When we talk about countries that are allies, they don’t just smile and wave to each other. They don’t just “get along.” They are there for each other in real ways. They’ll even make enemies with others if that’s what it takes to defend their relationship with one another. They’ll share resources. They’ll put in time. They’ll give money. Being an ally is active. It doesn’t just mean saying, “Yeah, I like that group/community/country/organization.” It means doing something to help elevate and support them. I think we’re at a time in history when people are becoming vocal about this distinction. Many people have felt that because they were nice and quiet, they were allies. You’re either vocal, and an ally, or you’re quiet, and you’re not an ally. There are many groups that need allies, but seeing as it is Pride Month, this is a good time to talk about how we can be allies to the LGBTTQQIAAP community. A starter is familiarizing ourselves with the full initialism. But it goes beyond that. I still have a lot of learning to do myself, but the best thing I’ve been able to do is ask my friends within the community how I can be an ally. Here’s what I’ve learned.
Rep pride in your business
If you own a business, represent pride month in it. Hang a pride flag outside. Put a pride sign in your window. Host a pride event. If your business is only online, change your website background to represent pride this month. Change your cover photo on social media platforms to the pride flag. Show that support in your business. Show that you don’t care if that means losing some followers and clients. You don’t want anyone who is against that support on your side, anyways.
Promote professionals in the community
Promote the work of professionals you know and love within the community. If your friend within the LGBTTQQIAAP community wrote a book, is producing a play, has a clothing company, has a salon – whatever it is – post about it. Boost them up on social media. Remember that they may be discriminated against, and you have the privilege and position to elevate their work from your platform.
Recognize your privilege
People often turn away from the word “privilege.” It’s uncomfortable. Many don’t want to acknowledge that they have it. But to acknowledge you’ve had privilege doesn’t mean to say you’ve never had hardship. I think that’s where the upset occurs. You can have privilege for being a cisgender person, and still have faced hardship for other reasons. You can still acknowledge the areas in which you’ve had social advantage because of your sexuality and gender. To deny this is to reject and ignore the discrimination others have had.
Recognize your biases
Being an ally may mean making yourself uncomfortable at times. That’s okay. If being a little uncomfortable can help combat the pain and real struggles the LGBTTQQIAAP community faces, then it’s more than worth it. Accept that. Dig deep within yourself and face some of the biases you may have. Don’t fear facing them, for fear of seeing yourself as a monster. The true monster would never admit they had biases.
Consume media from the community
Short films. Documentaries. Web series. Books. Movies. TV shows. Podcasts. Consume media produced within and by members of the LGBTTQQIAAP community. Ultimately, nobody can tell you what this group experiences or needs other than those in the group. Consume media that’s even painful to watch. It’s okay to hurt a little. It’s part of growth.
If you can give, then give. Money talks. Money gets sh*t done. Donate to organizations helping elevate and support the LGBTTQQIAAP community. There are many organizations out there doing good work, including many specifically serving the black transgender community. Incite! Works to end violence against this community. Black Trans Travel Fund helps raise funds for black transgender individuals to find safe alternative forms of transportation. The National Black Justice Coalition is a civil rights organization working to empower black individuals within the LGBTTQQIAAP community, including those living with HIV/AIDS. But there are so many groups like this that need your support. Do your research. Find what resonates with you.
If you can’t donate, fundraise
Maybe you can’t afford to donate, but you can help organizations get donations from others. You can fundraise. You can share links on your social media platforms, directing people to donate to these organizations. You can actively be a fundraiser, making calls for these groups, or even being a boots on the ground fundraiser, approaching people in person.
Some members of the LGBTTQQIAAP community are generous enough to host webinars and seminars where you can ask questions about how to be an ally in a safe, non-judgmental space. Take advantage of these. Find these.
Actively recruit from this community
If you are in a position to hire someone, or give out any sort of opportunity, make sure that your recruitment efforts make their way into the LGBTTQQIAAP community. You cannot force anyone to apply but you can make sure that as many individuals from this group as possible are aware of the opportunity by posting ads and fliers and promotional materials in areas where you know individuals from the LGBTTQQIAAP community will see them. Visit your local LGBTTQQIAAP community center and ask to post your ad there, and ask them for advice on where else to post.
Don’t shy away if you make a mistake
You’ll make mistakes. You’ll say the wrong thing. You’ll reveal your bias or your privilege or your ignorance. If someone from the LGBTTQQIAAP community corrects you, don’t shy away. Don’t stop speaking to the issues. Be grateful for the chance to learn, rather than upset that you were found to be wrong.
If you see something, say something
Tell friends, coworkers, neighbors, and anybody else that jokes or offensive comments about the LGBTTQQIAAP community are not okay. Sometimes you can be gentle. Sometimes you’ll need to be more aggressive. Rather than fret over your approach, just say something. Don’t remain silent, to keep the peace with those who disrespect the LGBTTQQIAAP community. They don’t deserve peace.
Never assume someone’s sexuality
This is a simple thing to do. Even if you live in a city that is very welcoming of the LGBTTQQIAAP community, don’t assume that everyone from this group is comfortable revealing their sexuality to strangers. Some still struggle to believe that straight and cisgender people will accept them. When you assume someone’s sexuality, you may make them uncomfortable revealing their true sexuality. So just don’t assume.
Never assume someone’s pronoun
This is another very simple thing to do: don’t assume someone’s pronoun. Ask how someone identifies. This habit can take some time to pick up, and there may be times when you really don’t feel it’s necessary – when you think someone’s pronoun is “obvious.” Even in those instances, by asking the question, you are reminding others to do the same. So it’s only a good thing.
If someone from the LGBTTQQIAAP community needs to educate you on your mistake, listen. If someone from this community posts about an experience online, read it. Read it in its entirety. Don’t judge it. Don’t try to find comparisons in your own life. This isn’t about you.
Volunteer with organizations that are protecting and elevating the LGBTTQQIAAP community. This is a wonderful thing to do if you cannot donate since it also helps you create relationships with individuals within this community – something a simple donation doesn’t allow you to do.