Orlando: Ways You Can Help and Support Services

We cannot begin to express our sorrow about the shootings at the Pulse in Orlando last night. Our hearts go out and are open to all of the friends, lovers, partners, community and family who have lost loved ones, and to those, and their loved ones, who have been injured.  All of our wishes and hopes are focused on the care and recovery of those harmed and for those hurting.

If You or Someone You Know Needs Help:

  • If you are local and a loved one is currently missing, or you want updates about a loved one involved, you can call this number, set up by the Orlando police: 1-407-246-4357. A family assistance center has also been set up and is at the Hampton Inn & Suites at 43 Columbia Street.
  • Once next of kin have been notified, the City of Orlando has made a statement that it will begin to release the names of the deceased at: http://www.cityoforlando.net/victims
  • If you or someone you know needs emotional support, our direct services are all currently staffed and available. That's our message boards, here, our textline at: 1-206-866-2279, and we have also opened our chat line outside normal hours for the day and will keep it open as long as we can into tonight.  You can click here to open the chat window. UPDATE: On Monday we will also keep our chat staffed for as long as possible.
  • If you are struggling with suicidal feelings or the desire to otherwise self-harm, please call the National Hopeline Network at: 1-800-784-2433 or the Trevor Project Suicide Hotline for LGBTQ youth at: 1-866-4-U-TREVOR.

The following help and support resources are available in Orlando:

  • Equlality Florida Action has a list here of vigils, support resources and ways to help. 
  • The Zebra Coalition, a network of organizations which provide services to LGBTQ and all young people aged 13 – 24, is open today.  You can call them at: 1-407-228-1446.
  • The GLBT Community Center of Central Florida has counselors available all day at: 946 N. Mills Avenue Orlando, FL, 32804.
  • The Orlando LGBT community center also has a hotline for call-in counseling at: 1-407-228-1446
  • Two Spirit Health, for trans-specific support
  • The Heart of Florida United Way is also offering support. Residents who want counseling can call 211 or text their zip code to 898-211.
  • Tumblr user Buns, queer and local to Orlando, is also compiling a comprehensive list here: http://transcoffee.tumblr.com/post/145814688253/help-orlando-out

How Can You Help?

• If you are in or near Orlando, please donate blood if you can. Many queer men won't be able to donate due to current FDA rules -- also, sadly, some people who can donate may refuse based in anti-LGBTQ bigotry --  so if you can donate blood, it is a big, often lifesaving, way to help. You find a location to donate blood near you by visiting www.oneblood.org or by calling 1-888-9Donate.

• If you are a crisis care provider: Zebra Youth has created an editable Google Doc for providers to list their information to volunteer.

• If you are not local (and if you are), do your best to be kind, caring and gentle today, to everyone, in your words and your actions. Violence hurts everyone, not just the people it harms directly. While violence brings up many different feelings, often including anger, more violence only hurts more and brings more upset, particularly for those who are grieving the loss of loved ones from violence. In your actions and your words -- including what you may say or respond to on social media -- do your best to be kind and respectful of people's pain and sorrow.

As details emerge about this violence, and some people leap to and loudly state fast conclusions or react without thinking or to serve their own agendas, please also remember that xenophobia and/or Islamophobia does not help anyone. Some LGBTQ people are also members of the groups targeted and harmed by those kinds of bigotry, and bigotry on top of more bigotry is never good for anyone, even members of none of these populations.  Please do your best to be wise and intersectional in your thinking and your actions.

• You can also be deeply accepting and loving to those who are LGBTQ, including yourself. Violence done to people specifically because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is all about non-acceptance and hate, not love. You can add more needed love and acceptance to the well of the world today, even if all it is is a simple tweet that extends sympathy or an intentional silent, non-response to any shown or spoken bigotry you encounter.

• No matter where you are today, you can help by being sure to take care of yourself and others. See the links and resources above to find or be a helper.  Be sure and engage in self-care, and if you are -- as so many of us are -- paying close attention to the news about this today, be sure and at least give yourself important mental health breaks.

When violence is done to the LGBTQ community, it is heartbreaking and also deeply terrifying in so many ways, for those directly involved, and their friends, partners, families, and also for those who don't know anyone involved, and are thousands of miles away. It always sends big ripples of pain and fear through our whole community.

When we're queer, trans, or both, we already feel so much more vulnerable in the world, and know, that, sadly, that is based in the fact of our vulnerability.  While things have been getting better over time, as LGBTQ people, we know we still face many dangers simply because we're LGBTQ.  When something happens that horribly and so painfully reminds us of just how unsafe we can be, or worse still, we or someone we know are directly harmed by anti-LGBTQ violence, it shakes us to our core, and can feel like the already-threadbare rug of our feelings of safety under our feet was yanked out from under us completely.

LGBTQ people and those who love us are often in many precarious places in our lives, and often struggle emotionally in some ways even on the best of days. On days like today, we will often need help and support, and we will need each other. Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones: don't try and suck up or bottle your pain or fear. If you need support, even if you feel like that need isn't valid or as big as someone else's, please reach out for it. Don't go this alone. What you need is important and valid, simply because you feel that need. We're here for you: we're here for each other.

- Heather