By: Ariella Frishberg, Sexual Assault Program Prevention Specialist
My first instinct as I processed the shooting at a gay bar in Orlando on Sunday morning that resulted in the death of 49 people and injured another 53 (primarily LGBTQ folk of Latinx descent) was to stay silent. To put my head down, do my work, and grieve behind closed doors. To let someone else speak up, not because I am speechless, but because I am so tired of being the one speaking.
As I sit at my desk, listening to the “Pulse” playlist Spotify has already created and trying not to cry, however, I know that’s not an option. As a queer woman, this tragedy strikes too close to home for me to remain silent. I, along with many within my community, spent the last several days reeling from this event. I have had to question my safety at the Pride events this coming weekend – events that originated as a result of acts very similar to this, where police raided gay and lesbian bars and violently attempted to stop us from being who we are. Pride is supposed to be a celebration of who we are, how we love, and how far we’ve come, and yet this year, Pride will be irrevocably darkened by grief for lives lost and for how far we have yet to go. I can’t stay silent, because I need you to understand that every queer or trans person in America has spent the last week thinking, "that could have been me.”
As a white, cis person, I have even more of a responsibility to use the privilege I have to talk about this event. It is necessary that I recognize the ways in which I have access to safe spaces that many queer and trans people of color (QTPOC) do not. YWCA Clark County has been one of those safe spaces for me over the last three years, which is why I chose to write this article. I encourage those of you reading this (the majority of whom I know are white, cis, and straight) to use this as an opportunity to put the allyship we often talk about to good use. I’ve suggested some strategies for practicing allyship below. Please know I do not speak for all queer people by any means – but much of this was inspired by the thoughtful posts my community has written over the last several days.
+ Don’t lean on your LGBTQ identified friends to help you process this event. No matter who you are, it is horrifying and incomprehensible. But if you’ve never had to question whether you are safe holding your partner’s hand as you walk down the street, you cannot understand the fear that goes along with that horror and outrage.
+ Don’t let people get away with Islamophobia or xenophobia in their responses to the violence. Islam is not to blame for the hatred and violence that is rampant in our own country and was enacted by one of our own citizens.
+ Reach out to the queer and trans people in your life. Not to talk about what happened (unless they want to), but to let them know you see them. That you care about them. That they have your support.
+ Reach out to the Muslim people in your life. Not to talk about what happened (unless they want to), but to let them know you see them. That you care about them. That they have your support.
+ Recognize that discriminatory laws (like the bathroom laws, and others currently being passed around the country) are part of a spectrum of oppressive systems that make violence like this possible.
+ Speak up. Even if you don’t think you know anyone who is LGBTQ identified, I’m quite certain you do. And they will remember who posted something on Facebook, who spoke up in public, who interrupted an oppressive conversation, and who stayed silent. Especially for those who remain closeted, your public allyship will mean more than you can know.
Other people have posted much more coherent articles than I can put together right now. I highly recommend this short read, or this great list of concrete things you can do to help.
I’ll leave you with an excerpt of a poem I found comforting last night.
From "In Case you Ever Need It, It Is Here," by Daphne Gottlieb
"...Let your name be
The name of someone who
can do the unthinkable:
Stands up and keeps moving.
You are standing. You are taking
a shower and eating breakfast.
You are going to classes
or going to work. You are doing
impossibly hard things. Keep going
and keep going and there
is summer. Laugh even if it is
with rage. Open your mouth
and your fists. Tell the truth.
Tell a friend. Listen to someone
else's heart. It is beating a miracle. You are
When scars are new,
They shine. Be all the glitter
This month, let's all be all the glitter we need.