If you've ever been to an LGBTQ Pride event you know there are always haters. Every year "those people with the signs" show up spouting violent hateful soundbites hoping to instill fear- and for many of us it works.
For years I've wondered what might happen if one of them chose to act on his words. Shuddering, I stuffed those fears down as far as I could.
Until this week, when our Pride month started with a shooting at a gay club and those fears were realized. Someone hated us enough to literally pull the trigger and hundreds of people were directly impacted- thousands more felt the impact from a distance.
A new conversation has emerged in the LGBTQ community, many of us feeling afraid to attend the Pride month events that historically brought us together.
There's no right or wrong here- though there will be pressure to go out anyway- and I wanted to write out the options to help you decide what's right for you.
Take Care of You First
There will be intense pressure to go out in spite of fear. Basic rhetoric: if you're not out dancing, watching floats, or wearing rainbows you're letting the terrorists/haters win.
But there would be no Pride without the LGBTQ community. Too many of us have survived violence, assaults, and other egregious oppression already. The events of this week are just too triggering for some people to enjoy community gatherings.
You are allowed to stay home to take care of yourself- and know that if you're queer taking care of yourself is imperative to supporting the LGBTQ community.
Give yourself permission to practice serious self-care.
If You Choose to Stay Home
The choice to stay home can bring up both guilt (I'm not doing enough to support the LGBTQ community) and loss (I'm missing fun times with loved ones). Here are a couple ways to combat those feelings.
Host Your Own Pride
If going out in a crowd feels too overwhelming right now that's okay- but you might still want to be a part of the beautiful community gathering that is Pride. You can always host your own private event if that helps you feel more comfortable. I've heard of many folks going camping with other LGBTQ folks to celebrate Pride togetherness in a quiet, family-friendly, sober space.
Hosting your own Pride event allows you the opportunity to set boundaries and expectations to help you and others feel safe.
Volunteer or Donate to LGBTQ Organizations
If you're worried about missing out on supporting LGBT causes do not fear. These organizations need support year-round to make real change in the world. If you choose to stay home from large events but still want to help our community consider donating time, energy, artwork, food, or money to one of these organizations.
Write Your Representatives
Pride got its start as a riot for safety. If you're outraged and scared you can always write your representatives and remind them they represent LGBTQ community members. Let them know what you need to feel safer going out. Here's one organization that can help you decide who and what to write.
If You Choose to Go Out
For many folks the choice to go out feels less optional than before. I've heard many people say they believe it's more important than ever to go out, kiss in public, and dance in honor of the people who died. Others feel less confident- or even scared about the possibility of violence at large events.
If you still plan to go out but feel scared about your safety know you are not alone. The truth is the risk of a mass shoting incident is relatively low (read scary shooting stats here).
But for most of us knowing the statistics doesn't help us feel any more comfortable. And the truth is, being an out LGBTQ person takes great courage without the threat of mass violence.
Here are a few tips that can increase safety at Pride.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Notice the entrances, exits and changes in your surroundings. The first thing emergency responders tell us to do in one of these incidents is to get away (to safety) as quickly as possible.
Even though the likelihood of another incident is low- knowing your escape in advance can help you feel more confident and safe no matter what happens.
Connect With Friends
Pride is all about community- so stay in close contact with friends. Let people know where you're going, and have a way of letting someone know when you get home safely. Keep your phone charged so you can use it to connect in case of emergency.
Yes, Pride has been a time for celebration and for many people that means little sleep and lots of alcohol. But in order to stay aware of your surroundings and connected to friends keeping yourself alert is one of the best ways to support your safety and others.
Again, the risk of another incident is relatively low, but the risk of a sprained ankle, a bad fall, emotional embarrassment etc remains high- and you'll lessen the likelihood of these if you keep your substance use in check.
Of course going out can also mean doing everything on the if-you-stay-home list above. We need lots of people volunteering, contacting representatives, donating, and hosting to keep our community thriving during this difficult time. You can always do both.
Whatever you choose, your feelings are valid.
It's most important to know these fears are real and valid after such an incredibly scary incident. Your feelings are valid. Community is important- but so is self-compassion.
You get to decide what's right for you and how you want to support the LGBTQ community during Pride Month whether staying home or going out.
If you're having trouble deciding, or if you're feeling paralyzed by fear let me know, I have availability for free consult and am happy to support you or help you find a therapist who can.
She can help you:
- rediscover passion in long-term relationships
- repair trust after infidelity or dishonesty
- move past jealousy, insecurity or codependent patterns
- open your relationship or practice polyamory with care
- resolve sexual dysfunction and disconnect
- break unhealthy communication patterns in your relationship
Contact her for a free consultation to see if working with her is right for you.