things Considered - she called in, and she said, you know, one of my colleagues said she wasn't going to lower her flag to half-mast because she doesn't mourn for gay people. And that was really painful for her until she called this DJ because she just wanted advice on what she should do. The story in so many ways it doesn't fit these sort of neat narratives that we want it to fit into. Right? Yeah.

MERAJI: No, it doesn't.

FLORIDO: Yeah.

MERAJI: Well, Adrian, thank you so much for being here and doing this. I really appreciate it.

FLORIDO: Of course. See you guys soon.

MERAJI: The pain of the shootings at Pulse spread far beyond Orlando, and it's being deeply felt by LGBT people across the country, hitting black and brown children of immigrants and Muslims in that community especially hard. And we'll hear more about that after the break. This is CODE SWITCH from NPR.

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MERAJI: If you like what we do on CODE SWITCH, you should take a listen to Latino USA. Host Maria Hinojosa brings you interviews and stories with a fresh press perspective. You'll hear from Latino rock and roll icons, understand the consequences for marijuana legislation on communities of color and profiles of Latinas who run the world. Find Latino USA now on the NPR One app and at NPR.org/podcasts.

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MERAJI: You're listening to CODE SWITCH. I'm Shereen Marisol Meraji, and we're talking about the Pulse nightclub attack in Orlando, where 49 people, mostly young, LGBT people of color, lost their lives. This tragedy compromised what so many in that community saw as a safe space. But others say this whole idea of safety has always been elusive for the crowd that frequented Pulse on Latin night. That's something that Matt Thompson wrote about in his essay for The Atlantic called "To Be Outed In The Worst Way." Today, Matt's the deputy editor of theatlantic.com, but he's a forever member of our team. And my co-host, Gene Demby, brought him in to talk about his experiences growing up as a gay, black immigrant in Orlando.

MATT THOMPSON: There are so many ideas that run through the experience of being a person of color, of being an immigrant, of being queer, that are actually just - they are layers of the same feeling - of feeling like you walk in the world at risk of something.

GENE DEMBY, HOST:

Sure.

THOMPSON: For me - I was in the closet until relatively late. Like, the first person I came out to was junior year of college.

DEMBY: OK.

THOMPSON: And that was my best friend growing up who had the distinction of also being a gay man of color who went to the same Christian school with me in Orlando since seventh grade. And one of the most acute and ever-present risks that I felt was this risk that I would be outed...

DEMBY: Sure.

THOMPSON: ...At any given time and that I would lose all of my friends, that I would lose my connection to everyone that I loved, that I would lose my financial supports and that I would be vulnerable to any harm that might befall a young person. And I don't think I ever lost - and I'm not sure one ever loses - a sense of being at risk.

DEMBY: Sure.

THOMPSON: (Laughter) But I think that I have and I know many people who have - many people who are not queer and are not necessarily the children of immigrants - who folded that sense into their identities.

DEMBY: But you say that your parents obviously constructed, like a lot of our parents do - they'd obviously constructed this whole idea of, like, what they imagined your future and would look like. And part of you coming out to them was going to be taking - or at least complicating - the idea that they have for your future in ways that might have been devastating.

THOMPSON: Yeah. You know, I described in the essay this feeling that I think is particularly common to immigrant parents of wanting everything for your child and for envisioning this whole life for them. Imagining them - imagining their sons as men with wives and their daughters as women with husbands. Imagining them rich and successful with many, many children and many grandchildren for them.

DEMBY: Right.

THOMPSON: But there is - so much of the vision that they constructed for my life - that vision became so tangible. And I think there was an implicit fear always that if you took away some piece of it, that the whole edifice would crumble and that my life would careen off in this awful, uncertain direction. I think it takes such a sense of courage for two people - I can't imagine almost at this point in my life - I can't imagine sort of plucking myself from this context where I have made my life, where I've made friends, going to another country and building a new life from scratch with my children. I can't imagine.

It takes an enormous amount of bravery. And I think, in part, what may have enabled them to do it is the sense that, you know, they could make all turn out OK for me in this particular way. And so, yeah, I think for them the biggest part of their reaction to understanding my sexuality and their process of coming to terms with it was this grand fear for me that this would harm my life. And I think as I grew older - by the time I came out to my parents, I was well on the way to a career that I'm pretty happy with.

