Hearing the news about the devastating attack on the Orlando based gay night club this weekend reminds me, yet again, that we are not safe, not even in the spaces we’ve created to be safe in together. Though some might proclaim that homophobia isn’t a big problem, that we’ve made such strides regarding freedom for the queer community, it remains a fact that our community is under constant threat, as individuals and groups across the country are forced to hide in plain sight for fear of being “othered” and killed because of it.
Political and religious discourse should fall by the wayside as we contemplate the lives lost to this horrific hate crime. Instead of using this as a springboard for our own agendas, we should instead focus on joining in grief with the families and friends of the victims, as well as celebrating the lives they lived. It takes so much courage to be who we really are.
Thankfully, most of what I’ve seen online is an outpouring of love for the queer (and especially Latinx) community. People have donated resources and time to the remaining victims. People have stood in solidarity with the queer community, letting us know that we aren’t alone.
Unfortunately, offline, there seems to be a pressing silence, an unwillingness to engage. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it seems that the unwillingness might stem from an acknowledgement that if we begin a conversation, something will have to be done. We’ll have to admit that something is very, very wrong and that steps must be taken to correct it.
Things have to change.
Whatever that looks like, we need to take a long, hard look at the way things are now and decide. Are we as a country going to continue to subscribe to the beliefs and attitudes that allow such a tragic event to happen? If not, what concrete steps should we take to ensure that the next generation and all who come after do not have to live in fear that they will, at some point, experience such a tragedy? The freedom to have access to guns is nothing compared to the freedom to live as who we are without fear.
Providing space to educate people on how to be allies and how to support the queer community would also be a wonderful way to show support. Talking out issues and confronting homophobia in ourselves, rooting it out and replacing it with a desire to love, accept and listen would also be good steps to take.
It will be difficult. I’m not going to say these things are easy or that they won’t take time, but they are worth it. To be able to give our future children a world where they do not have to be afraid of revealing their true selves: That is worth everything.
This world will not get better if we keep doing nothing. Peace will not just happen. We must determine to work towards peace, together. It is up to us to shape the future.
So what can we do? How can we help? What’s the best way to contribute our resources?
What we can do right now is listen. Listen to those who have been hurt, who are grieving. We can share our resources. Donate blood if you’re in or near Orlando, or volunteer your time. If you aren’t near Orlando, but you can give financially, please do so through the GoFundMe page for Equality Florida. All proceeds go directly to the victims and victims’ families. We also need to talk. We need to make decisions regarding gun control. We need to make changes if we are to prevent something like this from happening again.
Let’s honor the memory of those lost by loving as they loved, accepting each other for who we are instead of judging for who we are not. Let’s give our time and resources and dedicate ourselves to making a change and making the world a better place so that when future history books cover this event, it is noted that while it was the largest mass shooting in America, the overwhelming response was one of love.
We love you, Orlando.Image Credits: Purse Orlando