My sister called me crying yesterday. I came out to her in 2008 and ever since, she had done her best to support me, and learn as much as she can about the LGBT community. If anything, the events in Orlando hit her harder than they hit me. "I just feel so helpless," she told me. "That could have been you." I grew up in a world where these shootings were regular occurrences. I do not remember a time before them. Because of this, it may seem unlikely that anything will ever change. But change is always, always possible. There are things you can do to support those who have been most affected by this tragedy.
1. Donate to Orlando Relief Efforts
For victims and their families, the coming weeks will present a slew of new expenses, adding insult to injury. Medical bills, funeral costs, and a thousand other things will pose an unnecessary strain on those directly affected by the violence. Luckily there are many way to help financially. This GoFundMe organized by Equality Florida has already reached $5.7 million. According to the donation page, the GoFundMe Corporation had waived the transaction fee, effectively ensuring another $100,000 can go to the families of those affected. Other worthwhile funding campaigns include this one organized by LGBT rights organization, Planting Peace.
Immediately after the attacks, Orlando blood banks declared an "Urgent Need" for donation. Blood banks across America cite a perennial need for givers -- the attacks at Pulse gay nightclub show just how desperate this need is. The irony being, of course, that men are not legally allowed to give blood in the U.S., unless they have abstained from all same-sex sexual contact for a year. (This ban persists despite evidence showing that the fears of the FDA are unfounded.) In the wake of the shooting, there has been a public outcry to change this policy, with wildly popular petitions cropping up online. Sign a petition here, or, if you can, go ahead and donate blood.
4. Go To a Pride Event
Pride has always been a time to show the world you're not afraid. Since their incipience over 45 years ago, these parades and festivals have remained a celebration of identity, of life, and -- most importantly -- love. Events are scheduled throughout the summer and fall, locally as well as abroad. Check out theselists for a Pride nearby. By attending a Pride event, people around the world have an opportunity to show that terror means nothing in the face of their love.
5. Fight LGBT Stigma
We can't talk about Pride without talking about stigma. There is mounting evidence to show that the killer, Omar Mateen, used gay dating apps, and may have felt same-sex attraction. His act of violence, then, would speak to his hated not only of LGBT people, but his hatred of his own queerness. Sources estimate that, despite growing acceptance, millions of queer people still live in the closet. One thing you can do to fight the stigma is to share images of queer affection on social media using the #twomenkissing hashtag (#twowomenkissing also works!), as well as by voicing your support for queer identities on social media and with your family.
6. Help End Gun Violence
It took two days for all the bodies to be identified in the shooting, but only a few hours before politicians began to use the murder for their own purposes. The debate about gun control rages anew, this time with increased ardor. The AR-15, the weapon of choice for the large-scale slaughtering of elementary school children, movie-goers, and now gay club patrons, faces particular scrutiny. Many gun activists defend the use of this and other semi-automatic weapons for hunting as well as home defense, though research shows it is not particularly well-adapted for either. Add your signature to ban the AR-15 here. Everytown, an organization dedicated to gun safety, is also raising money. For more options for arms-related petitions, look here.
7. Contact Your Elected Officials
No matter what you care about in relation to this shooting -- gun control, combatting Islamophobia, providing services to LGBT citizens -- odds are, your senator or representative has some say in how things are handled. It may seem more like a middle-school project than a political action, but reaching out to your elected officials really works. Click here to find your local senators and here for your representatives. If you're interested in contacting them about gun control specifically, here is a handy guide.
8. Show Support for Pulse
When Barba Poma founded Pulse in the early 2000s, it was meant as a place for queer people to congregate and be themselves. The name, Pulse, referred to the heartbeat of her brother, who died of AIDS-related illness in 1991. Poma plans to rebuild Pulse in the coming years, to once again provide the LGBT community with a place for freedom and fun. Like them on Facebook here, and leave a message of support on their wall.
9. Attend a Vigil
When something as horrifying as Orlando happens, it's easy to forget you are not alone. At organized vigils, you can show your support for survivors, while at the same time showing others that they are not alone in their grief. Find your city on this listing, and come out and show your solidarity.
10. Support Local LGBT Businesses
Since the 1910s, queer bars and clubs have been the premier safe spaces for LGBT people. Recent years, however, have seen a decline in bar patronage. This is due in part to more widespread queer acceptance in the mainstream -- many people think they don't need specifically LGBT spaces any more in order to be themselves. But the events of June 12 showed that LGBT-specific spaces are still hugely important for queer people, and their disappearance is a serious loss. You can help ensure that these safe spaces will always exist but supporting local gay bars and clubs, as well as LGBT organizations and clubs in your area.
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