This week has been a difficult one for the LGBTQ community, it’s been exhausting to say the least. If it wasn’t being compared to a contagion, it was hearing someone tell me that I chose to be gay.
But the thing that probably broke the proverbial camel’s back, what’s hurt the most, is the disappearance of so many so-called “allies”. It’s not that they’ve turned homophobic – far from it – it’s just that haven’t been a little absent during our time of need.
Definition of an Ally:
A straight ally or heterosexual ally is a heterosexual and cis-gender person who supports equal civil rights, gender equality, LGBT social movements, and challenges homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.
How to be an Ally
I’ve said it before that being an ally is more than just turning up to a Pride parade. It is more than having a gay friend, and it is more than just not being homophobic! Whilst it’s appreciated that you’re there to celebrate Pride with us, it’s not enough to make change happen. It’s about being there when things become tough. It is challenging negative behaviour. It’s listening to the LGBTQ community and asking how you can help.
But time and time again, when we’re faced with a fresh batch of prejudice, the same people who are sat at the sidelines of a pride parade, enjoying our street parties, and taking advantage of our pink pound (this one is for the businesses, you can read my post about being an ally as a business here) are nowhere to be seen.
This is not okay.
Being an ally is not seasonal.
It’s not that I don’t get it, it’s tough putting your head above the parapet, especially when you’re from a comfortable position of privilege where you may not have experienced persecution for being who you are (let alone challenged it) – the first time I challenged someone it made my heart beat a thousand times a minute – but surely if you’re friends are hurting you’re going to want to help them? Equally, we need allies. The LGBTQ community cannot make change on our own. Sure, we’re loud. Really loud. But it’s not enough. Not now. Not anymore. Do you not want this change too?
Here are a few simple ways you can become (and remain) an LGBTQ ally:
One of the worst things you can say to someone from the LGBTQ community is that you don’t believe them when it comes to their experiences and how they’re feeling right now. In my experience, it’s never been so direct – it’s usually come in the form of “But I’ve never seen any homophobia” or “We no longer need Pride [because, ignorantly, they think that because we now have laws protecting us, we no longer need Pride – they’re wrong]” – but it’s equally as damaging.
The best thing you can do right now is listen, and believe us. Your experience will likely be very different to someone else.
Hatred comes from fear, and fear stems from ignorance.
The more people learn about the LGBTQ community – and we’re not talking about sex, guys, despite what some people think – the less ignorance our community will face. I genuinely believe that. So let’s ditch the opinion that being gay is a choice or sexual preference, and that LGBTQ children don’t deserve validation. We are born the way we are, and we deserve to be equals.
But it doesn’t just stop there, go follow LGBTQ accounts on social media, learn about LGBTQ history, and teach others in the process! It’s also okay to admit you don’t know what certain things mean within the LGBTQ community, here’s the Stonewall Glossary of Terms as a starting guide, but if you want to know more; ask (sensitively!).
Knowledge is Power.
“What can I do to support #LGBTQ people?”
Well! You can start by listening to them and believing them. Now go and find 10 LGBTQ accounts on Twitter and Instagram and give them some ❤️🧡💛💚💙💜. We’re hurting.
— LesBeMums (@LesBeMums) March 20, 2019
Probably the biggest and most important part of being an LGBTQ ally is acting. Whether it’s challenging out-dated language online or in the workplace, attending rallies and protests, signing petitions, or simply following and interacting positively with the LGBTQ community. For you to earn the title you need to do more than just say you’re an ally and attend the occasional Pride. Prove it.
At the moment, we need allies more than ever. Homophobic people are slowly being given a platform under the pretence of “their opinion”, debate, or religion. This is unacceptable. The way I was born is not up for debate, and neither is my family. Let’s face it, you absolutely would not see the same debate about race or disability happening. These conversations about whether people should be “exposed” to people like me need to stop.
So this is where you come in.
Educate other parents at the school gates when you hear out-of-date views – report it to the school if necessary! Tell your children about society and what different families look like – answer those questions honestly and have those conversations (you’d be surprised how awesome kids are), include diverse families in your content (and share theirs!) and most importantly – be consistent.
It is not healthy, or helpful to our community, to pick and choose when you want to be an active ally. You’re either with us or against us. You can’t be both.