- Diya Varma
How to be an Ally and Friend to the LGBTQIA+ People in Your Life
By: Diya Varma, Contributing Writer
Edited by: Fatou Yeli Kourouma, Editor; Eve Nevelos, Editor in Chief
If you are not a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, Pride Month is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your support towards the LGBTQIA+ individuals in your life. It can be difficult to figure out how to be a good ally, but your support can help LGBTQIA+ people feel heard and protected; as well as amplify LGBTQIA+ voices as they advocate for equality. This article will focus on a few key points and considerations for anyone advocating for the LGBTQIA+ community.
Allies are people who do not identify as LGBTQIA+ but are strong supporters and stand up for the community’s equal rights. Here are a few things you can do as an ally to help LGBTQIA+ people in your life not only during pride month but throughout the year.
Stop expecting your loved ones to educate you. Show them you care by devoting time and effort to learning about them and the issues they care about. There are a plethora of (free!) resources available- ranging from books to documentaries. Knowing about LGBTQIA+ culture, history and activism can help you be a better ally.
2. Don’t make stereotypical assumptions.
Not stereotyping is an important part of supporting the LGBTQIA+ community. Just because someone comes out doesn’t imply they’ll start acting like a stereotypical character from a popular television show or film. LGBTQIA+ people come from various walks of life and can be of any race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, or socioeconomic background, which is something that isn’t often represented in fiction. They also dress in different ways, speak in various manners, and exhibit femininity and masculinity in ways that aren’t always related to their sexual orientation or gender identification.
3. Don’t out LGBTQIA+ friends/ family/ acquaintances to anyone.
Coming out is an extremely personal experience, one that can sometimes end in conflict. This is why it is important to respect an LGBTQIA+ individual and allow them to come out when they want to. Outing someone is extremely disrespectful, and can also be dangerous. This is because prejudice and discrimination (both legal and illegal) against LGBTQIA+ people are still very common. According to GLAAD, disclosing or referring to someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity could potentially put them in harm’s way. Allow them to come out at their own discretion and time.
4. Be open-minded and inclusive.
In a world that isn’t as LGBTQIA+ friendly as it could be, it can be lonely. Include your LGBTQIA+ friends in your plans, invite them to meet your family, and hang out with them in general like you would do with any other friend. Don’t make them feel like they are someone you want to keep “hidden” from your friends or family. Include the partner of your LGBTQIA+ loved one in events in the same way you would do any other significant other.
5. Don’t refer to them as “My LGBTQIA+ friend”.
There is more to a person than their sexuality, even if it is part of their identity. They should be more than “my bisexual friend” or “my transgender friend” to you. Don’t let it define them for you!
6. Defend your LGBQTIA+ friends and family
Discrimination against members of the LGBTQIA+ community is unfortunately common. Homophobia is often visible in workplaces and in schools, though it can also be demonstrated online or in public. It is important to stand up for your LGBTQIA+ friends and family and attempt to educate the discriminator. More significantly, your LGBTQIA+ friends and family need to know that they are heard and loved.
Sometimes the most you can do to show your support is lend an ear. Listening to someone rant or speak about their problems and emotions is much more helpful than you’d think! Don’t compare traumas or try to invalidate their experiences. Especially if you identify as straight, you don’t know what it’s like to be LGBTQIA+ and the issues that come with it. Be as supportive as you can be! Also remember that if everything was told to you in confidence, it is important to respect their privacy and keep it to yourself.
8. Be vocal about your allyship.
Don’t confine your activism to your social group! Speak supportively of LGBTQIA+ individuals and your involvement in LGBTQIA+ activism in diverse venues. This can help normalize talking about and supporting the community and inspire other people to speak up and get more involved. Posting on social media is also a great way to raise awareness and demonstrate your allyship!
9. Realize that being straight/cisgender is not the norm.
Reframing how you view the world around you is a part of self-education, which may entail unlearning certain preconceptions. Treating everyone you interact with as though they are straight and cisgender can be humiliating and alienating to LGBTQIA+ people. According to CNN, making use of inclusive language instead of gendered language can normalize sexual orientations or gender identities other than your own.
10. Be respectful of pronouns.
Offering your own pronouns (he/him/his, she/her/hers, they/them/theirs, etc.) and respectfully asking someone’s pronouns upon first meeting is another method to cease treating cisgender as the norm. Respect someone’s request for you to use their chosen pronouns. If you or someone else misgenders them, apologize politely and correct yourself. It may not seem like a big deal, but not respecting someone’s pronouns can be invalidating and hurtful (RTOR).
In conclusion, it is critical to be aware of and supportive of LGBTQIA+ friends, family, and acquaintances. If you find yourself feeling uncomfortable when the matter is brought up, confront your own biases and prejudices, even if it is difficult to do so. Love is love. Happy pride month everyone!
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