Like so many others throughout the US and the rest of the world, we’re heartbroken over the events that played out early Sunday morning in Orlando. Yet another city’s name has become synonymous with tragedy.
Violence inflicted upon any person or group of people is horrific regardless of the circumstances, location in the world, or nature of the attack. The shooting in Orlando left us saddened because for many who identify as LGBTQIA, clubs and bars like Pulse make up part of the fabric of the LGBT community along with outreach centers and other friendly gathering places. For those who don’t find acceptance at home, these spaces are sanctuaries and the people in them become like family. This act of violence was carried out during Pride Month when members of the LGBT community and their allies are celebrating together.
These events are a sobering reminder that even in times of sweeping progress for LGBT causes and more visibility than ever, danger still exists and for some communities it is an epidemic. The threat of violence makes a huge impact on the mental health and well-being of LGBT people, and losses to suicide and suicide attempt rates continue to be higher among LGBT populations than those of non-LGBT counterparts.
Let us not allow intolerance and violence towards one group spawn persecution of another. Let us all try every day to bring education and awareness to those who may fear the unfamiliar and unknown. Whether that is fear of a sexuality, gender, religion, culture, race, ethnicity, nationality, or other qualities they may find foreign to their own experience. Ignorance, fear, or intolerance can morph and grow into hatred and violence when fed and nurtured. Knowledge and education can bolster tolerance and acceptance. Most importantly, let’s all love and support one another and recognize that when we all stand together in peace and solidarity, we stand stronger.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.— Martin Luther King, Jr.
To the LGBT and other helplines around the world, thank you for being the light that drives out darkness for so many people.
For emotional support, information and referral, educational materials, and other ways you can support and help the LGBTQIA community, please explore the resources below.
The Trevor Project
Switchboard LGBT Helpline
Nottingham & Nottinghamshire Lesbian & Gay Switchboard
Gay Switchboard Ireland
It Gets Better Project
Human Rights Campaign
Have a resource to add to this list? Leave us a comment below!
Transgender Day of Remembrance is observed each year on November 20 in memoriam of lives lost to anti-transgender violence. A 2011 report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects shows anti-LGBT hate crime murders increased 11% from 2010. Of the victims murdered, 87% were people of color, and 40% were transgender women. Transgender people of color were also 28% more likely to experience physical violence compared to people who were not transgender people of color.
This terrible violence perpetrated against transgender people is all too common and also under-reported. Transgender issues are misunderstood by many, but visibility and education brings understanding. The Trans Student Educational Resources provided this great infographic that we thought we’d share.
Some other great resources for information on Transgender issues and Transgender Day of Remembrance can be found here, as well:
International Transgender Day of Remembrance
Human Rights Campaign blog
Human Rights Campaign’s Transgender Visibility Guide
Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)
National LGBTQ Task Force Blog
GLAAD’s Transgender Media and Education Program which includes Transgender 101
Artist Gilbert Baker created the rainbow flag as the symbol of LGBT pride because it embodied diversity and hope. Each color represents something different. Red for Life, Orange for Healing, Yellow for Sunlight, Green for Nature, Blue for Art, and Purple for the Human Spirit. The flag sometimes also includes Pink which symbolizes sexuality, and Indigo for Harmony.
Spirit Day, presented by GLAAD, encourages everyone to wear purple to embody that spirit and to show support and solidarity with LGBT youth. Millions of people, schools, organizations, universities, and corporations participate.
GLAAD offers up a lot of ways to get involved and show your support. You can simply wear purple or choose to change your profile picture on Facebook or Twitter to have a purple overlay using a tool they have available. You can also install an app on your smartphone or tablet that provides anti-bullying resources and calls to action.
The show of solidarity is important, but a big part of Spirit Day is also about educating others on the impact of LGBT bullying. For that, they have resource kits available.
We hope you’ll consider taking part in Spirit Day and show LGBT youth everywhere that it’s okay to be who they are, and that they have lots of support.
June is Pride Month, and we at iCarol are proud to join the celebration. Many of the helplines using iCarol software serve the LGBT community and we admire and support the work they are doing.
Recently I watched the HBO original film “The Normal Heart.” The film was adapted from a play of the same name that was written by activist and playwright Larry Kramer. The play, and film, chronicle the emergence of AIDS and creation of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York City in the early 1980’s, founded by Kramer and others. In the somewhat autobiographical play, Ned Weeks (a character based on Larry Kramer), is a passionate but abrasive advocate for increased attention and funding for research towards a new and unnamed illness which we now all know would be the AIDS epidemic.
In the film the illness is rapidly spreading among the gay community and Weeks is losing one friend after another to the mysterious disease. And while people are getting sick all around him, all suffering from similar symptoms and always ending with the same tragic outcome, no one seems to care. The necessary research isn’t receiving sufficient funding, politicians turn a blind eye, and some hospital staff even refuse to go in the rooms of those with the disease. In one particularly heartbreaking scene, a young man dies and a funeral home refuses to handle his body, instead putting him in a trash bag and making the young man’s mother and partner pay them to handle his remains in such a dehumanizing way.
In another scene, founding members of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis are organizing their office space when a young woman comes in, grief stricken by the recent loss of her friend. The character of Tommy Boatwright, (played wonderfully by Jim Parsons who steals the show in many scenes) comforts her. She says she wants to do something to help and he responds, “We need a hotline director.” The character of Tommy is based on the real-life person Rodger McFarlane, who first answered that hotline in his apartment and took 100 calls the first night it was open.
In the next scenes you see this small group fielding phone calls from people asking about the unnamed disease, its symptoms, the rumors surrounding its cause, and a number of other questions that the group admittedly had few answers to at the time. Their goal was to provide people with a place they could call to receive what little facts they had about the illness and also to receive access to social workers, legal help, health care, and more.
I thought to myself about how much things have changed in the over 30 years since this group first organized. HIV/AIDS is still a very real and dangerous illness, but thanks to the work of GMHC and others, it eventually stopped being ignored by decision makers and got the funding for research that it deserved. Research led to knowledge, and over time people were educated about how it spread and how to prevent it, and there have been incredible strides in the medicine and other treatments that greatly improve one’s ability to live with the disease. There’s no doubt that we still need activism and awareness and prevention and dollars for research, but things are much better than they were 30 years ago.
And look at how much has changed for LGBT helplines. When I saw the team of people in the movie answering phones and doing the best they could to help provide information and empathy, I smiled to myself and thought, “I wonder if any of them had any idea how much things would change for the LGBT community in the following decades.” LGBT helplines started with the purpose of helping people survive this illness which no one knew anything about. The LGBT helpline has evolved so much over the years. We still have many wonderful helplines doing work on HIV/AIDS education and prevention. But helplines now also focus on bullying, discrimination, suicide prevention, and legal rights, including the right to be married. Did any of the founding fathers of the GMHC ever imagine there would be a day where so many countries would recognize same-sex marriage, including many states in the US? Where gay characters, gay couples and their children, feature prominently on TV shows and movies and we no longer even take note of this, because these lives, as they should be, are no longer seen by most as abnormal or “other”? Did they even dare dream of such things at a time when most struggled to come out, and many were dying and no one even seemed to care?
We appreciate the great work of so many LGBT helplines who serve to help people who are struggling and feeling alone, offering hope to youth who are bullied for their sexual orientation or gender identity, helping them find reasons for living when times are so hard that they feel they can’t go on. All the problems are not solved and our society still has a way to go before full equality is realized. But “The Normal Heart” serves as a reminder that times were once so dark and so scary, while now they are filled with the promise of hope and love and acceptance.