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Your rainbow flag isn’t helping your LGBT friends as much as you think

Homophobic violence and vitriol, sadly, aren’t anything new in this country. When it happens, what I tend to see are a lot of straight people piping up to say, “We’re with you; we have your back,” but aren’t sure how they can really help, or maybe haven’t thought about their ally status much at all before.

As a member of the LGBTQIA community, I feel the threat and the sting of homophobia, and am appalled by the nastiness of people who hate queers trying to use the death of gay people as an excuse for more hate. But not everyone is a member of the LGBTQIA community.

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So what’s a straight ally to do when something really awful happens? Do you just change your Facebook photo to a rainbow? Do you tell your queer friends how sad you are? It can be confusing when a community you aren’t a part of, but still care about, is attacked. If you are wondering how you can show solidarity and be an ally, this is for you.

Recognize your own privileges relative to others and offer support, rather than requiring it of those closer to the tragedy than you are.

It is totally understandable that lots of folks are sad, but there’s no denying that some of us are more deeply affected than others. When talking to those more deeply affected, be sure that you are being supportive, rather than asking them to take care of your feelings.

Give blood, if you are able.

Obviously this doesn’t go for every tragedy forever, but in the case of an incident like the one at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, and many others, giving blood can be a huge help.

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Be aware of institutional homophobia and transphobia. Take the time to learn what we are up against, and speak out and challenge it.

Speaking of giving blood, did you know that gay men, and basically all transgender people, are effectively banned from donating blood? It seems to me like this should be common knowledge, but apparently it isn’t. The FDA specifically bans men who have had sex with another man in the last 12 months from donating (until recently it was a lifetime ban for any man who had ever had sex with a man!).

There are all kinds of ways that LGBTQIA folks are discriminated against every day that straight people might not be aware of because of how privilege works. Do your research! Homophobia breeds homophobia. And once you do know what we’re up against, whether it’s a blood ban or housing discrimination, use your voice to speak out against it.

Showing kindness to your queer friends is great, but talk with your straight friends and family as well.

You probably have straight people in your life who could use some education on these topics. Being an ally means taking responsibility for helping to educate them, rather than making LGBTQIA people do all of that emotional labor for you.

Don’t just be an ally when tragedy strikes; challenge the subtle and not-so-subtle homophobia and transphobia you see in the world every day.

If that sounds exhausting to you, just imagine what it’s like to be a queer person and not have a choice.

Be aware of how intersectional identities affect marginalized people, and realize that a particularly vulnerable community was attacked.

It is much more dangerous to be a queer person when you also have another identity that marginalizes you as well. Did you know that nearly all of the victims of this recent crime were people of color? Did you know that LGBTQIA communities of color are some of the most vulnerable? Now you do.

Don’t you dare use a crime against one community as an excuse to hate another marginalized community.

Homophobia comes from many different religions and many different ideologies, and is deeply ingrained in American society at large. Please, do not attempt to make an attack on the queer community into a means to attack another group.

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Make space for LGBTQIA people to feel however they feel.

Don’t you dare tell us not to be angry, or how we can be sad. Grief is complicated and ugly, and we need to hold space for it.

Before you go, check out our slideshow below:

gay pride quotes

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