Andy Ngo is a second-year graduate student in political science at Portland State University, studying Islamism and its intersection with women’s issues. Ngo is a freelance journalist and frequently writes on free speech, religion, and human rights. Follow him on Twitter @MrAndyNgo. Read his longer biography here.
For the 2016–2017 academic year, I served as a leader for Freethinkers of Portland State University, a student group with a similar mission statement to the Center for Inquiry. In the beginning, I naively assumed that the areligious ethos of ultra-progressive Portland and the PSU campus would be fertile ground for mobilizing students in secular activism. Instead, I learned quickly that the staunchly nonreligious social environment nearly rendered our group irrelevant.
On the morning of June 12, 2016, I took this selfie after spending the past few hours at a popular Portland gay club. I just finished a grueling finals week at Portland State. Still having the medley of Rihanna and Beyoncé tunes in my head, I casually snapped this photo to memorialize the occasion where I could wear a Barbie pink tank top and white skinny jeans without care or concern.While reviewing my phone notifications, my eyes widened as I read the headlines coming in: “Orlando mass shooting; club shooting; active hostage situation.” The severity of the situation didn’t quite hit me while I drove home. Exhausted and perhaps desensitized to gun violence in America, I told myself I would read the news later. I couldn’t imagine how profoundly affected I would become in a few hours.