Allyship is more than Rainbows and Flags
Are you looking to become a better ally to the LGBTQ+ community? There are many ways that one may choose to become an ally. Our understanding of sexuality and gender is constantly evolving and changing, and even for those of us who are a part of this community can be confused or overwhelmed by the terminology. Generation Z (1997-2012) has the largest number of individuals that identify as LGBTQ+ of any previous generation with 1 out of every 6 people feeling connected to one or more of these groups (Washington Post, 2021). As people become more comfortable exploring sexuality and gender, the need for awareness becomes greater. Here are some recommendations for those who consider themselves allies or those who want to become allies:
1) If you're uncertain, ask questions.
If you're uncertain about someone's sexual identity, don't be afraid to respectfully ask their preferred pronouns. Having the respect to ask can go a long way.
2) Don't make assumptions.
There are so many assumptions made within the heteronormative culture. In case you’re wondering, heteronormative means assuming someone identifies as heterosexual simply because the vast majority of people do. In other words, being heterosexual is the default sexual orientation. The same is true for someone's pronouns. Don't make assumptions whenever possible.
3) Utilize gender neutral language.
If you're meeting someone for the first time, consider using gender neutral language. They/them pronouns and the “partner” versus the gendered “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” terms are a great place to start.
4) Acknowledge that relationships are not always black and white.
Just like terminology is constantly evolving, relationship limits are constantly evolving. Many younger people are exploring open relationships, polyamorous relationships, and even “queer platonic” relationships. The latter means that they are acknowledging relationships with very close friends as dedicated partners, even if those relationships are not sexual in nature.
5) Stand up for the LGBTQ+ community around you.
On so many occasions, transgender people are misgendered by others. If you know someone is being misgendered, have the courage to correct the person misgendering them. Hearing from an ally's voice can go a long way. This might look like, “As an FYI, Lisa goes by they/them. I overheard you refer to Lisa as ‘she’ this morning, so I just wanted to give you the heads up.”
6) Do your own research.
Don't wait for an LGBTQ+ community member to educate you. Be diligent in your research. Seek out resources like your local LGBT Healthcare Resources. Also, consider reading publications like Out magazine and following the Human Rights Watch.
7) Participate in pride events.
June is pride month around in the U.S. . Consider showing up to support local LGBTQ+ pride events. At these events, there are a number of resources available for allies and LGBTQ+ community members. These events are a great place to learn, and they are filled with fun ways to connect with others.
8) Be open-minded.
If you hear a new term, try to remain open-minded. Don't judge someone for identifying in a way you don't understand. Remain a neutral presence, if you are unable to be fully supportive. Strive to grow from each experience.
Remember that you hold the power to be a better ally to your community. Move forward in love and seek to understand those who may be different from you. Different isn't bad; it's just different. Your allyship will always be appreciated when you make your best effort.