With Pride month right around the corner, and the pandemic still going strong, you may be wondering how to be an ally to the LGBTQ+ community this year.
When is Pride month?
Every June, Pride month is celebrated in commemoration of the Stonewall riots that took place in 1969. Pride month celebrates the achievements and recognizes the struggles that the LGBTQ+ community goes through, throughout history and the world. Pre COVID-19, rallies, parades, marches, and demonstrations were held throughout the month that helped educate and allowed other members of the community to meet each other. The rallies are held globally, and are informative. They also help continue the push for political and cultural change and acceptance. Oftentimes at these parades, allies and members of the community will wear rainbow colors, or have the pride flag on them.
How can I be an ally to the LGBTQ+ community?
Being an ally to the community does not mean you have to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, one of the biggest purposes of Pride month is to educate those who are straight or cisgender about the struggles of the community. Become an ally and express your support for the community! Your support helps the LGBTQ+ community become even more heard and supported, and can help them advocate for equal rights. However, remember that being an ally is not something that you do for one month and let go. Being an ally should be year-round – 365 days! While Pride parades are amazing, don’t forget that there are many other community events you can go to learn and support. Also, be sure to check and see if allies are welcome, or if the event is for members of the community only. If it is for members only, ask if they know another event that you can attend, or do some more research!
The first step is to educate yourself
While it is not the LGBTQ+ community’s job to educate you, they can definitely assist! However, put in the time and effort to research, understand them and the issues that affect their community. There are numerous resources out there, and they are easily accessible online or through books and documentaries. There are nonprofits, articles, movies, and so many other amazing resources that are simple to access. If you take the time to research and understand the community on your own, it helps show that you are genuine in your support and allyship. Knowing the history of what the community has gone through, cultural implications, and ongoing fights for rights will show that you are not only willing to learn, but also willing to advocate on their behalf. You should also make an effort to continue learning throughout the year, and not just during Pride month.
Don’t treat LGBTQ+ Community as outside of the norm
Growing up, you most likely heard that being straight or cisgender is the normal way to be. However, part of educating yourself to become an ally to the community is retraining and reframing your world views is realizing that being a member of the LGBTQ+ community is not outside of the norm. You should never treat everyone you meet as if they are straight – in fact, you should never assume someone’s sexual orientation or gender. It can be incredibly embarrassing for them, and for you when you find out you misgendered or mislabeled them. If you don’t know what cisgender means, we’ll break it down. A cisgender person is someone whose gender identity is the same as what they were assigned at birth. However, as we know, not everyone is cisgender, and to be a true ally, we must normalize using inclusive language. Remember that you don’t know what it’s like to be part of the LGBTQ+ community if you are straight or cisgender, so being conscious of small things makes a huge difference in the long run. You may not understand their experiences and the issues they have experienced, so try to avoid downplaying or dismissing them, and be as supportive as you possibly can.
Don’t pressure your LGBTQ+ friends to come out
We know we need to be supportive – but when does being supportive overstep boundaries? If you know or suspect someone in your life is a member of the community, but they have never explicitly told you – DO NOT ASSUME! Further, do not make them uncomfortable by pressuring them to come out. It isn’t about you or them not trusting you. They may not feel ready, may still have questions, or they may feel unsafe with their family or other friends. Being supportive must come on their terms, and not just be about your desire to know and help. If they do come to you and confide, keep that information private and to yourself. Do not gossip, spread it, or make them feel like they have made a choice that they shouldn’t have.
Break the stereotyping
Something that we learn as children is that stereotyping is wrong. However, we often forget that stereotyping is about more than just race and religion. This also comes to gender identity and sexual orientation. For example, just because someone in your life comes out as gay does not mean they are going to be overly effeminate or act like a popular television show. There is no set behavior of someone in the community, just as not all straight or cisgender people act the same. Just as everyone in the world is, all people and personalities are very diverse, from different races, ethnicities, nationalities, and walks of life! Being gay, straight, lesbian, or anything else does not mean you speak a certain way, dress a certain way, or act a certain way. Additionally, you will meet those who don’t fit any stereotypes at all. It’s not your business if someone is trans and has or has not had surgery. It’s not your business why a lesbian dresses feminine.
Help your friend come out to friends and family (if they ask)
Some people do not have friends and family that are accepting or understanding of LGBTQ+ community members and issues. They may show visible prejudice or speak slurs towards the members of this community. Support your friends and family by supporting them through these tough conversations. Engage in the conversation and try to make it as constructive as possible. Stay calm, and remember that they may not realize they are being offensive to your friend – just as you may not have. Understanding people’s sexuality and gender identities is still something that many are learning, and they may be prejudiced or not pro-LGBTQ+. Don’t avoid the conversation. Stick by your friends’ sides, and be vocal. Change only happens when we address the issues head on.
Openly show that you are an ally!
If you don’t show your activism and allyship in public, you aren’t truly an ally. While it can be risky or scary to show people outside of your friends or home that you support the LGBTQ+ community, taking this risk can help normalize and provide further support to the community. Speak supportively of the rights of the community, and maybe you will inspire other people to get involved as well. One small change creates ripple effects in the world. Your voice is powerful.
Donate to charities and organizations that raise awareness if you can, and don’t support the wrong ones.
Using your voice is important, but dedicating resources if you have free money is also a key aspect. Reach out to organizations and find out how to become a donor or sponsor. You can literally do this from the comfort of your own home, and it is minimal effort. In the same token, make a stand by not supporting businesses and organizations that donate to anti LGBTQ+ causes, or that discriminate against the community. Additionally, if an actor, writer, or artist of any kind is promoting an agenda that is anti-LGBTQ+, you can easily choose to stop supporting them and their work. These small changes make a large impact overtime.
Try to use the right pronouns for them
If you aren’t sure of the pronouns they want to be called, ask them. Or, you can offer up your pronouns – for example, “My name is ___ and my pronouns are___”. This allows them to introduce theirs as well without it being awkward or uncomfortable. Opening up the conversation can allow them to be comfortable and avoid any misgendering. If they do tell you their preferred pronouns, respect them and use those! If you slip up, apologize and move forward. Using the wrong pronouns may seem like no big deal, but this can be so hurtful for those who are already struggling to be accepted. Correct others who use the incorrect pronouns as well.
Stop trying to make relationships fit in a box.
Just because a couple is LGBTQ+ does not mean they have to have a traditional gender role. How would you feel if you are a cisgender straight couple, and a person asked you, “who’s the man in the relationship?”. It would be awkward and odd. That’s how LGBTQ+ couples feel as well. There’s no need to make people fit into a stereotype of who is the man and who is the woman in the relationship.
What does the Q stand for?
The Q in LGBTQ can stand for either questioning or queer. Some people are not ready to label themselves as one versus the other, or they may be feeling like the other terms don’t fit them. Unless they have specifically told you they are something specific, don’t label them before that. Allow them to identify themselves. People can also change and evolve sexually, which includes their sexuality. If they change, learn how to accept it and not pressure or question them in a way that is inappropriate. Also, just because a question isn’t rude to you, doesn’t mean it’s not rude to someone else. Don’t make someone feel like they are worth nothing more than what their sexual orientation or sexual preferences are! The simple way to know if it’s ok or not is – would you feel comfortable if someone asked you that same thing?
Learn to be a good listener.
It’s so important to have an open heart and open ears when someone is talking about their experiences. Allow them to vent, cry, and ask for help if necessary. The injustices they face may be different than injustices you face, but that does not make them any easier or worse.
So this coming Pride month, be an ally to the LGBTQ+ community. Take a stand, make your voice heard, and don’t hold back!