RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A week after the tragic shooting at an Orlando nightclub, gay rights advocates explained to CBS North Carolina what impact the massacre has had on their fight for equality.
More than anything, advocates believe the shooting at Pulse nightclub will strengthen their community and its message of love. However, they are concerned that politics may have contributed to the hatred that spurred the gunman’s fatal rage.
“I’m still in shock,” said Tabor Winstead, who worked at Pulse.
RELATED: Full Orlando Terror Attack coverage
Winstead created lighting effects at the nightclub. He says he came to call the people there family, and it’s crushing to see the death of friends like Drew Leinonen.
“He and his boyfriend were there that night. They had planned on getting married,” said Winstead.
Winstead says the outpouring of support in the wake of the shooting actually gives him hope.
“You have more people I think that are beginning to be on your side or just understand,” he said.
But, activists like Tracy Hollister say the political atmosphere in states like North Carolina leave room for the kind of hate that fueled the Pulse shooting.
“In some ways the movement for LGBT rights has always been two steps forward, one step back,” said Tracy Hollister, a gay rights advocate.
Hollister cites the U.S. Supreme Court ruling a year ago to legalize gay marriage, and then the subsequent passage of House Bill 2 in North Carolina.
“It was a real disappointing wake-up call for me,” said Hollister.
Yet, Hollister is able to point out what she sees as small steps forward.
“The silver lining of HB2 is that more people in the news media and in general are getting curious about who are transgender people,” said Hollister.
Winstead can note some improvements he’s experienced over the years.
“When I used to go out in 1992-93, you would run to the club, make sure no one was seeing you,” said Winstead.
Those positive steps make them both adamant that the shooting in Orlando will not push the LGBT community down.
“One of the things we can do to honor the victims in Orlando is to dance, is to be ourselves, is to continue to live fully,” said Hollister.
“People are people. We all have a pulse, we all have a heartbeat. You know it’s, we’re all in this together,” said Winstead.
Both Hollister and Winstead say they want to lessen some of the hate they say is against the LGBT community. They want to show people who they are, and in the process hope to get rid of the fear that can sometimes manifest in misunderstanding.