If you’re wondering what you can do to help people in your life of different sexual orientations and gender identities than you, you’re already on the right track by supporting the LGBTQ+ community. Real allies are always willing to go the extra mile to ensure everyone has equal rights.
Unfortunately, people don’t always know what to do. How do we support our family members, LGBTQ youth, and other LGBTQ people and show them we care? Is going to the Pride March enough?
No, of course not. But support also isn’t a Sisyphean task.
Knowledge Is Power
Many people aren’t anti-LGBTQ. They just don’t know enough about the subject, so they choose to stay out of it. “They got their right to marry, that’s what they wanted, right?” they say and call it a done deal.
Except it isn’t. Fighting for the LGBT community’s rights goes beyond making sure they can have a paper saying they are legally married. To protect LGBTQ people, we need to educate everyone and make others realize the struggles they face daily.
So take a moment (when you see an appropriate opening), to tell people about social and societal injustices LGBTQ+ people face every day. Let everyone know how they can help.
You don’t have to make a gay-straight alliance with thousands of members to make a change. Even if you change the mind of one person, you’ll have made an enormous difference.
How to Support the LGBTQ Community — Code of Conduct
Supporting LGBTQ people means doing specific things in a particular way. Here are a few tips.
Do Not Out Anyone
This rule is the #1 rule of protecting LGBTQ students and adults. It goes hand in hand with creating a safe space for them. Whatever they say to you, you are not to repeat to anyone.
Just because some people are out to you and the people in your vicinity doesn’t mean they are out to everyone. LGBTQ+ people are the only ones who can decide when they’ll tell others about their sexual orientation or gender identity. Doing it for them (and without their knowledge) means taking their power of choice away.
People are quick to judge others based on the stereotypes they know. And while there are positive stereotypes, they are still toxic to the people judged based on them. In the case of LGBT people, all stereotypes are inherently pejorative.
That’s particularly true for transgender people, who are the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ+ community.
We might think that our stereotyping isn’t hurting anyone because it’s positive, but it’s quite damaging. Saying that transgender men have an advantage because they know how it feels to be a woman is invalidating. You aren’t complimenting anyone with that sentence; you’re just negating someone’s identity. Transgender men are men and have always been men.
The same goes for all other stereotypes. Gay men don’t have to be designers with a fantastic fashion sense. Lesbians don’t have to know their way about power tools. Bisexuals won’t cheat on their partners just because they are bisexual. The list goes on!
Instead of assuming stuff about people, try to get to know them and see what they are like. And, for goodness’ sake, don’t ask anyone if they are a top or a bottom.
If you hold any power, you’re privileged. It might not seem like it, but you are. So if you are in a position of authority, make sure to use it for good. Include marginalized members of society wherever you can. Create an inclusive and diverse space in your social, private, and professional life.
Getting a foot in the door (anywhere) is difficult. However, it’s even more challenging when you’re a member of a minority. Racist and sexist people are all around us. Instead of being vocal about how “you’re not one of them,” and ending it at that, make room for all those who are otherwise left standing on the sidelines looking in.
Do you know that the saying, “It’s a man’s world?” is the cruel reality of women in the workplace? Well, the saying should actually go, “It’s a straight man’s world.” Try to change that.
Defend Them — Both in Private and in Public
People are quick to spew vile stereotypes about the LGBTQ community. Instead of rolling our eyes, we should say something. Sure, you can’t waste your life arguing with bigots, but you can change someone’s mind (if they are open to it).
Defending the LGBTQ+ community means standing up for them both in small, private groups and large, public situations. So even though it might be difficult, say something when a family member interrupts the Thanksgiving dinner with an anti-LGBTQ rant. Take a stand and defend the LGBTQ community as a whole.
More importantly, take the “See something, say something” saying to heart. If you witness discrimination, bullying, or harassment of LGBTQ people, don’t turn your head. Don’t say, “This doesn’t concern me,” because it should concern us all.
Being an LGBTQ ally isn’t hard. You just have to be a kind, reasonable, compassionate individual who understands that all people should be equal and fights for that.