Whether you know somebody who is part of the LGBTQ+ community or you just want to support the cause, this article is for you! So, what does it mean to be a proper LGBTQ+ ally?
First of all, let’s go through the main concepts really quick. LGBTQ+ is an umbrella term that refers to people who identify outside the binary gender and heterosexual bubble: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and many others. The ‘+’ in the acronym stands for asexual, aromantic, nonbinary, intersex, asexual, questioning, and so on.
An LGBTQ+ ally is a cisgender straight person who uses their privilege to support the LGBTQ+ community’s civil rights, to fight for gender equality, and to challenge discrimination. Now that we cleared up the main concepts, here’s how to be an LGBTQ+ ally.
1. EDUCATE YOURSELF
You can start by familiarizing yourself with the history of the community. Brace yourself for a whirlwind of feelings, because queer history isn’t all glitter and rainbows. LGBTQ+ people have faced a public backlash, imprisonment, and lynching for expressing themselves and demanding their rights. But there were also many victories, such as legalizing marriage in certain countries or having access to safe gender confirmation surgeries.
If you don’t know where to start, this interactive timeline is an excellent introduction to LGBTQ+ history.
Another source of information can be the online LGBTQ+ websites and forums, where you can get accurate answers to your questions.
Learn the difference between objectifying and empowering LGBTQ+ people – and speak up when the former happens!
Some businesses or shows use LGBTQ+ symbols only to discard them later or just for making a profit. It’s called queer baiting, or the Supernatural finale, and it should be rightfully cancelled. Another harmful practice is fetishizing the LGBTQ+ community, which basically means seeing them as a means to fulfill one’s sexual fantasies. This includes disrespectful comments and abuse in all its forms.
You can empower LGBTQ+ voices by promoting accurate information from legit sources. Another way to do that is to support them however you can: encourage them, buy their products, or simply be there for a chat.
2. DIVERSIFY YOUR READING AND WATCHING LISTS
Gender identity and sexual orientation are easier to understand if you read about an LGBTQ+ character or watch documentaries on the subject. Try to focus on the stories told by the members of the community themselves, not on those told about them. If you are interested in gender and sexual orientations are related to literary theory, science, history, you can try Queer studies.
On a similar note, follow and support artists from the LGBTQ+ community and keep an eye on thematic film festivals, book launching, and art exhibitions.
3. ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR MISTAKES AND LEARN FROM THEM
We’ve all done it either by telling a tasteless joke or forgetting to address somebody by their chosen name and pronoun. Nobody’s perfect, but this isn’t a valid excuse. Own your shortcoming, apologize, and don’t repeat it.
You can use your experience as an LGBTQ+ ally to teach and correct others as well. After all, we are all members of society and should try to make it better in terms of inclusiveness, knowledge, and respect.
4. GET ACTIVELY INVOLVED AS AN LGBTQ+ ALLY
If you are a student, you can join your local Gay-Straight Alliance, or GSA, which aims to provide a safe academic environment for all youth. Being part of this club might change your point of view and awaken your activist spirit.
If you can do so, you can donate to the NGOs. The most vulnerable LGBTQ+ members are black and brown transgender people, who often end up trafficked. Youths who got kicked out by their families are another at-risk category. These organizations provide shelter, money, even jobs for them, making them capable of starting a new life on their own terms. Here is the list of LGBT rights organizations worldwide.
Likewise, lend a helping hand to the LGBTQ+ community in your own city. Attend their events, get to know the issues they face, and try to make a positive difference.
These are only some ways in which you can become a proper LGBTQ+ ally. As long as you are willing to learn, I’m sure you will find the rest of them on your own!