DEMBY: Sure.

THOMPSON: I had people in my life who I could turn to. I felt secure and loved in all sorts of ways. I had not only friends, but a partner. I think all of that made it easier to understand or to at least have a glimpse of the possibility that I could be OK.

DEMBY: So because of the concerns that you had about what would happen when you came out to your parents, did you need to find safe spaces? Was there a space like Pulse that was like especially important to you where you could be sort of be out and open?

THOMPSON: My first reaction to that question is just that coming out, for me - and I hope it's not this way for kids that are coming out now to the same degree - but it was petrifying. The process was petrifying. I was scared at every moment. You know, each person that I came out to - I was scared that this would mean the end of our relationship. And there came a point at which that was no longer my expectation or my fear, but all during that process, my safe spaces were really my friends, were my support networks that I was in in college. It was my roommates. You know, I came out - I came out to my roommates. And when they were like, yeah, OK.

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPSON: Great. And? Tell us your favorite color, too. Like, when that was their reaction, that meant that, all of the sudden, my room was a safe space.

DEMBY: Sure. When you would go back - did you go back home, like, during the holidays and the summer sessions?

THOMPSON: Yes. Yes.

DEMBY: From college. So when you would go home, was there a place like that for you in Orlando? Or was that like all under wraps once you were back home?

THOMPSON: Yeah, much more covert. I was closeted so - and in Orlando if I was going out, I was going out with friends from Christian school.

(LAUGHTER)

DEMBY: Right.

THOMPSON: It got a bit easier to actually go out and be gay when my best friend and I were out to each other and could go out together and use one another as a convenient excuse.

DEMBY: Be like, oh, this is my friend from Christian school.

THOMPSON: Yes, exactly. My best friend from Christian school who, you know, my family knew and loved for many years and you know...

DEMBY: And who was also himself the child of immigrants and gay and, you know, processing a lot of the same stuff you were processing.

THOMPSON: Yes.

DEMBY: So how did you feel, as a kid of immigrant parents, that if you were to go out covertly - how much did you feel that, like, if something were to happen to you, that you were so devalued by the world, that there would be no one who might come and look for you if something were to happen to you?

THOMPSON: That was actually never a worry that I had. And I think I have - it's a great privilege to be able to say that. I feel like I had the privilege of walking through life feeling like if something were to happen to me, people would care, and that itself was part of the difficulty.

DEMBY: Sure, sure.

THOMPSON: Was that, you know, my parents - they would care, maybe even too much, that the fear of disappointing them - I felt that probably most acutely.

DEMBY: There's a scene in the essay where you talk about how when you would go out, because you were not out to your parents, you would leave sort of like details about where you might have been on your laptop in the event that like something happened to you. And that the police had to come look for you. And they'd be able to sort of - like, you left the sort of breadcrumbs for them to find you.

THOMPSON: Yeah, that was a very particular sort of chapter in my life in central Florida. I mean, to set the context for a little bit, I left Orlando in 1998 for college and came back to central Florida, to Tampa, in 2003. In the intervening years, I had gone on this journey. I had come out to most of my friends. I was out at work. And so I was out. I was going to clubs. I was meeting guys. And first I had this all of the sudden quite acute fear as the time that I needed to take my first HIV test dawned. And then I realized, oh, wait, I am a person that probably needs to take an HIV test.

DEMBY: Take an HIV test. Yeah.

THOMPSON: That was this first moment of just pure fear (laughter). But then there was this episode that started happening in Tampa. So HIV test comes back. It's negative. Yay. But these headlines start appearing in the local papers that gay men are disappearing. Gay men who had last been seen at local gay clubs had not been heard from in first days, then weeks. I don't remember how many men disappeared in that time, but it was this kind of petrifying possibility.

And, you know, I was living alone. And whenever I went to meet someone for a date or anything like that, I would leave open on my computer at home a document - and I'd make sure to save it, just in case the power went out or something like that - a document that said here is where I'm going. Here is, you know, who I'm meeting in the event that something bad would happen to me and that the police would need some clues to figure out what that might have been. Just last week, a man was sentenced to life in prison for his part in murdering a number of gay men in Tampa at the time. And so, you know, they've sort of apparently discovered what happened, and it was, you know, the grizzly reality that everyone feared.

