In the days since Omar Mateen killed 49 innocent people at the Orlando gay club Pulse, landmarks around the world have been illuminated with rainbow colors, late-night TV hosts have grieved with their audiences and social media has roiled in debate over cause and effect. For many, emotions have shifted from shock to anger to grief, but for the LGBT community one emotion remains inescapable—fear.
Not a fear of our identity. No. In the past four days we have only grown more proud, more resilient and more defiant. It is these virtues, after all, that led us from being beaten on the steps of Stonewall to embracing each other on the steps of the Supreme Court in a mere 46 years.
The fear pulsing through the LGBT community is related to silence. We are afraid of the impending reticence, inaction, complacency and amnesia that inevitably bookends mass shootings in the United States. Just as the 2012 shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin was a hate crime against religion, and just as last year’s shooting at a black Charleston church was a hate crime against race, so is the shooting in Orlando a hate crime against sexual orientation, identity and expression. We, too, have been attacked in our home, and we are afraid that once again the world will forget.
In the wake of the Paris attacks, Facebook overflowed with “Paris je t’aime” and profile pictures turning into images of the Eiffel Tower embedded into a peace sign. Orlando has not received the same universal response.
Superficial slacktivism might not save lives, but it does underline solidarity. The LGBT community is still fighting for equality in many states, and allies are both welcome and necessary. Last year’s Supreme Court vote for marriage equality was a resounding vote of confidence for our future, but perhaps now more than ever—when not only our rights but our lives are being attacked—we need our straight allies. Right now, we need the love, support and advocacy of our families, friends, coworkers and neighbors.
IF YOU HAVE YET TO REACH OUT TO SOMEONE YOU KNOW IN THE LGBT COMMUNITY, DO IT
We are still more affected and shaken than you can imagine. While the tragedy in Orlando may permeate the 24-hour news cycle for weeks to come, it is clear that much of it will be laced with political mongering. Some of those conversations are necessary. Gun law reform is necessary. But the LGBT community will remain marginalized. Our hearts will continue to break as more information about our slain brothers and sisters is revealed. So, reach out to anyone you know who might have been affected by Sunday’s events. Whether text message, Facebook message, email, phone call, tweet, Instagram comment—whatever. It is not too late. Tell them you love them and that you value their lives.
ATTEND A PRIDE EVENT OR VIGIL IN YOUR AREA
June is LGBT Pride Month, which makes the shooting in Orlando all the more unnerving. Pride parade organizers in cities such as Philadelphia, Los Angeles and London had hours to respond to Orlando, but upcoming celebrations in Chicago, Seattle, Denver, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, New York and other cities will no doubt involve extended tributes to Orlando. Ask your gay friends if you can go with them. If you don’t have any, go with your straight friends. Shout “WE LOVE YOU!” at every float that rolls on by. Hug strangers. Show up, and show your support. To find a Pride event in your area, visit http://www.gaypridecalendar.com/. Local ally groups will be present at most, if not all, events. Many cities are also holding vigils for Orlando throughout June.
SIGN THE PETITION TO ALLOW GAYS AND BISEXUALS TO DONATE BLOOD
In a moving sign of support, Orlando blood banks filled to capacity in the aftermath of the Pulse terror attack. But gay men in Florida and around the country were not allowed to stand in line—a result of the FDA’s 1985 ban on sexually active gay men donating blood because of the AIDS epidemic. Yes, it is easier to buy an assault rifle in Florida than it is for a gay man to donate blood.
It is easier to buy an assault rifle in Florida than it is for a gay man to donate blood.
The ban is outdated. Blood banks already include a test for HIV in all donated blood. A petition on the White House’s website needs 100,000 signatures to be considered by government officials. It currently has about 6,000.
CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVES ABOUT COMMON-SENSE GUN REFORM, AND VOTE
As one very astute gay man posted on Facebook:
“Congrats, murderer. You have turned the focus of the LGBT community, one of the most powerful progressive movements, onto the crumbling edifice of one of our country’s biggest problems, gun reform. I don’t know if you’ve seen what they have accomplished in the past 25 years, but these queens get shit done.”
Supporting gun-law reform is now adjunct to supporting the LGBT community. Twenty-four Republicans are up for reelection to the Senate in November in states that are historically pro-gun (and anti-LGBT), including South Carolina and Indiana. All 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for re-election. The outcome of the November elections will determine if smart gun reform, which has eluded President Obama, ever takes shape.
DO NOT VOTE FOR DONALD TRUMP
No matter what he says about gun reform— don’t believe a word.
Shane Singh is an associate editor at Playboy Magazine. Twitter: @mrShaneMichael.