I’m seeing a lot of allies doing the “my prayers are with you” thing in light of the tragedy that took place at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. 49 queer folks, primarily Latinx, were shot dead and 53 more were injured that night – and all you have to offer to our community is a Facebook status with your prayers?
Substitutions include uploading a photo to depict Pride or sharing your happiness at the WTC being lit up in rainbows. Allies sure do love them some rainbow.
At first, I was angry and offended. I wondered, is this all you’ll contribute before returning to your funny cat memes and gifs?
Because while you can tweet out a prayer and resume your normal life, your conscience clean, the queer community is left picking up the pieces and struggling to make sense of this tragedy – violence that our community knows all too well, especially queer and trans people of color.
But then I thought that maybe you didn’t know what else to do. Maybe you’re so panicked at the thought of making a horrible situation worse, you’re frozen in trying to do something meaningful.
And I get that. I do.
So, with the greatest of sincerity, here are some ideas of what to do for those of you allies who want to help us out in this more-than-usual terrible time:
1. Give Blood.
Gay and bisexual men still aren’t allowed to give blood unless they haven’t had sex with another man for at least one year. As such, many desperate blood donors are being turned away during a desperate situation to save lives in desperate conditions.
We need you.
2. Don’t Vote Republican.
At least not this year, if you feel so strongly about it. Just keep in mind that you’re not allowed to be sad about the Pulse massacre when you’ve been actively promoting people who have been behind loose gun laws, trans panic defenses about bathrooms, and at least 200 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills this year alone.
If you still feel your presumed tax break is more important that saving lives, then you need to admit that to yourself and do some serious reflection on the impact of your actions.
3. Check In On Us.
I’ve had only one friend outside of the queer community contact me to see if I was okay over these first 24 hours. One.
I find this unacceptable. I understand it’s because you don’t want to make that terrifying, personal connection, but it’s nonetheless unacceptable to block it.
I need all of you allies – now, right now – to look your surviving LGBTQIA+ friends in the face (or, you know, their Facebook profile picture) and think, “That could’ve been you. It could very well still end up being you in the future.”
I especially need allies to understand the weight that queer and trans people of color are carrying, as they are disproportionately impacted by this violence.
Make the personal, terrifying connections about how fucking real this is. Because we’re already in that state of mind over here and I can’t even begin to explain how scary that is. We walk around with this terror just under our skin every day, but right now it’s bursting through for everyone to see.
We need you to know that, we need you to feel that.
Also, just check in on us because we may need a shoulder to cry on that isn’t currently hobbling through the battlefield along with us. We sometimes feel it’s unfair to try to unload on fellow LGBTQIA+ people that are suffering just as hard as we are, so we try to put up a brave front for one another.
4. Make Us Something To Eat.
Make no mistake: This type of situation stimulates grief and mourning, and grief and mourning are horrible things to go through.
One of the first things to go is one’s self-care, especially when it comes to eating. Make sure we’re eating. Don’t lecture us about the type or quantity of food. Just make sure we’re eating.
Imagine as if our beloved family member just died, ruthlessly murdered by a stranger in a senseless act. Only that stranger has said they’ll be back, and that they’ll pick off every last member of the family just because.
Oh, and when I say “stranger”? I mean hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of strangers.
And when I say “one family member,” I mean fourty-nine, primarily Latinx queer people, shot down in Orlando. I mean 23, primarily trans women of color, murdered last year in the US.
It’s every hate crime, every homicide, every attack, and every bit of harassment that makes us fear the violence that could be coming next – it’s these moments, every damn day, that assures us that our community is not safe.
It’s not that one stranger could be around the next corner to hurt one of us; it’s that hundreds if not thousands of strangers are. And they’re waiting, looking for their moment to make us a statistic or a breaking news story.
And over and over again, they’re succeeding – they’re attacking and murdering countless queer people, especially those of color, at an alarming rate. Our siblings, our community, our chosen family.
