“The deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.”
“A hate crime.”
“Another terrorist attack on American soil.”

No matter what you call it, this horrible tragedy that occurred just a few hours ago has upset me on so many levels. Many gay people assume that a gay club could be considered a “safe place.” Where hate will not be tolerated and the LGBT community will have strength in numbers. This reminds me of the 2012 Aurora shooting that occurred during a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.”

At the time (until now), that was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. It changed the entire movie industry. Now, big movies premiere on Thursday evenings as early as 7pm, as a way to lessen crowds. I go to the movies extremely often. I love just kicking back at the end of the week and relaxing for a few hours. So I can’t imagine what those poor victims felt like, thinking they were in a safe place and then suddenly they’re living a real life nightmare with nowhere to run. They were in a sold out show, so it must have been chaos in every direction. That fear of being helpless is something that still keeps me awake some nights.

The details of the shooting are still coming out as we speak, and so is the death toll. So I don’t want to get into that. It’s crazy leaving a bar/club when it’s closing time, so I can’t imagine what it was like when gunshots started firing. It still doesn’t seem real to me. I wanted to voice my support for the community somehow. I was thinking of designing an image to show my support, (a rainbow heart was in the works).

But at the end of the day, was that really going to bring anyone any comfort? I’m not friends with anyone in Orlando on Facebook. When you’ve just lost a brother, son, boyfriend, husband, friend etc. do “my prayers” really matter to you?

I decided to do some research on how I can truly help. I can use this platform as a true way to give people access on how they can provide assistance. Various hate groups are starting to take credit for this incident. Different political players are starting to use this to their advantage. But at the end of the day, all I’m concerned about right now is how we can help the victims and the LGBT community.

Rather than be upset and find someone to blame. I want to immediately start thinking about what can I do to bring comfort to those that have been effected? What can I do to bring more awareness and support? Sharing a link to the news story isn’t going to cut it.

Here’s what I was able to come up with:

Donating blood. OneBlood put out a memo early this morning: “There is an urgent need for O Negative, O Positive, and AB Plasma blood donors following a mass shooting in Orlando, Florida.” If you live in the Orlando area, please donate blood to the nearest available blood bank. Even if you live in a different place, donating blood is an amazing way to give back. Follow this link to find the nearest donation center or blood bank.

Write to the FDA. This is utterly ridiculous that gay men are not allowed to donate blood to a tragedy that has directly struck within the LGBT community. For too long people have let the FDA and American Red Cross discriminate against gay men to not allow them to donate blood. So our double-income-no-kids money is good enough for donations but everything else isn’t? Follow this link to contact the Food and Drug Administration directly today.

Volunteer/Donate at your local LGBT community center. What differentiates Pulse from any random gay bar in Orlando was that it also offered educational resources for the LGBT community in Orlando. By volunteering and/or donating what you can to your local community center you can show your sentiment by paying it forward. Follow this link to donate/volunteer to the Billy DeFrank Center, or the LGBT center of your choice.

Donate to Equality Florida. Equality Florida has set up a GoFundMe for people to donate  directly to the victims. They’re currently at $600,000 and counting but need much more support than that. Whatever you can spare will definitely be appreciated. Follow this link to donate directly to the victims.

Write to your elected representatives about gun control. Instead of debating endlessly with each other on social media about the 2nd Amendment, gun control, and background checks, let’s use that same energy to send a message to people who have a louder voice in our government. By not contacting and communicating with our elected officials, we are missing out on the main benefit of living in America. They are supposed to be our voices in Washington. If they don’t know how we feel about gun control, LGBT rights or any other topic for that matter, it won’t make a difference who we vote for. It just takes 5 minutes to write a letter. I’ve found the perfect link for you too.

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