ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images
ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images
ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images
In commemoration of the Stonewall riots of 1969, Pride month is celebrated every June to recognize the struggles and achievements of the LGBTQ community throughout history around the world. Parades, parties, rallies and other demonstrations are held globally in which LGBTQ people and allies not only dress in rainbow colors and celebrate, but also perform, give speeches and more to continue to push for cultural and political change.
If you are someone who is not a member of the LGBTQ community, Pride Month presents a chance for you to express your support for your friends, family, coworkers, neighbors or other LGBTQ people in your life. Navigating how to appropriately be an ally can be tricky, but your support can help LGBTQ people feel heard and safe as well as be used to amplify LGBTQ voices as they advocate for equal rights.
Here are just some of the things you can do as an ally not only this Pride month but also all year long to support the LGBTQ people in your life.
Don’t expect your loved ones to educate you. Show them you care by putting in time and work to understand them and the issues they are passionate about. There are so many resources out there from books to articles to guides from LGBTQ nonprofits, as well as movies and documentaries. Knowing about LGBTQ history, culture and activism will help you be a better and more informed ally. Making an effort to continue learning is one of the most important things you can do as you get older.
Part of educating yourself is also reframing how you view the world around you, which might mean unlearning certain expectations or assumptions. Only 4.5% of the population self-identifies as LGBT, according to Gallup estimates and The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law. However, treating everyone you interact with as if they are straight and cisgender — someone whose gender identity aligns with the sex assigned to them at birth — can be embarassing and othering to people who are LGBTQ. Practicing the use of inclusive language and avoiding gendered language like “girlfriend” or “you guys” are small ways to normalize sexual orientations or gender identities besides your own.
Being supportive is one of many ways to be a better friend. Support the LGBTQ people in your life by letting them come out in their own time. If you suspect that someone you know or love is LGBTQ, don’t call them out on it, interrogate them or pressure them to tell you. You might feel that it’s about you — that they don’t trust or care about you. However, according to the Human Rights Council, they simply may not be ready, may not feel safe, or may still be coming to terms with their own sexual orientation or gender identity.
This is likely one of those life lessons you learned from your parents, but not stereotyping is a crucial way to support the LGBTQ community. Just because someone comes out to you does not mean they are going to start acting like a stereotypical character from a popular TV show or movie. People who are LGBTQ are extremely diverse; they come from all walks of life and can be from any race, ethnicity, nationality, religion or socioeconomic background, something that is not always represented in fiction. They also dress different ways, speak in various manners, and express femininity and masculinity in all sorts of ways that aren’t necessarily connected to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Coming out is personal, and it can also be very dangerous. Prejudice and discrimination, both legal and illegal, are still very common for LGBTQ people in America. Disclosing or referring to someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation could endanger them and even put their physical safety at risk. Let your loved one come out at their own discretion.
Although it is a part of their identity, there is more to a person than their sexual orientation. They should be much more to you than “my trans friend” or “my asexual friend.” Don’t let it define them for you. Seeing and loving them for who they are is a great way to build friendships that will stand the test of time.
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In a world that still isn’t as LGBTQ-friendly as it could be, it can get lonely. Make sure to support your LGBTQ friends by including them in plans, inviting them to meet your family or just hanging out with them in general. Don’t make them feel as if they’re someone you want to hide or keep away from the rest of your social circle. Also include the partner of your LGBT loved one in events and activities just as you would any other spouse or significant other.
Being a good friend or family member means having your LGBTQ friend’s back. If you hear someone using a slur, making a disparaging remark or telling a joke that stereotypes LGBTQ people, speak out against it — even if it isn’t directed at your loved one or they’re not around. Make sure others know that you find it offensive.
You may have friends or family members that are not as understanding or accepting of LGBTQ issues and identities as you would like them to be. They might even be outwardly prejudiced and discriminatory toward LGBTQ people. It might feel too risky, but you can take the step to engage in hard conversations that could ultimately be constructive. According to PFLAG, To have these hard conversations make sure it is an appropriate time and space, that you have the ability to stay calm and come into it assuming nothing. It may be possible that the person doesn’t know what they said or did is offensive. Because understanding of sexuality and gender is still largely limited and prejudice prevails, you may have some friends and family who are not as pro-LGBTQ as you would like them to be. Don’t just let this slide or avoid the conversation. Change starts at home, and you want to get through to the people you care about.