DEMBY: And that's one of the - that's actually sort of the central sort of thrust of the essays - that you're a child of immigrant parents. And the same time that they find out that their child has been killed in this horrible way is also the same time they might find out that their child was also gay.

THOMPSON: Yeah. I think my process of coming to understand and empathize with what it means for an immigrant parent to be come out to is a process of understanding this fact that they had constructed this vision of my life and what it would be and what it could be. And that vision of my life would be replaced with just fear. And the prospect that not only does your vision for a person's life get destroyed, but also their life itself is taken from you. The prospect that those two things could happen at once is just a kind of pain that I cannot even imagine.

DEMBY: Sure.

THOMPSON: You know, I think part of my reaction to Sunday's events was just that feeling of, you know, rewind the clock just a bit, and I could've been one of those men in that place. And that could have been the way that my parents found out. And that they would had to spend the rest of their lives reckoning with a person that they didn't know they didn't know.

DEMBY: Your parents have read the essay, right?

THOMPSON: Yes.

DEMBY: OK. Can you say how they responded to the essay? Do you know how they responded?

THOMPSON: With love and warmth and generosity. I have tremendous parents. I have occasion - I have so many occasions to rediscover how tremendously brave and generous and loving my parents are. I am so thankful for that.

DEMBY: Matt Thompson is the deputy editor of The Atlantic. He is also one of the founding fathers of CODE SWITCH. Thank you for coming in, man.

THOMPSON: Thank you for so much for having me.

DEMBY: I appreciate it.

THOMPSON: And likewise.

MERAJI: There are people who see their own stories reflected in the lives of the victims, but the shooting also devastated folks who shared the shooter's Muslim background. Muslims and Islamic organizations across the country came out to condemn this attack. But what if you share an identity with both the victims and the perpetrator, what then? Bilal Qureshi wrote about this.

BILAL QURESHI: An Afghan-American Muslim walks into a gay club in Florida on Latin night during pride month. In my dreams, that is the beginning of another great story of remix, tolerance and coexistence that is possible only in America. In reality, it's the start of a nightmare massacre fueled by hatred and perpetrated by a man from a group already scarred by a generation of suspicion and surveillance. Whether Omar Mateen was a militant fighter financed by the Islamic State, a self-radicalized extremist or a lone wolf psychopath with a gun license, the distinction for committing the worst mass shooting in our history now belongs to an American Muslim.

MERAJI: That's Bilal Qureshi, freelance journalist, former NPR producer and editor, reading from an op-ed he wrote for The New York Times after finding out the identity of the shooter at the Pulse nightclub was a Muslim American. And I have to say, it's weird not to mention, Bilal, we are close friends, are we not?

QURESHI: We are close friends, yeah.

MERAJI: And we've been friends for almost a decade. And I've always wanted you to be a guest on CODE SWITCH, and I have to say, I'm sad that the catalyst is this horrible tragedy, but I'm also really happy that you're here.

QURESHI: Thank you for inviting me.

MERAJI: Bilal, you posted this op-ed the day after this happened. So for me, as someone who knows you, it felt like it was something maybe you've been wanting to say for a long time. And I'm just wondering what was it about this particular incident that made you write it down and want to put out there?

QURESHI: I've actually been outside of the United States a lot the last few months and I've been traveling a fair bit. And I find that when I came home this last month, a lot of people have been talking about all the rhetoric of hate, all the divisions, all the political debates. But I think being home, I was just thinking so much about how amazing it is that so many different kinds of people live together here in America in a way that they don't always in other parts of the world.

I was in D.C. last weekend. It was pride month. I had just been in Washington for the day on Saturday, so I had come home to the suburbs in Virginia. And I was just thinking about, you know, all kinds of people out and about doing their thing despite all the news that we keep hearing about. And so when I heard about this incident, I think as a Muslim American my first reaction was the classic, you know, I really hope it's not Muslim, but the point being, this kind of perfect storm of things that really, really upset me. I mean, this was such a diverse community. This was a group of mostly Latino gay men in Florida. This was an Afghan-American man who seemed to have a lot of, you know, cultural issues and complexities. And it was a hate crime in the middle of a year in which so much of the rhetoric has been so charged about identity and race.

