Given the current socio-political climate, people have been coming together in powerful ways to stand up against discrimination. And while you might think you have your LGBTQ friends’ backs no matter what, there are some particular things you can do to be a meaningful ally to the LGBTQ community now. A true ally knows that LGBTQ people are human beings who deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, just like everyone else in the world, and there are ways to reinforce that truth every day as a straight person.
The LGBTQ community has made awe-inspiring leaps when it comes to fighting for their human rights, but discrimination still exists. There are still people out there who assume straightness is the “norm” and the LGBTQ community is the “other.” Indeed, even our government seems to feel that way, since there are no federal anti-discrimination laws that protect people based on their sexual orientation.
States have passed laws against LGBTQ adoption, and others don’t fully recognize people’s gender identities. Transgender people are murdered at unthinkable rates, and those cases often go unsolved, simply because our society doesn’t value trans lives.
There is a lot of work to do, and a lot of it involves straight people understanding the role they can play in making the world safer—literally—for the LGBTQ community.
One LGBTQ friend told HelloGiggles, “Overall, it’s knowing that as an ally, you have an opportunity to play a crucial role in empowering people who are hesitant to step into their truth. The response I received from the first person I came out to propelled me to come out to my other family members and friends. It moved me forward in my life. Eight years later, I’m the happiest I’ve been, and I can pinpoint that simple acceptance as the turning point. It was his open, accepting, and loving response that set the stage for the good experience I had. All things considered, I am lucky.”
It shouldn’t have to be “luck” that helps an LGBTQ-identifying person live a happy and fulfilling life. Here are a few things you can do as a straight person to make sure that you’re standing up, effectively, for the queer community and being a true LGBTQ ally:
1Check your own insecurity.
It can be embarrassing if you slip up and use the wrong pronoun with a gender-fluid friend, or someone corrects your understanding of what bisexuality means. But don’t get defensive and make it about you. Because it’s really not. Correct your mistakes and try to think about your own biases and privilege. Our friend Greg Hyde told HelloGiggles,
Basically, if you find yourself at a loss, look inside and try to figure out where those prejudices and biases are coming from before continuing the conversation.
2Be open to education.
Educating yourself is key to being a good ally. So don’t be afraid to ask your LGBTQ-identifying friends and family questions, and have real, deep conversations about their experiences. It can be hard sometimes because you might find out you’ve been doing or thinking about something the wrong way. Adjust, and keep going.
3But don’t ask people to do it for you.
As Hyde explained to HG, “If you have questions, please ask me. But also, there is a lot of information available truly everywhere on the internet to educate yourself on different aspects of LGBTQ culture and issues.”
Asking someone to do the emotional labor of explaining what gender identity really means or all of the terrible things the LGBTQ community faces here in the U.S., but also in places like, say Chechnya, is totally unnecessary.
Being curious is a healthy and good thing, but there’s no reason you can’t do a little research on your own given all of the resources out there.
Watch movies and docs created by and about members of the LGBTQ community. Read LGBTQ authors. Brush up on current events surrounding LGBTQ rights. Being an ally means understanding that the LGBTQ-identifying people in your life can’t just sit around all day correcting your mistakes.
4You don’t get to pick and choose.
Being an ally to the LGBTQ community means being an ally to everyone. You don’t get to love your lesbian friends but assume that pansexuality is a “made up thing” or that being bi is “a stop on the way to Gay Town,” as Carrie Bradshaw so cringingly put it on Sex and the City.
And remember how vital the trans community is to the LGBTQ community, too. Pride Month, for example, was started by a black, trans woman named Marsha P. Johnson, yet in 2018, trans people are often left out of the conversation. Listen, learn, and open your heart to everyone in the LGBTQ community.
5Watch your language.
Studies have found that using the correct pronoun for a trans person significantly decreases their risk of depression, substance abuse, suicide, and even homelessness. Many people in the LGBTQ community might use a pronoun that doesn’t match up with your idea of what a person using that pronoun should look like. But if you can’t tell what pronoun to use—ask. And when they tell you, use it. It literally does no straight, cis person any harm at all to use a certain pronoun when talking to or about another person, but it could actually be life or death for the other person. It’s such a seemingly small thing that can have ripple effects on a person’s well-being.
When you do ask questions or hear your LGBTQ friends and family talking about their experiences, just shut up and really hear what they’re saying. Maybe you don’t get why people are so riled up about a certain law or practice that doesn’t seem like a “big deal,” or you don’t get why they want to leave a certain place where they feel uncomfortable. As a straight person, you’ll never be able to *really* know what it’s like to walk around the world in their shoes, but the more you listen, the more you can be empathetic.
7Speak up and act.
Actions always speak louder than words. When you can (and as a straight person, you usually can), correct someone who says something homophobic or intentionally uses an incorrect pronoun.
Use your platform and privilege as a straight person to boost LGBTQ voices, without asking for a pat on the back for it. You can attend a Pride parade or a rally for LGBTQ rights. Donate to organizations that support the LGBTQ community. Don’t compromise on LGBTQ issues when you go to the voting booth.
There are so many ways to be an ally to the LGBTQ community, and as long as you’re open and really listening, you’re probably already doing it.