How you can really help the LGBT community in the wake of the Orlando massacre

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You already know why I was sunken into my couch this past Sunday morning. You may have been, too. A man killed 49 people and wounded 53 others in the Pulse nightclub shooting at 2 a.m. in Orlando on Saturday night. This included two young N.C. natives, Shane Tomlinson and Tevin Crosby. Many of the victims were friends of my friends. All of them had beautiful lives and were deeply loved by friends and family.

People quickly changed their profile pictures to rainbow flags and black ribbons, and peppered their Facebook walls with their assumptions about the shooting. I couldn’t help but wonder what my friends could really do to help our sisters and brothers in Orlando, because the raw, untidy answer to our burning question — Why? — is a somber, hard truth: Love is the only way to get through this time.

If you are looking for meaningful ways to help, whether you are a member of the LGBT community or an ally, here’s what you can do:

Honor and support the victims

Hundreds of people attended the candlelight vigil at The Bar at 316 in South End Monday night. Hosted by Latin Pride, the solemn event allowed public officials, private citizens and members of the LGBT and ally community to grieve together.

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Wednesday night at 8:30 p.m., Cathode Azure Club — also in South End — will hold a fundraiser for the victims and families of the Pulse Nightclub massacre. There will also be one at 8 p.m. the same night at Wedgewood Church (Wedgewood Church, 4800 Wedgewood Drive, Charlotte).

Pay attention to local politics

House Bill 1148 was filed last Thursday and introduced to the NC State House and assigned to committee on Monday, less than two days after the shooting. The 18-page bill would be a sweeping referendum on a section of the state’s constitutional amendment, removing a section explicitly allowing lawmakers to put restrictions on carrying concealed handguns. While the bill was filed before the shooting, the timing is alarming.

Then, N.C. Governor Pat McCrory is sending “thoughts and prayers” to Orlando when he has been digging his heels in about the anti-LGBT law House Bill 2. While we are grieving the loss of lives, we can’t take our eyes off the system that failed these lost souls in the first place. Stay informed and vote in November.

Volunteer to help local LGBT youth.

The youngest members of our community are the most affected by these tragedies, and it’s important for them to know all hope is not lost. Time Out Youth is a nonprofit agency serving the LGBT youth in our community. Making a meal or sharing a special skill you may have — knitting, joke telling, magic tricks — for one of their group nights can go a long way in helping them feel secure and loved.

Time Out Youth, transgender
John D. Simmons

Really listen. Be an ally.

Anti-LGBT violence is a regular occurrence for queer people, particularly transgender and non-binary people of color. Last year, at least 21 transgender people were killed in the U.S., the highest rate in history according to the Human Rights Campaign.

That’s why simple acts of love can be so powerful. Opening your home and making a meal can go a long way to helping people heal or at least talk about their feelings.  Shutting down those who make anti-LGBT statements is now a lifesaving move, since those that stay silent are as bad as bigots. Reach out to your loved ones via text or a phone call and let them know you are thinking about them.

Photos: David T. Foster/Charlotte Observer; Charlotte Observer file