And so it just felt like a lot of things to think through and sometimes you write when you have to work out something, not because you have something to say. And for me, that's what this article came out of was - I was just, you know, working through how I felt about all these things as someone who sits at the intersection of a lot of these communities and has been thinking a lot about what it means to be American right now in 2016 living outside of America. And so I just, you know, wrote something that I thought was just going to be a bit of Dear Diary, but it seemed to have a life of its own, and I hope has been part of a healthy conversation, but it's a really terrible occasion to have to discuss this.

MERAJI: In the op-ed, you say that you were an editor and producer for All Things Considered for eight years here at NPR. And in that time, you really tried to work to highlight stories and voices of Muslims speaking out against terrorism, Muslims who weren't doing things that involved violence. And you were proud of that work, but personally, you were struggling with how to reconcile your faith and your sexuality. You wrote that you felt isolated. Do you feel comfortable talking about that?

QURESHI: I do. I mean, I think the thing about being Muslim in this country is it became, for many of us, in the last 15 years, those of us who had, I think, our moment of getting woke, as you may, on 9/11. And it really created a kind of political consciousness about what it meant to be Muslim. All around you were conversations about Muslims, what Muslims do, how Muslims think, how they behave, their culture says X-Y-Z.

I'd say, though, that one of the things I've thought a lot about is that process of having your Muslim identity be the first and primary thing you have to talk about. It prevented us, sometimes, I feel, from having other conversations we needed to be having as a community about how we move forward and what space we give people to be themselves because, you know, while all this stuff has been going on around Muslims and violence and extremism, a lot of us are also growing up and figuring out how to live our lives. And that's been a hard thing sometimes to balance.

And I'd say, on the issue of sexuality, I mean, so many faith communities, traditional communities, communities of color, I mean, this is a whole body of literature and writing and thinking, I mean, this is James Baldwin, this is all that stuff. It's the idea that in communities of color it's really hard to break through some of the traditions that we've grown up with.

And I think for many Muslims that's been an issue that we haven't done a lot of thinking about. And I don't think it's because Muslims don't have the capacity to think about it. I think it's because a lot of us haven't had a lot of lived examples of people who are gay and open. And I thought that was a conversation that Muslims needed to have as we thought about this particular attack because it is a homophobic attack and is an attack on the LGBT community. And it also is a moment that could spur a lot of Islamophobia and is spurring a lot of Islamophobia.

MERAJI: How do we have that conversation without further stigmatizing the Muslim community? When you're saying publicly we have to look at our own issues with homophobia, I don't know, do you feel like it's piling on? Do you feel like a traitor to your people? I feel like it's really complicated.

QURESHI: Yeah, I mean, I think that's why this was a really tough issue to talk about. But I just think, you know, I'm - I think we're very much Americans as well. And we've grown up at this moment in America. And I think we're very ready for these conversations. I just think we should have them more openly. And I think the more you let your own vulnerabilities and challenges and growth show, the more people you connect with. And I think that, you know, when you get into a defensive mode and you always feel like you're the victim, you know, you lose a bit of agency. And I think we have agency, as well, to constantly improve, think about what we're doing, that we can improve upon to be better members of the American family.

And, I mean, I do think, you know, we have to deal with ideology that's not accepting and not inclusive, which a lot of communities have, and they are working through it in their own way. I think every community struggles with this. I didn't say this to say that Muslims exclusively suffer with it. I think a lot of people have problems around how inclusive can they really be when it comes to sharing space.

And the other thing, of course, I wanted to say was not that I think Muslims should go out and start, you know, they should all go to gay clubs tonight. I mean, I think that's not the point also. I mean, the point is that, you know, how do we think about how we coexist in a moment in America when gay rights are central, when gay rights are now nationally and politically and constitutionally protected? That's the country we're in.

And I want us to be able to say we're part of that, and we accept that and we stand for it. And I think, most importantly, we give space to people in our own committees to have that lived experience because there are a lot of people who are gay in the Muslim community who - there are some people who are out and they've been amazing activists and inspirations for a lot of years. But many people have really grown up with a lot of traditions that are still evolving. And I thought this could be a moment to really do some soul-searching and not just kind of - hashtag #activism is how I think I described it.

