24 Ways Straight Allies Can Support The LGBTQ+ Community During A Tragedy

by Meg Ten Eyck

We are a few weeks removed from the shootings in Orlando and freshly in the middle of Pride season.

The night before the shootings, I published a tongue-in-cheek article for Matador Network titled, “Dear Straight Allies, Please Don't Come to Pride Until You've Understood These 6 Things.” I've been writing about LGBTQ+ culture for about 10 years now, but I've never received as much hate for an article as I did for that piece.

The biggest critique was about the tone of the article. While tone policing is annoying, I can see why people would have a hard time with a heavily sarcastic article in the wake of a national tragedy.

Rather than sulk, I put my knowledge of our community to work and created these recommendations for allies struggling with how they can help their LGBTQ+ friends:

1. Be empathetic, and lend a listening ear to those who are struggling.

Listening can be a very powerful medicine. Sometimes people just need someone to hear their truth.

2. Hire queer and transgender people.

There are no state-level laws protecting against sexual orientation discrimination in 28 of the 50 US states. In 33 of the 50 states, transgender people do not have employment protections either. This means employees can be fired for simply being themselves in those states legally.

LGBTQ+ people, particularly transgender people, face massive employment discrimination and are less likely to be hired. Giving someone a job with a living wage gives someone a pathway to a better quality of life.

3. Buy from a queer entrepreneur.

Not everyone has the ability to hire someone for full-time employment, but most people can support queer-owned businesses by buying a product or service. LGBTQ+ people are in every area of commerce.

Looking for new clothes? Grab a T-shirt from Trans is Beautiful, have a suit made from Sharpe Suiting or order a funky dance costume from dystrucxion.

Looking for a photographer, designer or model? What about home decor? How about booking your travel with a queer-owned tour operator, hotel or travel group? The possibilities are endless.

4. Donate to the Orlando victims GoFundMe page.

This page is run by a local nonprofit and has pledged to cover funeral expenses and support the families.

5. Forward these phone numbers to someone who may need to talk.

The Disaster Distress Helpline is 1-800-985-5990. This helpline connects people with immediate counseling to anyone who needs help processing the tragedy in Orlando. It's a 24/7 resource that responds to people who need crisis counseling after experiencing a tragedy. The helpline can also be accessed here.

You can also contact the English and Spanish hotline of the New York City Anti-Violence Project at 212-714-1141. The Trevor Project is a youth lifeline that can also provide support at 866-488-7386 at The Trevor Product.

6. Seek out the LGBTQ+ community.

You can do this by attending Pride events, patronizing your local LGBTQ+ bar or supporting other events in your community. A quick Google search will help you figure out what's available.

7. Attend a candlelight vigil when tragedy strikes.

Vigils across the country are being held in remembrance of the victims of the Orlando shootings and can be found or submitted to We Are Orlando. You can also find current information about how best to help those directly impacted by the shooting.

Unfortunately, the Orlando shooting was not the first tragedy to strike the LGBTQ+ community, and candlelight vigils have become commonplace in the wake of hate crimes.

8. Participate in Transgender Day of Remembrance.

TDOR is an annual day set aside to remember the victims of anti-transgender hate crimes. It's held every November in honor of Rita Hester, who died in November 1998. Rita's murder, like most anti-transgender murders, is still unsolved. You can find events to attend on the official TDOR website.

9. Sign a petition.

You can find one such petition here on Americans for Responsible Solutions.

10. Learn more about the movement against gun violence.

Every day, 87 Americans are killed by gun violence. Americans for Responsible Solutions has a list of facts about the current state of gun violence in America, as well as solutions it is proposing to create change.

11. If you're an activist, be patient and create space for answering questions.

Oppressed groups have zero obligation to educate the majority. Not all LGBTQ+ people will want to talk about this, process it or educate, but those who can and are able may want to explain to others why this tragedy was so horrific for the LGBTQ+ community.

12. Learn about some of the 200+ anti-LGBT bills introduced this year.

Our love, dignity and self-worth has been discussed and voted on in our state capitals and local communities this year. Some of these laws vilify LGBTQ+ people and present us in a light that is damning and fraudulent. Find out what policy officials introduced, voted and supported these bills and initiatives and lobby for these bills in your state and vote them out.

13. Support LGBTQ+ organizations that are working to defend and preserve our rights and community.

Centerlink is a good place to start. It has a handy list of LGBTQ+ organizations and a search tool for finding local LGBTQ+ centers.

14. Send a Safe Space Kit to an educator or youth service worker.

GLSEN's Safe Space Kit is an educator's tool kit with lessons on how to work with LGBTQ+ young people. They can be purchased for $15 on GLSEN's website.

15. Discuss queer theory with someone who knows more than you.

If you can't find someone in real life, online communities are always an option.

16. Volunteer with the Trevor Project.

LGBTQ+ young people are four times more likely to attempt suicide than straight young people. Nearly one quarter of all transgender young people have attempted suicide. The Trevor Project is an LGBTQ+ suicide prevention organization that uses volunteers across a variety of programs. Fill out their application form for information on opportunities.

17. Donate to local organizations that are benefiting LGBTQ+ people, particularly LGBTQ+ people of color.

National organizations are wonderful and do great work, but local organizations are the most direct route to changes in your community.

18. Support those in your community who are most at risk.

Transgender women of color, queer youth (particularly those with unstable housing and unsupportive parents), queer women of color who face discrimination, queer people with disabilities and those of lower socioeconomic status are more at risk for a host of negative life outcomes because of the oppression they face and the obstacles in obtaining employment.

19. Don't talk over or interrupt as someone is processing their identity.

Let your LGBTQ+ friend speak their truth before you add your experiences. Sure, you're entitled to your feelings, but let those most impacted process first.

20. Learn a bit about queer history.

Try to understand a bit about where we come from and how we got to be where we are today. This blog is an excellent source of American queer history, and it is one of my favorite free resources for people looking to learn more about the queer underpinnings of the US.

21. Understand why we need LGBTQ+ safe spaces.

The attack on Orlando feels extremely personal to the LGBTQ+ community because it was an attack on the only place where we feel 100 percent free to be who we are.

Bars are not just places to grab a drink for us; they're places that teach us how to love ourselves and our people. They're how we accept being rejected by our families and how we accept that which we cannot change and rally around that which we can.

22. Stop sharing theories about the Orlando shooter's sexuality and background.

It isn't productive, and it doesn't help the victims or community move forward. In fact, it further alienates LGBTQ+ Muslims, plays on old stereotypes of LGBTQ+ people as being mentally ill and creates alternate narratives that can be damaging for the LGBTQ+ community.

While saying all of this, conversations about self-loathing, homophobia and the relationship toxic homophobia plays in society are important dialogue to have when done in an informed way.

23. Reach out to an LGBTQ+ person you know.

When tragedy happens in the LGBTQ+ community, reach out to your LGBTQ+ friends. Check in with them, ask if they are OK, volunteer to watch their kids or pet or bring them a hot meal if they are struggling.

Don't assume that every LGBTQ+ person will feel deeply impacted by the shooting in Orlando or a hate crime that happens in your city. Some will, and some won't. We're a diverse group of people.

24. Stay focused on the issues that actually matter.

When you're discussing LGBTQ+ issues, recognize that equality has not been accomplished just by passing marriage reform. Don't get distracted by other narratives.