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How to be an Ally to the LGBTQIA+ Community

At the time of writing this blog post, it is currently Pride Month, a chance to celebrate, learn the history, and fight for the future and rights of the LGBTQIA+ community. Although I have many friends, colleagues, and family members in the community, I've often wondered how to best use my voice, platform, and resources to support them. So here are some simple ways to be a great Ally for the LGBTQIA+ community, with a little help and insight from my family and friends.

First off, let's define what we mean when we use these terms. LGBTQIA+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual. The + recognizes that sexuality and sexual identities are fluid and that many people define themselves outside of those labels. 

An Ally is a person who supports and accepts LGBTQIA+ people and advocates for equal rights and fair treatment.

When we talk about Pride and the growing visibility of the community, you may think of rainbow flags, parades, parties, GIFs, and so on. However, it's important to remember that Pride originated as a Protest led by Trans Women of Color in response to the violence, stigma, and aggressive policing they faced. The fight for equal rights, protection, medical care, and safety continues to this day.

Femmes sitting cross-legged holding hands [Salt, Sand & Smoothies]

So you want to help and support but aren't sure how? I feel ya.

Here are 10 Ways to Be an Ally & a friend:

  1. Be a listener. Listen to your LGBT friends and family and practice holding space for their stories, experiences, challenges, and successes.
  2. Be open-minded. Just because someone's experience is vastly different from your own doesn't mean that you can't relate and empathize with them. Remember compassion, and don't be afraid to say to them, "I'm so sorry you're going through this. I've never personally experienced a situation like this before, but I feel for you and am here to support you in any way you wish." (Or something along the lines of this :)
  3. Educate yourself. There are many resources available online. Diversify your social media feeds, read books by LGBT authors, watch a documentary on LGBT history… The owness is on you to educate yourself.
  4. Be inclusive and invite LGBT friends to your game night, vegan potluck in the park, full-moon hike, or whatever you're into! Diversifying your friend group and inner circle is a win-win for everyone.
  5. Don't assume that all of your friends, family members, and co-workers are straight. Many people do not feel safe or able to "come out" when it risks their safety, family relationships, or job opportunities. Someone close to you could be looking for support, and not making assumptions can give them the space they need and signify your openness to listen. Practice using gender-neutral terms, such as "partner" instead of boyfriend/girlfriend or "parent" instead of mom/dad.
  6. Anti-LGBT comments and jokes are harmful. If you hear them, let your friends, family, and co-workers know that you find them offensive, and explain why.
  7. Confront your own prejudices and biases. If something makes you uncomfortable, ask yourself, why? No one expects you to be perfect and unlearning homophobia takes effort and time. 
  8. Defend your LGBT friends against discrimination. Attend a protest or call/write your state representatives, encourage them to support equal rights, and publicly reject harmful laws, bills, and legislation.
  9. Believe that all people, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation, should be treated with dignity and respect.
  10. Donate your time or money to local and national organizations that support and protect LGBTQIA+ people.
Three femmes lying together on the beach and holding hands [Salt, Sand & Smoothies]

6 LGBTQ non-profits you can work with today:

  • GLSEN
    Mission: Create safe and affirming schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
  • The Ali Forney Center
    Mission: Protect LGBTQ youths from the harms of homelessness and empower them with the tools needed to live independently.
  • The Trevor Project
    Mission: Provide crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25.
  • Immigration Equality
    Mission: Advocate for and represent lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ), and HIV-positive immigrants seeking safety, fair treatment, and freedom.
  • Sylvia Rivera Law Project
    Mission: Work to guarantee that all people are free to self-determine their gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination, or violence.
  • SAGE
    Mission: SAGE is a national organization that offers supportive services and consumer resources to LGBT older people and their caregivers.

Resources:

Free PDF from Human Rights Campaign

The Trevor Project’s Glossary of key terms that relate to the LGBTQ community and quick resource guide


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