I am heartbroken over what happened in Orlando. My heart is with all those we lost, all those who were injured, and all their friends and family. I am an openly lesbian, visibly gender non-conforming person, who is an active member of the Lesbian Gay, Bi, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual (LGBTQIA) community, and like most of the community, I’ve been struggling. I have been visibly Queer for several years now, and although it’s not uncommon for me to get weird looks, to hear homophobic things, or to be misgendered, I’ve generally found a safe place with my friends, family, and in my community.
Boston LGBTQ Pride events have occurred all week, and it has been great to see so many people out and proud about who they are. I have felt safe, supported, and loved. LGBTQ Pride celebrations and spaces are important for giving visibility to a population that is historically invisible. I want to say Happy Pride Month to my fellow Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer community members! I hope you all are able to find the support, community, and strength you need to be authentically you. This is still our month, this is still our movement, and no one will take that away from us.
The LGBT Nightclub in Orlando, Pulse, was created in honor of a gay man who died of AIDS. Like most gay, lesbian, or other LGBT clubs and bars, it exists so we can have safe space so we can live on. Knowing that an LGBT safe space, so similar to many across the country, became the scene of a mass murder has been jarring. It is a reminder that even though we have come far, there is so much we need to do.
This isn't about one murderer. The shooting has been the worst mass shooting in the U.S., but it is not an isolated incident of hate or murder against the LGBTQ population. This is about more than one man, and more than one nightclub. It’s about what has been going on in our country. It's about policy. It's about the hundreds of anti-LGBTQ laws that have been passed this year. It's about the lack of policies protecting LGBTQ people against discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations. It’s about the criminalization of people living with HIV/AIDS, a virus that continues to disproportionally impact Gay and Bisexual men and Transwomen. It’s about the LGBTQ communities disproportionally higher rates of suicide, youth homelessness, and bullying in schools. It's about transgender and gender non-conforming people being vilified for trying to go to the bathroom or trying to get through security at an airport. It's about our outdated gun laws.
We have not done enough to prevent gun violence. We have seen it all over the country at Virginia Tech, Newtown CT, Charleston SC, and in movie theaters, affecting our most vulnerable populations. We need comprehensive gun policies that can prevent mass murders. We need comprehensive gun policies that can prevent single murders.
This is about all of us; it's about how we, as a society, treat the LGBT community or any marginalized populations. When people continue to use homophobic or transphobic language, or when we don't call out friends or family who use homophobic or transphobic language, we are feeding into others' LGBTQ hate. For LGBTQ people, it reinforces the feeling that we don't have safe spaces. When elected politicians who are our country’s leaders don't support the LGBTQ community, they justify discrimination and violence towards LGBTQ people, enforce the notions of LGBT people as second-class citizens, and make it clear that our lives are not worth protecting.
It is way past time we become the solution, and it isn’t going to be easy. If we can make it past these discriminatory laws, we still have to worry about people’s words and prejudices. If we make it through their words and prejudices, we still have to make it through their guns.
There is so much I believe we can do, and I think we can start right now:
- Stop using homophobic or transphobic language. Call out others when you hear them using homophobic or transphobic language.
- Teach kids kindness. Homophobia and transphobia start young. Don’t allow LGBTQ bullying to continue.
- Vote for politicians who support the LGBTQ community. Our vote is the best way for us to change policies.
- Call your elected officials and ask them what they are going to do to fix this. This means local, state, and federal. Here are some starting points for policies that would strongly impact the LGBTQ community.
- The Equality Act: The Equality Act would protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in hiring and employment, housing, and the use of public accommodations.
- HIV Decriminalization: Many states continue to wrongly discriminate against people living with HIV/AIDS based on scientifically disproven facts.
- Say no to anti-LGBT legislation.
- Gun Reform: This is not about taking away guns from law abiding citizens, it’s about taking military-grade guns away from people looking to cause harm.
- Support businesses that support the LGBTQ community. If a business won’t hire or provide services to LGBTQ people, let it be clear they will no longer get your business.
- This includes bathroom policies. If you see a business that denies the use of the bathroom to Trans, Gender non-conforming people, say something about it.
- Support LGBTQ people IN EVERYDAY LIFE.
- Don’t ask why there isn’t a straight or cisgender pride month or parade.
- Do offer to go with your Trans, Gender Non-Conforming, or Non-Binary friend(s) to the bathroom if they feel nervous about how others may treat them.
- Don’t police the bathrooms yourself. Trans, Gender Non-Conforming, and Non-Binary people all go to the bathroom for the same reason as everyone else.
- Do use the correct pronouns. If you don’t know someone’s pronouns; ask, use gender neutral pronouns, or refer to them by their name.
- Don’t ask a trans person what their real name is and don’t ask trans or intersex people about their genitals: their real name is the name they told you, and their genitals are none of your business.
- Do call people out for using homophobic, biphobic, or transphobic language.
- Don’t be offended if someone corrects your language.
I encourage everyone in the LGBTQ community and all allies to the LGBTQ community to continue to celebrate Pride month! We should still be so proud of who we are as a community and how far we have come. Show the world that we will still be strong. We will still be out. We will still be proud. But don’t let these efforts to be an Ally to the LGBTQ community stop at Pride celebrations. Remember to let these messages of love, hope, and progress apply across all marginalized groups within and outside the LGBTQ community. We will never be equal until we are equal. We will continue to move forward, but we need to do it together, and we need to do this in honor of all the people we have lost to hate.
GLBT National Hotline: 1-888-843-4564
Trevor Project Hotline: 1-866-488-7386
Trans Lifeline: 1-877-565-8860
New York City Anti-Violence Program Hotline (English & Spanish): 1-212-714-1141
Fenway Health LGBT Helpline (ages 25+): 1-888-340-4528
Fenway Health LBGT Helpline (ages 25 & under): 1-800-399-7337