How you can enhance your allyship for the LGBT community!

Published: June 6, 2018

Each year the month of June is celebrated as LGBT Pride Month. Pride events can include performances, festivals, speaking events, and the infamous Pride parade – all celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer culture and identities. Although Pride events happen throughout the year, June was chosen as LGBT Pride Month to commemorate the Stone Wall Riots: a series of protests that began in June of 1969 that served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement.

As a gay woman, I enjoy attending Pride events. I love seeing same-sex couples proudly holding hands, transgender and non-binary folks making their voices heard through art and performances, and LGBT parents celebrating with their children.

Pride has historically been a space where people in the LGBT community can come together and proudly be who they are. Although the United States has progressed culturally, socially and legally, prejudice and discrimination still exist. Pride events are important for LGBT folks to feel less alone and find safe, local resources.

Pride is also a space where straight and cisgender allies come together in support of the LGBT community and equality. Organizations such as PFLAG march in the parade to show their support to the community and the streets are filled with straight and cisgender spectators. As Americans increasingly call themselves allies, though, many still say or do things that can hurt the very people they mean to help, however unknowingly. Here are some ways to continue your allyship once the parade and events are over.

Educate yourself

Google is a great tool for LGBT allies. Maybe there’s a word or an issue you don’t understand, and that’s okay! Not everyone knows everything, but it is important to take the initiative. For example: “what are the differences between transgender and genderfluid?” or “what does pansexual mean?” It is also a good idea to educate yourself on current legislation involving the LGBT community and learn how you can help.

Confront homophobia or transphobia

For many LGBT folks, speaking out against homophobic or transphobic people can be dangerous. As a straight/cisgender person you are in a better position to do this, with far less consequence. Do not tolerate hate speech, “jokes” or homophobic behaviors. You may not change anyone’s minds but you may be making someone else in the room feel a little safer.

Help lift voices of people of color

LGBT people of color face higher rates of unemployment, violence, and poverty. Understand that people of color in the LGBT community will have different experiences with discrimination, and support artists, writers, and activists working towards equality for LGBT people as well as people of color.

Listen, learn, support

Each person in the LGBT community identifies in different ways and will have different experiences with their identities. Some may be “out” and proud, while some may still be in the closet or figuring it out. If someone comes out to you:

• Express appreciation that they consider you a safe person and admire their courage.

• Start non-verbally. Smile, listen, and if they are okay with it, give them a hug to reach out to their shoulder.

• Offer support: Saying “I am here for you” can mean a lot. Ask them if there is anything you can do to help. And most importantly: respect their privacy – they might not be ready to come out to anyone else and accidentally outing them can be very harmful.

Some things to avoid:

• Panicking. There may be things floating around in your head, for example: concerns of how society may treat them. You may have religious or cultural beliefs that make it difficult for you to understand. Remember to keep focused on them and listen and sort out your own feelings later.

• Saying “I knew it!”

• Making them feel guilty for not telling you sooner.

I did not have the greatest “coming out” experience. Although I have plenty of support now, I know how difficult it can be to try and identify safe people in your life. Be mindful of the biases you have and the language you use.

Language!

Coming out as transgender or nonbinary may be one of the most difficult experiences a person can have. If someone asks you to call them by a different name, do it! If someone informs you that they prefer a different pronoun, use it! Identity is important, and using their preferred language shows you really respect them. It may be difficult at first and you may need to correct yourself, but know that it will mean the world to them.

Indy Pride is hosting events all this week – you can find the list here: www.indypride.org/events

Be sure to look out for Families First in the Parade this weekend!

LGBTQ Resource List (including help for loved ones)

www.glaad.org/resourcelist