How To Support The LGBTQ Community Right Now

by Eliza Castile

Update: In a press conference Monday morning, Orlando police confirmed that 49 people had been killed and 53 injured early Sunday morning at Orlando's Pulse gay nightclub in the deadliest mass shooting in recent U.S. history. After opening fire on the crowd, an individual named Omar Mateen had taken hostages and was ultimately killed in a stand-off with police; Mateen had called 911 and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State shortly before the massacre. Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer declared a state of emergency, and the massacre is being investigated as an act of terrorism.

The victims' names were released by the city of Orlando on its website as their next of kin were informed. Here are some ways to help the Orlando shooting victims and their loved ones; you can also donate to the victims' fund, as well as express your solidarity with the LGBTQ community by posting a tribute online. You can also attend a vigil near you to honor the victims.

Earlier: In the hours since a gunman opened fire in the Orlando, Florida, nightclub Pulse early Sunday morning, you may be wondering how to support the LGBTQ community in its time of attack. After a shooter opened fire on hundreds of club patrons around 2 a.m. Sunday morning, the attack reportedly turned into a hostage situation with dozens of clubgoers trapped inside until police broke down a door with an armored car. The gunman was killed by a SWAT team during the ensuing raid on the building.

The attacker reportedly killed 50 people and hospitalized at least 53 others, making it the deadliest shooting in U.S. history. It's still unknown whether the shooting was motivated by anti-LGBTQ views — Pulse, which bills itself as "Orlando's Latin Hotspot," is a gay nightclub — but law enforcement officials are treating it as a terrorist attack. As news of the shooting spread, #PrayForOrlando and #LoveIsLove began trending on Twitter as a way for users to show support for the victims, and numerous public figures have spoken out about the attack.

Even if you don't live in the Orlando area, there are all kinds of ways to support the LGBTQ community after the shooting — let's look at four below.

1. Make An Appointment To Donate Blood

After the shooting, there was an "urgent need" for blood donations in the Orlando area, especially the O negative type. However, the Orlando Sentinel reports that local donation center OneBlood has reached capacity with walk-ins, thanks to the overwhelming number of people rushing to donate to the victims. Rather, OneBlood is encouraging donors to make appointments over the next several days; similarly, Orlando Health tweeted Sunday morning that potential donors should not head to local hospitals to donate. Aside from OneBlood, the American Red Cross has locations in central Florida as well.

Considering men who have sex with men — who probably comprise a significant portion of the victims of the attack — are still banned from donating blood, every donation counts. OneBlood can be reached at 1-888-936-6283, and appointments can be made on the Red Cross website.

2. Donate To Equality Florida

Equality Florida is the state's largest organization for LGBTQ rights, and the organization recently created a GoFundMe page accepting donations to support victims of the shooting. In just a few hours, it's already raised more than $130,000 out of a $500,000 goal.

"We are heartbroken and angry that senseless violence has once again destroyed lives in our state and in our country," the organization said in a statement.

3. Support Gun Control

The Orlando shooting is hardly the first time the LGBTQ community has been attacked in supposedly safe spaces. Considering how much violence is directed at LGBTQ people even in 2016, it's enormously important to support gun control so similar incidents won't happen in the future.

4. Share The Hotline For Family Members

As the investigation continues, Mayor Buddy Dyer tweeted that the focus would turn to identifying victims and helping family members locate loved ones who may have been in the shooting. "The identification process may take some time. We ask for your patience as we want to be accurate," he tweeted.

To that end, officials have set up a hotline for family members to inquire about their loved ones: 407.246.4357. Even if you don't live in Florida, it's worth sharing on social media — it could help put someone else's mind at rest.