The day of the shooting at Pulse, my mom asked me what she could do to help. She was angry, and sad, and confused, but I think more than anything she was afraid. That could’ve been her child.
My mom has always supported me. Coming out was casual, over brunch in a public place. She smiled and said, "Okay. I’m glad you felt like you could tell me. I love you." She proudly boasts to her friends about my job writing for an LGBT publication and my involvement in queer activism. But, I think, like many straight people who love and support the LGBT people in their lives, she felt like she needed to do more.
I couldn’t give her an answer the day of the shooting, but this is my answer to her (and any other straight allies who want to do more to support LGBT people) now.
1) Be there to talk, and give hugs if possible.
Letting the LGBT people in your life know that you love them or care about them and that you’re there to talk if they need you goes a long way. You’re also deeply upset and shaken, but let the LGBT people in your life express their feelings first. Be there to listen instead of centering the conversation on your feelings.
Don’t worry about having all the right words, because there aren’t any magic words that can make the pain of this go away. If you’re at a loss for what to say, hugs go a long way.
2) Be vocal about your support in communities of straight people.
As a straight ally, you often have the ear of the people who most need to hear about loving and respecting LGBT people. There are probably people in your life who haven’t really thought about how they can support LGBT people before. There are probably people in your life who want to believe that this attack was about religion or was only about gun control.
Be vocal about the fact that this attack was about homophobia. Gun control may have prevented it from happening, but homophobia and transphobia are deeper issues that we also need to address. Reinforce that this attack wasn’t about Islam. Religion does not make people hateful, despite the fact that hateful people sometimes twist religion to justify their actions. A horrific hate crime has been committed against LGBT people. We cannot let that hate crime become a justification for more hate crimes against Muslims.
3) Amplify the voices of LGBT (especially Latinx) people.
— Mathew Rodriguez (@mathewrodriguez) June 13, 2016
Share articles and tweets by Latinx LGBT people. Center the voices of the people who were directly impacted by these attacks. LGBT people are probably friends with far fewer people on Facebook who need to read these thoughts than the average straight person.
Often, people who don’t pay attention to LGBT voices will if straight people share those voices. Does that suck? Yes. But it’s also a reality, and it’s a way in which straight allies can contribute.
4) Get involved in LGBT activism.
If you’re looking for a way to help the victims of the shooting and their family immediately, read Rebekah Allen’s article on how to help when you’re feeling sad, angry, and hopeless. She gives a lot of important information on how to get involved with Equality Florida, blood drives, vigils, writing to politicians, and Everytown For Gun Safety.
To prevent these attacks from happening again in the future, we need continued activism. Contact your local LGBT community center, and ask how you can help. If you’re the parent of an LGBT child, ask local high schools and middle schools if you can volunteer to help their GSA. If you can give money, by all means, give money to LGBT organizations.
There are some LGBT spaces that are only for LGBT people, but there are many spaces where you are needed. Just call the organizations you’re interested in working with, and ask where you can help.
5) Confront homophobic and transphobic people in your life.
For LGBT people, confronting homophobic or transphobic people can be incredibly dangerous. As a straight ally, you’re in the position to do so with far fewer consequences. Do not tolerate hate speech at work. Don’t tolerate harmful “jokes” at parties or family gatherings. If you see discrimination happening, say something.
Every time you make it clear that you will not tolerate homophobia and transphobia in your life, you point out that hate is abnormal and unacceptable. You may change minds, or you may just make someone in the room who isn't out feel a little bit safer. Either way, it’s appreciated.