(When we put ‘LGBTQ’, we mean the ‘+’ too!)
It’s a great time of year to be around the LGBTQ community – to be surrounded by the rainbows, and the big floats, and the pulsing music, and the happiness.
But Pride Month has come to an end. Some of us are lucky to live loud all year round, but a lot of people in the community have had to take off their rainbow badges, put on clothes that make them feel uncomfortable, and go back to pretending.
Living proudly, for a lot of us, comes with consequences. In a year where our rights are being challenged more boldly than before – in a year where, even in gay-friendly London, we are fighting against being attacked every night – it’s important to be reminded that Pride Month isn’t just about the music and the dancing and the celebration of love: Pride started 50 years ago as a riot, and its revolutionary beginning still resonates today in a fight that seemingly never ends.
We in the LGBTQ community need you, our straight allies, to be on our side every day of the year. You don’t have to be an on-the-streets activist to be helpful (although that’s also pretty neat too); sometimes it’s just little changes in your day-to-day life that help tear down the walls of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia and make sure they’re never built up again. Here are 5 things straight people can do for the LGBTQ community.
1. Call it out
In a social situation, it’s hard to be the one person to take the plunge and stand up for the right thing. Peer pressure sucks, and generally, if we fear we’re going to be ostracised for speaking out against something others find funny, we’re less inclined to take the leap.
It’s likely that you’ve been in a conversation where discriminatory language has not been used and no one’s thought to call it out. But hateful language gets normalised that way, and hateful language leads onto worse things.
By taking the leap and nipping it in the bud, you might make a slightly awkward situation but you make things better in the long run. Besides the fact that someone else in the conversation might be LGBTQ, it’s good for all of you to not use discriminatory language on principle.
People should know better by now – and especially if they’re an adult – but if they don’t understand what they’ve done wrong then educating them is a good idea, too.
2. Get used to different pronouns
Not everyone in the world uses he or she pronouns. Non-binary, gender-fluid, arogender, etc. people may use they/them, or the pronouns we know, or different pronouns altogether. If a person is comfortable enough around you to tell you their pronouns, then stick to them. There’s also nothing wrong with asking a person what their pronouns are – for some people, such as genderfluid people, these actually change depending on how they feel.
This may be a whole host of new information to you. Research really is your friend here, as we don’t often have the time (or the patience) to explain to everyone why things are the way they are. Stick to official organisations (ones that aren’t trans-exclusionary, or “terfs”) and trans/gender non-conforming people you may know. But for now, all you need to absolutely stick to is the idea that people describe themselves differently.
This may not be something you’ve ever come into contact with before, and it may be super confusing at first. Society has ensured that we only ever think of people being a ‘he’ or a ‘she’, so it’s our job as allies to gender non-conforming people to get rid of that notion.
If it helps, try using different pronouns for things that you would otherwise label a ‘she’ or a ‘he’. Getting used to calling things ‘they’ by default also gives you the neat trick of being super feminist, as you’re not as likely to gender stereotype in your head too!
3. Put your money where your mouth is
This may come as a surprise, given the recent corporate sponsoring of all things Pride in recent years, but not every brand is happy to be aligned with the LGBTQ community.
There are, in fact, a few companies that actively fund anti-LGBTQ causes. Notorious examples of this include Chick-A-Fila in America, the Salvation Army charity – and, more recently, certain hotels that have links to the Brunei administration; you may have seen the big outcry on social media about it.
There are no doubt more businesses that are used to fund the anti-LGBTQ activities of their bosses. It may not seem apparent at first, which is why a little investigation is always worth it. Although it is expending effort, the effort goes on to prevent LGBTQ people from suffering even more at the hands of awful discriminatory policies and practices like ‘gay conversion’ therapy.
4. Dig deeper on politicians
A bit like the extra vigilance about anti-LGBTQ companies, it’s important also to be aware about what our politicians are bringing to the table. As one of the guardians of democracy and human rights, politicians have the ability to weaken or strengthen the position of the LGBTQ community in society. Supposed indifference or apathy can be a gateway for more harmful policies to become the status quo. And those who are hurt first are the ones in our community who already need the most help – people of colours and trans people.
You’d be surprised how many politicians get away with apathy towards LGBTQ people. After all, it’s not so long ago that Section 28 was in force, and even younger still is our right to get married!
It keeps us a little more secure if straight people make politicians accountable for their apathy and/or discrimination towards LGBTQ people. That way, we keep the harmful policies at bay.
Really, the best thing you can do as a straight ally is to listen to your LGBTQ peers. Every one of us is learning about one another constantly, and it reassures us when the people around us pick up on their mistakes and react properly.
If we tell you that something makes us uncomfortable, then it’s not an attack on you. We want to help you learn. If you prioritise the safety and the happiness of your LGBTQ peers, then that should be all that matters – that you’re decent to them, and to whichever LGBTQ person that comes your way.
You can only be a good ally by trying to improve your allyship, and a fundamental essence of that is your willingness to learn. If you put in the time, you’ll surely be rewarded – with fantastic friendships filled with happiness, joy and pride!