MERAJI: You said that you disabled your Twitter after this because you were worried that there was going to be some vitriol. And I'm just wondering, like, what has the response been?

QURESHI: Personally, I have just been blown away by how positive everybody has been and how much people have said. This is a conversation we really need to have and not just in terms of Muslims but in terms of many communities, and a lot of us having to re-check our own limitations because I think with the issue around Islamophobia, a lot of people I've talked to about that over the years have said, you know, you're right. I didn't realize that, or I've learned a lot about that, and thank you that we had these conversations. You know, we went to Europe after Charlie - the attacks on Charlie Hebdo last year and talked to many European Muslims about what it means to be hyphenated. And it was really illuminating to think about people still working out what being a hyphenated person looks like.

So what I've been really struck by in the response to this op-ed and to this attack is because so many things are are intersecting in this attack, from Islamophobia, to self-hate, to homophobia, to Latino - the Latino community in Florida, to our just political season that we're in. I think a lot of people have said thank you, thank you for making me think, thank you for being part of the conversation, and thank you for writing something that says we all need to do better to understand each other. I can't believe that sounds so ridiculously, like, cheesy now, but that was sort of what I've been struck by the response by people.

MERAJI: I want to talk about you and living on the hyphens and, you know, being this remixed person. Do you feel like you can be comfortable with your remix? Or - especially in times like this - or do you feel like you need to highlight parts of your identity and diminish others?

QURESHI: Well, you know, I mean, it's an interesting question. I mean, if you don't mind me saying, I mean, you're - you know, you're half Persian, half - I'm sorry, what is your way of describing yourself?

MERAJI: I'm, Iranian - I'm Puertoranian (ph), Persiorican (ph). My father's a Muslim Iranian, my mom's a Puerto Rican.

QURESHI: And you're Californian, which is an identity unto itself. I'm here in Virginia, where I'm a Southerner as well. And so the question is what you identify as at what points. You know, it's very different, and I think that when we're a lot of things, some things are more important at some occasions and other things become more pronounced other times.

When it comes to what I like to eat, it's very defined by Virginia. I really like fried chicken. It's my favorite thing ever. But that's because that's what we had to eat in Richmond a lot. So, I mean, you know, it's funny the where certain identities become pronounced, and I think being Muslim has been a very public one for many people. But, you know, just like we've been talking about with race and with black identity and with gay identity in this last, you know, few years - comes in all kinds of forms. And I think that when you're many things, sometimes some things are more important to talk about. And I just think on this particular occasion, I felt like I wanted to say things on a variety of fronts and definitely as an American who, I think, feels very proud and also very committed to what it means to be in a country that allows people remixes.

MERAJI: I think that our identities and different parts of our identities carry different weights depending on the circumstances that we're in. I think my question to you is, in this case, have you been more fully all of the parts of you, has this brought them all together in a way?

QURESHI: I mean, I think that's been what I've been, you know, working on as an adult - I just think is learning to not see them as separate and learning to see them as just kind of, you know, playing to - you know, as being very much interconnected and complementing each other. I'm less thinking about how it feels for me and more about what this looks like for so many people who are watching this story and thinking about how they feel and how to think about how they address this. I just think so much of this can make us all feel like, I'm upset at this level, I'm upset as a Muslim, I'm upset as a Latino person, I'm upset as a LGBT person. I think we should really take this as a moment to see that we've all been attacked, in a way.

MERAJI: That was Bilal Qureshi. He's a freelance writer, former NPR producer and editor. Thanks, Bilal.

QURESHI: Thank you, Shereen.

MERAJI: We're following this story on the CODE SWITCH blog and on the radio, but that's all for our episode today. Our producer is Walter Ray Watson. Our editors are Alicia Montgomery and Tasneem Raja. We're back next week. This is CODE SWITCH.

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MERAJI: If you like what we do on CODE SWITCH, you should take a look at listen to Latino USA. Host Maria Hinojosa brings you interviews and stories with a fresh perspective. You'll hear from Latino rock 'n' roll icons, understand the consequences for marijuana legislation on communities of color and profiles of Latinas who run the world. Find Latino USA now on the NPR One app and at npr.org/podcasts.

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