This article was inspired by the tragedy in Orlando this past week. I don’t have the words to describe the horror of this event or the depth of the losses suffered. There just aren’t words. But my thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected and with our country as a whole, as we react and move on, hopefully to a brighter future where terrorism and hate crimes and violence are far less prevalent, and love much more so.
The question now is how do we move on? What should we do? I’ve seen a number of responses over the past few days that range from heart-warming to absolutely sickening. So, for those who are unsure, here are some ways to proceed appropriately. Keep in mind that it doesn’t matter if you’re Side A or Side B, if you’re LGBTAQ+ yourself, or if you’re something else entirely. Our response should not be based on political opinions or religious affiliations, but rather on our common humanity, and the love and respect that we all owe each and every one of our fellow human beings.
Things we should do:
Don’t forget what happened in Orlando once it leaves your newsfeed or television screen. Remember that while you can move on in life, not everyone will have such an easy time of that. Lives were lost, families broken, dreams destroyed. Remember the victims, pray for their friends and families. Take a moment of silence or more to honor their memory and show respect for the lives they led and lost because they were brave enough to be themselves.
2) Be Thankful
Take another moment to appreciate everyone in your life. Tell your family you love them. You never know when things will change, so make sure you’re not wasting the time and blessings you’ve been given.
3) Remain United
Usually after a terrorist attack or mass shooting, America responds with incredible unity. This time, should be no different. So let’s stop arguing over who and what to blame. There’s a time to talk about gun control, immigration, terrorism, etc. And sure, perhaps each of these things played a part in this tragedy. But that should not be our focus. Our focus should be on how we can come together as a nation to support the victims’ families and learn from our mistakes, together, not by pointing fingers at groups we disagree with.
4) LGBTQ+ Love
Love up on any LGBTQ+ people in your life. Give them a hug and tell them you love them, and that you are there for them, and actually, mean it. Again, your opinions don’t matter here. We need genuine love, free from judgment, advice, or criticism, no matter how well intentioned. Understand that this was not an attack on “all Americans.” It was a targeted attack on the LGBTQ+ community. We’re wounded, we feel unsafe and unsettled, and anything you can do to help with that is a good thing. Validate what we are experiencing, show us that you care and that you want to help. Just love us.
5) Make A Change
Change something in your life that will make it less likely that such a targeted attack will happen again. Make a serious effort to get to know some LGBTQ+ people. Google the arguments behind Side A or Side B. Take a look at your life and try to root out homophobia wherever it appears. Accept us into your churches without trying to change us. Stop using the phrase “hate the sin, love the sinner” (you can think this is possible as much as you want, but I promise you, that those words to an LGBTQ+ person are tantamount to saying “I’m better than you, worthy of judging you, and I condemn you to hell”). Just make a change, however small, that enables you to better support, understand, and interact with, the LGBTQ+ community so that we can all move forward together.
6) Stand With Us
I’m sure you’re all familiar with #StandWithOrlando by now, and that is an amazing show of support. But we need you to stand with us all the time, not just in the moments after a crisis. Comfort and offers of prayer feel shallow when just a week ago the same people were rejecting us from their churches and calling us sinners. So if you want to stand with us, please do. We welcome you gladly. But know that to truly stand with us means that you’ll be there all the time, without judgment or attacks. Know that you may just be joining this fight, and only now experiencing the fear many LGBTAQ+ people live with, but we’ve been living it for a long time. There’s been a body count before now. Our struggle has been long, and will continue to be. If you want to join us, it will be a long and difficult, likely painful, road, but we are all in. We are fully committed, and we’d love to have your support.
Things we should not do:
1) Blame All Muslims
This shouldn’t even have to be said, but do not use this attack to promote Islamophobia. Yes, the guy was Muslim. So are millions of other people who do not behave this way. Just because one man acts in a certain way does not mean you can apply his behavior to everyone that follows his religion. That’s like saying that all Christians behave like the members of the Westboro Baptist Church or the KKK. Just don’t do it. America is the land of the free, and in case you’ve forgotten, that includes freedom of religion.
2) Speak For God
I have seen a sickening amount of people claiming that this attack was God’s judgment on the victims for being gay, or that it was punishment for our country because we now allow same-sex marriage. Not only are these horrible things to say, but you do not speak for God. I repeat, you do not speak for God. You are not God. You cannot claim that this was His work. This was the work of a man, no more.
3) Congratulate The Shooter
Do not treat this attack as something positive. This goes along with the last one a bit, but it needs to be said again. Your opinions and feelings about the LGBTQ+ community are irrelevant. If you think this was a good thing, you are an objectively terrible person, and I suggest you look into counseling or therapy to help you find some sort of empathy for your fellow human beings.
4) Advance Your Agenda
Do not use this attack as the basis for your arguments about guns or immigrants or the LGBTQ+ population. People were murdered. Lives were lost. Lots of people are still hurting. Do not use their pain to promote your political agenda. The victims did not die so that you could have a more convincing argument. They died because they were brave enough to live their lives openly with no shame about who they were. Respect that. Don’t take advantage of it.
5) Be Silent
Do not be silent about the attack. Say something. Again, your opinions and feelings are irrelevant. This cannot go unnoticed. It is a huge deal, and should be treated as such. Address it with love and kindness. Let the LGBTQ+ people in your life know that while you might not be feeling exactly what they are, you acknowledge their pain. But if you do choose to remain silent, understand that you are invalidating the pain of millions of people. You’re disrespecting those who died, and you’re as good as saying that their lives, their deaths, do not matter. And you’re just wrong.