Here’s How You Can Help Orlando

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Love Wins - Here's How You Can Help Orlando
Art by Pigment and Parchment via her newsletter
Like all of you, I woke up yesterday to the horrifying news of yet another mass shooting taking place on American soil. This time the worst mass shooting in our country’s recent history.

Yesterday was supposed to be a day of relaxation for me. For the first time in two weeks, I woke up in my own bed. For a few minutes I sleepily enjoyed my soft flannel sheets, my familiar pillow, and my cat sleeping on my chest. I was looking forward to getting back into my normal morning “routine” – aka, laying in bed for far too long, checking my emails and social channels and being generally lazy. Just a few seconds on Facebook made me realize this was not going to be a normal day.

These situations are always tragic. This one was especially painful to me since it took place in the LGBT community. I identify as bisexual and have been a long-time advocate for equality. When I was in my mid-20s I sang with a gay and lesbian chorus and I volunteered at the Los Angeles gay pride event every year. Sometimes I worked the drink booth, filling beer cups and flirting for tips that went towards our chorus expenses. Sometimes I walked the parade route selling tickets for the festival that took place after the parade. Everyone was so friendly. Years before that, I would go out dancing at both gay and lesbian clubs, with my gay and straight friends alike. After a lifetime of feeling like an awkward outsider, I finally found a community where I felt like I fit in. I always felt welcome and safe at pride events and at gay nightclubs. There was no judgement; everyone was welcome. The thought that this horrible event took place at a gay dance club shatters my heart into a million pieces. While I’m not as involved with the LGBT community as I used to be, I’ll always remember that time in my life very fondly and I’ll always be a strong ally and advocate for equal rights for all.

Around this time last year we were all celebrating the Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage. Yesterday was a sad reminder that there is still a lot of hate. I know some people hate our country and our freedom to live the way we want to live. This was clearly an act of terror, but also a hate crime.

And I know we all feel connected to Orlando. Even though this event didn’t occur on Disney property, many of us have been to Orlando and we feel safe and happy when we are there. We don’t want these types of things to happen anywhere, especially in our “backyard.” It’s really awful.

I wasn’t sure how I would write about this, but I felt the call to use my platform to take some action. I know when bad things happen, the first instinct is to help. So I put together this list of things you can do to help if you feel called to do so. Above all, just remember to show love. Because love always wins.

1. Don’t be afraid. The worst thing we can do, collectively, is be afraid. Afraid to go outside our homes, afraid to go to the movie theater, to the mall, to a race, to a club. Don’t be afraid. Be vigilant and aware but live your life as normal.

2. Be an ally. Stand up for the LGBT community. Call your friends out if they make mindless jokes or use slang. Enough is enough. Our society has evolved and it’s time to all rally together.

3. Donate. There is a general fund set up to support the victims and the families. It is being run by Equality Florida. I have not researched this company or this campaign, so donate at your discretion. (EDIT: As of 6/14 they are at $3.5 million raised and I have seen them interviewed on pretty much every news channel; GoFundMe is also donating $100,000 to the cause so I think it’s safe to say it’s legit.) You can also make a general donation to the Red Cross or the Human Rights Campaign.

4. Take action. This isn’t a post about gun control. But. If you’re fed up with the status quo, use the power of the ballot. Research and vote for representatives who will fight for stricter gun control regulations. Don’t want to wait until election day? You can write to your representatives right now. Not sure how the whole thing works? You are not alone. Educate yourself, look up how your state representatives are voting on laws that matter to you. And if you don’t like it, focus on changing it. It’s not too late to try to make at least some effort to prevent the next horrific attack.

5. Keep traveling to Orlando. Don’t let this, or any monstrous attack, keep you from traveling and enjoying your life. Terrorists cause terror because they want us to be scared to live our normal lives, so we’ll cave to their ideals and beliefs. But America cannot be scared into giving up our freedoms. So keep planning your Orlando vacations. And life your live to the fullest.

To all my friends – be strong, stay safe, know that you are loved. xo

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