This post was originally written back in January of this year when we were celebrating the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr; someone who fought and died for the equality of all. Today, almost 50 years after his death, we revisit this topic of the week in wake of the horrific hate crime that targeted the LGBT community in Orlando, Florida. With the devastating impact this has had on lives of many; now more than ever is a time to reach out and be an ally.
Check in with your LGBT friends and family
Reach out and see how people are doing. You don't have to have all the words but a simple "are you ok?" can go a long way. You never know how someone is handling it even if they appear to be fine or didn't someone they know be directly impacted by the shootings.
One of the most important things you can do to be an ally is to listen. And listen. And listen some more. Being an ally means you're understanding that part of what people are experiencing is that they want to be heard and validated. The first step to validating an experience is to actively listen to them and how they are struggling; no matter how different their experiences are from your own.
having empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Even though you may never have experienced homophobia; you DO understand the feelings that these experiences can cause others. We all know what it feels like to be humiliated, disliked, shamed and attacked for just being who we are. Tap into those feelings when listening and validating the experiences of others.
Be Honest and Ask Questions
One of the best ways to be an ally is to be honest about your own feelings about their experience. Admit when you don't understand something. Admit when you don't know what to do or how to feel. Ask questions about how it made them feel. Be honest about never having an experience like that and most importantly ASK WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP. Don't assume you know what can be done to improve the situation; always ask "what can I do if you want and need help with this."
Stand up in Small Ways
Some of the most powerful things we can do is stand up in small ways. Finding the courage to stand up for inequality can be challenging but it gets easier when we start small and build from there. If you see a small injustice (a friend speaking negatively/insensitively about the LGBTQ community for example.) speak up about it. One of the most important things you can do is be an ally in spaces where the people you're an ally to aren't welcomed.
Don't erase people from their story
Since Sunday we have seen the media, politicians, and many people on social media try to negate that the Orlando shooting was anything but a hate crime against the LGBT community. Some have even gone as far as to use the event to push their own personal agendas concerning extreme Islamic terrorism, gun control, and religion. While those issues are important, its even more important to respect and honor those who are suffering. Understand that our attempt to adapt an event for our own personal argument can in turn silence, minimize, and hurt the community that was directly impacted.
If you would like some additional information on how to help the victims of the Orlando shooting, below are some trusted resources and next steps:
American Red Cross http://www.redcross.org/give-blood
Equality Florida's go fund me to support the victims of the pulse shooting https://www.gofundme.com/PulseVictimsFund
this topic of the week was written by Alanna Gardner, MFT
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