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Don’t keep your activism to your dining room or your circle of friends. While this could come with its own set of risks, try to speak supportively of LGBTQ people or mention your involvement in LGBTQ activitsm in different settings like church or work. This can help normalize talking about and supporting LGBTQ people and issues. This act could even inspire others to speak up or get more involved.
Becoming an ally might change how you want to spend your time and money as well. Reach out to organizations that are raising awareness and advocating for LGBTQ issues that are important to you or your loved one and ask how you can help. Donating money to organizations that support the LGBTQ community is just one act of kindness you can do from your couch.
Another way to stop treating cisgender as the norm is to offer your own pronouns (he/him/his, she/her/hers, they/them/theirs, etc.) and respectfully ask someone theirs upon first meeting. If someone asks you to use their preferred pronouns, respect their request. Politely apologize and correct yourself if you misspeak or someone else misgenders them. It may not seem like a big deal, but using the wrong pronouns for someone can be invalidating and hurtful.
When it comes to LGBTQ couples, don’t try to fit them into the box of heterosexuality. Don’t ask same-sex couples “Who’s the woman in the relationship?” or “Who’s the man in the relationship?” Same-sex couples are able to get married, support each other as partners and have and raise children without either individual ascribing to dated and often sexist attributes or responsibilities traditionally delineated as “male” or “female.”
Another reason you should unlearn common stereotypes is because you will meet LGBTQ people who simply don’t line up with them at all. If someone tells you their sexual orientation or gender identity, believe them. Don’t push back against or question their identity because they don’t fit what you’d expect. For example, if someone tells you that they’re queer or bisexual, don’t ask them whether they’re sure they’re not actually just gay. Similarly, don’t ask someone who’s trans if they’ve had surgery. And, if you’re a parent, take special note of this point because making comments about race, religion or sexual orientation is one way you didn’t realize you were offending your kids.
The Q in LGBTQ can stand for both “queer” or “questioning.” Sometimes someone isn’t ready to label themselves or they don’t feel like they quite fit under umbrella terms like “gay” or “lesbian.” Don’t use a category or description for someone unless that’s how they’ve told you they identify themselves. Someone’s gender and sexuality can also change and evolve. If a loved one comes to you and tells you that they identify as something different now, accept it and adjust to using that term.
If you are straight or cisgender, you won’t know what it’s like to be LGBTQ and to deal with the issues that come with it. If an LGBTQ friend or family member tells you about their experiences — whether those experiences pertain to gay culture, romance or incidents of prejudice — believe them. Don’t be dismissive or downplay their concerns. Be as supportive and validating as you can be.
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One activity many allies engage in is attending Pride parades, but there are plenty of other celebrations and LGBTQ community events you can find throughout the year. However, it’s important to only go into spaces and places where allies are invited. While you can still have a great time at certain LGBTQ events, remember that their primary purpose is to be fun and safe for LGBTQ people.
You can also choose to take a stand and not support organizations or businesses that donate money to anti-LGBTQ causes or that discriminate against LGBTQ people. If an author, actor, writer or other artist promotes anti-LGBTQ rhetoric or organizations, you could choose to stop supporting their work.
There are many questions you likely didn’t know were rude, but just because someone opens up to you about their gender identity or sexual orientation doesn’t give you permission to ask inappropriate questions about their body or sexuality. These kinds of questions can make someone feel reduced to their body parts or sexual behaviors rather than seen and appreciated as a full person.
More than anything, be a good listener. As a general rule, it’s better to hear someone out than to talk yourself when it comes to a matter you yourself don’t have firsthand experience with. Listen when your LGBTQ friends and family members need to vent about their experiences, cry about injustices their community faces or ask for your help as an ally. And, if you’re wondering how to support your LGBTQ friends during Pride this year, here are a few ways to celebrate Pride Month from home.
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