You want to be a good ally? Then I’m asking you to sit down and listen. I know being called out isn’t fun, but we LGBT people need your help and every cis straight person in my life and the lives of my friends has failed miserably.
If you’re a cis straight person and this doesn’t apply to you, great. I know there must be a few of you out there, but I haven’t encountered one and neither have my friends. If you have actually done what I’m asking of our allies, then this isn’t aimed toward you.
This shooting has devastated the queer community in a way I don’t think you can begin to understand. We are hurt and we are scared. Normally, people hear about a mass shooting, think it was sad, but, if they didn’t know any of the victims personally, they soon forget about it. This is completely different. The LGBT community is small and we consider each other family. So many of us have been rejected by our families, are not able to be out to or families, or we’re out to them and haven’t been rejected by them, but haven’t been fully accepted either and have to censor ourselves around them. Because of that, we create families by choice, made up of our queer friends and lovers. Those people are the ones to whom we go for support when we’re dealing with homophobia, girlfriend/boyfriend problems, and issues with family. They’re the ones we spend holidays with when our families by birth have made it known that we are no longer welcome in their homes or that we are welcome, but our significant others are not. When someone commits a hate crime against one of us, it strikes fear into the hearts of all of us. That is the point of a hate crime — to make every member of the targeted community aware of the fact that there are people who wish us dead and to put us on edge, to not allow us to feel safe.
Gay bars were one of the few places we felt safe. While there were police raids on gay bars in the past, that doesn’t happen in the US anymore (at least not regularly; I hesitate to say never because I cannot be sure). Our bars are where we can kiss, flirt with, and hold hands with those we love without looking over our shoulders to make sure no one is watching. Some of us will be affectionate with our girlfriends, boyfriends, husbands, and wives in public, but we do so knowing full well that there is a chance we will be glared at, harassed, or even injured or killed. It’s always a risk. To have a gay bar be the site of the worst mass shooting in the US, taking out forty-nine of our beloved community members and injuring an additional fifty-three, makes us feel like there is nowhere we can be ourselves and be safe besides perhaps our own homes, and sometimes not even our own homes.
While my queer friends’ Facebook pages are filled with memorials for the dead and statements about how this will not push us back into the closet and about the fear we are feeling, most of my straight friends have posts about what their dog did, the funny thing their kid said, or a pretty picture of a sunset. I try to remind myself that life has to keep going, that these mundane posts don’t mean people don’t care, that they are just continuing on with their lives as we all must do. We LGBT people don’t have the luxury of moving on so quickly. This isn’t about the Facebook posts or lack thereof, though. Some straight allies have made posts and while they’ll never know our pain, I appreciate that they are making an effort.
I’m writing this post because straight people have utterly failed at supporting us. We are reeling. I think every one of us has shed more than a few tears and most of us have been on the verge of tears every second since this happened. Neither my friends nor I have had a straight person ask how we are holding up, ask what they can do for us and our community, or offer a shoulder to cry on. We are not doing well right now and we need your love and support. I haven’t gotten one text or call from my straight friends and family telling me I’m in their thoughts and that they’re there if I need to talk. It would mean the world to me and to my other queer friends if we heard that. I thought maybe I was being too sensitive, but one of my lesbian friends made a Facebook post about this and she received comment after comment from other LGBT people saying that they felt the same way. While these forty-nine people were not our blood family, they were our family, and we are mourning their deaths.
I came out nineteen years ago and it was hell. I have felt safer every year, but this has shattered any feeling of safety I had. Feeling safe is so easy to take for granted. It is not a luxury queer people have ever had and this has made us feel even less safe. As terrifying as it is, we cannot allow this disgusting act to force us back into the closet or to make us afraid to go to gay bars or pride events. Now more than ever, we need to be out, loud, and demanding respect and equality. We need your love, help, and support to make it through this.
Reach out to your queer friends. Call us, text us, e-mail us, visit us. Ask us how we are doing and listen to what we say. Be there for us and don’t make it about you. Don’t say it was a hate crime against the US or say it could have been any group of people (yes, I’ve heard both of those things). This was a targeted crime against LGBT people and it is affecting us in ways it will not and cannot affect you. We’re working our hardest to make sure this will never happen again, but we need you to take on some of that burden, too. March with us, cry with us, work with us, post on social media so those who are not our friends cannot bury their heads in the sand, call people out on their homophobia and transphobia both online and in real life. Most of all, though, just let us know you are here for us because we’re feeling abandoned by our straight friends and family right now. Don’t get defensive, don’t make excuses, reach out and act.