Are you surprised that we are forgetting to eat?
Don’t just offer us prayers. Offer us care.
5. Don’t Talk Over Us.
This is not your time. This is our time.
Yes, you’re sad. Yes, you’re scared. Yes, you’re feeling things. But I’m sorry, this isn’t about you. The queers are talking right now.
We’re the ones that just lost our queer siblings. We’re the ones that can’t give blood or visit our dying partners in the hospital because of archaic laws. We’re the ones watching the deceased be prematurely outed because they were at a queer club, as calls are going to families from morgues and hospitals.
And yes, we’re the ones that are conveniently being used for political gain right now by our enemies in order to smother a fellow vulnerable community.
And amongst all that, we’re expected to sit down, swallow our grief, and listen to how YOU feel watching us suffer?
No. You have to wait your turn. Your feelings are valid and we appreciate your sadness and anger, but you need to talk about your feelings with fellow allies for right now.
6. Stay Focused On The Real Issues.
Don’t let the media or bigots or ignorant people fool you into this being something other than what it is: a horrible act of murder fueled by a mix of LGBTQIA+ hate and unregulated gun use, both of which run rampant in American culture.
Do not get distracted by any other claims. To get distracted is to keep progress from happening, to allow history to repeat itself in the future just like it has every other time in the past.
7. Reflect On Your Religious Affiliations.
If you’re offering us prayers, I assume you practice in some faith or another. If this is the case, please strengthen your offer of prayers by checking in with the religious leader of your congregation and ensuring they don’t spout anti-LGBTQIA rhetoric any of the other 364 days of the year.
If they do, talk with them earnestly about changing their ways. If you’re unable to sway them, please strongly consider shifting to a friendlier, more accepting congregation, and let your religious head know exactly what you’re doing and why.
Because if those pews keep being filled, that religious figure will just keep spouting. Don’t put your ass in that seat. Don’t idly allow this hate to breed with you in the front row. Remember that a shepherd can’t shepherd if there aren’t any sheep. Hateful rhetoric can’t be heard if there’s nobody around to hear it.
8. Remember That It’s Not Just Pulse.
Pulse should most definitely be getting the greatest of attention at this moment in time. But that’s not to say that, once the news has died down, you think, “Man, sure glad that’s over.”
Because it’s not over. It’s never over. We deal with this kind of fear and hate on a daily basis. It’s just that Pulse was so bad and so atrocious on such a direct scale of attention that it actually made the news.
But we’ve been dying long before this and likely will continue to do so – especially my siblings of color, like the Latinx population of which were the showcase at Pulse that night.
But the violence has always been around us; it’s just usually shoved into silence by those in power. 40% of homeless kids are LGBTQIA+ because their families either kick them out or abuse the hell out of them. A transgender person – usually a trans woman of color – is murdered every 29 hours.
Daily harassments – from off-the-cuff slurs to threatening gestures to physical harm – are so prevalent that they can’t even be properly recorded; they are so far off the charts that the charts can’t keep up.
Some dude headed to LA Pride this same weekend with rifles, ammo, and presumed explosives was thankfully caught in advance. The list goes on for so long that I could write a separate article just unpacking the violence surrounding our community.
While we appreciate your desire to comfort us, tweets about prayers actually don’t do shit. They won’t change a thing. Further, those prayers can be offensive to many of us, as those prayers theoretically are coming from the exact same God that’s been used to condemn us right up to this most recent massacre.
This list – and so much more – is what we need in the here and now. Ask the queer people in your life what you can do to support them; I can almost guarantee you that they won’t say, “A Facebook status.”
Milo Todd is a freelance writer and journalist. He holds a double BA in Philosophy and Gender Theory with focuses in feminist phenomenology, queer phenomenology, and post-positivist realism. Milo otherwise writes LGBTQ-esque fiction and likes to pretend it’ll make him rich and famous. He is a judge in the YA branch of the 2014 Bisexual Book Awards.