Early in the morning on Nov. 20, a gunman opened fire in a Colorado Springs LGBTQ+ club, Club Q, and stole the lives of five people, injuring 18. This shooting follows a series of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and rhetoric that has continuously put the queer community under a microscope of scrutiny and hate.
As the only queer club in Colorado Springs, members of the community have been mourning the loss of their safe space. Not only that, but LGBTQ+ people nationwide have been fearful of the growing rate of violence against the community. Following the infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill, and the overturning of Roe V. Wade, the LGBTQ+ community — and their allies — have been the subject of legislation that calls their rights to live and love freely into question.
To say that being a part of the queer community is scary at this moment in time would be an understatement. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community myself, I can empathize with the fear that the rest of the community is feeling. To see the hate directed at people who just want to love who they love, makes me want to scrub the internet of any acknowledgment of my bisexuality, and crawl right back into the closet. In my journey, LGBTQ+ bars were a safe space, drag queens were my friends, and the community never failed to accept me with open arms.
I know that I’m not the only member of the community feeling this way. My queer friends are tired. My queer friends are scared. My community is in mourning. And if you’re an ally, it’s crucial to show your support for the LGBTQ+ community, especially when it comes to the queer people in your life.
I talked to Linette Bixby, a certified mindfulness and self-compassion teacher, to learn about how everyone can support the queer community during this scary time. Here’s what you can do to help.
Think Inwardly About Your Own Emotions.
Whether you’re a part of the LGBTQ+ community or just an ally, it’s OK to feel hurt and upset about the rise in hate against queer folks. However, before taking the steps to communicate with others, take a little bit of time to understand your own emotions. That way, you’ll be more equipped to offer solid support to your friends who may need it.
“You need to pull apart the feelings, or some may say, peel back the layers of the onion,” Bixby says. “Perhaps underneath anger is sadness and grief. Underneath that might be fear. And what might be under that?”
Violence against marginalized groups lights a fire under some people — I get it. People feel hopeless, they feel angry, and they feel immeasurably sad — even if they’re not within that community. However, in order to offer support to those who need it, you need to be in a clear headspace before taking action — even if that action is just talking to a queer friend who needs you.
“Understanding your own feelings helps you to align yourself with exactly how you want to help,” Bixby adds.
Reach out to your queer friends.
When it comes to supporting the LGBTQ+ community at large, you have to start small. If you have queer people in your life, now is the time to show them your support, love, and kindness.
“Supporting your friends in the LGBT community should be all about listening,” Bixby says. “Listen to what your friends are saying, ask them what they are feeling.”
This could be as simple as a text saying, “Hey, I know the world is getting pretty scary ATM, just wanted to check on how you’re feeling?” or, if you’re talking about current events with a friend, ask how they’re processing it. Showing your LGBTQ+ friends that you’re actively thinking about them, and their safety, is crucial — especially at this point in time. So, if your friend opens up to you (prompted or unprompted), the best thing you can do is listen.
“Sometimes the best support is only to listen,” says Bixby. “And, of course, always ask if a hug would help.”
What happened in Colorado Springs was a tragedy. And as devastating as it was, this event has opened the eyes of people around the country when it comes to queer hate. The best thing you can do, to honor the lives lost and protect the lives living, is to make your voice heard — whether you’re a queer person or not.
The best thing about having the digital world at your fingertips is that it allows you to access information at the press of a button. Now is the time to truly educate yourself when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community, and join your friends in the fight for equity and equality. This could be as simple as reading books with queer-centered characters or taking time to read up on the history of the community.
As always, getting involved in organizations is another way to help the queer community. The Trevor Project, the HRC, GLAAD, and the Youth Pride Association are all amazing organizations that provide opportunities for the LGBTQ+ community, and work to improve legislation for queer people around the world.
Above all, remember to always be kind — especially now. Stick up for your queer friends and show them you support them. It goes farther than you will ever know.