June marks the start of Pride Month. Everywhere you look you see corporations slapping rainbow flags on merchandise, vague tee-shirts with hearts stating “love is love” and a feeling of solidarity for lgbtqia+ folx is in the air. As a straight, cisgender person, you may get a warm fuzzy feeling for buying an item that claims to donate an unspecified percentage of its profits to an organization that helps queer and trans folx. You feel like you’ve officially done your part in the fight to end homophobia and transphobia, you even tell your “gay best friend” about it. In high school, you learned the importance of being an ally and not a bystander, and you’re incredibly proud of yourself for being such a great ally to LGBTQIA+ people.
The good news is, you’re doing great. The bad news is, you could be doing better. Here are some ways to be a better ally this pride month but also for the rest of your life.
Do Your Research
Stop asking your queer and trans friends what words like “cisgender”, “pansexual” and “non-binary” mean. Google is free and they are so tired of explaining their existence to others. Educate yourself so that you can educate others.
Instead of assuming you know what the LGBTQIA+ community in your area needs, ask somebody. Do not boldly insert yourself in a movement that was not created for you. Ask how you can help.
Incorporate gender language into your own vocabulary
Easy fix: Include your preferred pronouns (she/her, they/them, he/him, etc.) into your email signatures and social media profiles
Medium fix: Make an effort to ask every person you meet what their preferred pronouns are, even if this may seem obvious, don’t assume, it’s always better to ask.
Hard fix: Educate other people in your life about the importance of using people’s preferred pronouns. Encourage your friends, families, and workspaces to be more gender inclusive in everyday language.
Keep Safe Spaces, Safe
LGBT friendly clubs may be a fun escape from the predatory atmosphere of many other clubs, but understand that you are a guest in that space. You may be looking for a good time away from gropey men, but queer and trans folx use these spaces to finally exhale and be themselves. Understand this and act accordingly.
For example: Don’t be this straight girl :
Stand Up, Step Back
Relating back to safe spaces, understand when it is your time to use your privilege. In a situation when a person is being homophobic or transphobic and it may be dangerous for them to stand up in that situation. That being said, in other spaces it’s important to learn to sit down and listen. You may be offended when straight or cisgender people are not mentioned on the agenda, but understand that our society is heteronormative and your silence is just as important as the voices who have been historically silenced. Remember, you are there as an ally and a supporter, you do not need the spotlight.
For years, we’ve read articles about how companies like Chik-Fil-A support anti LGBT groups, and yet, so many people who call themselves allies turn a blind eye when digging into a juicy chicken sandwich. When the Coachella line up drops each year, many of us are first in line to buy those tickets when plenty of articles prove that your hard-earned festival money goes right into the pockets of a billionaire who supports an anti-LGBT agenda.
I’m not telling you to cancel your support of these companies, but instead be more mindful about where and how you spend your money, this pride month, take a look at these companies who openly support the LGBTQIA+ community.
Finally, Reflect on Your Progress and Your Potential
Activism and allyship can be difficult. Don’t beat yourself up if you accidentally misgender somebody, but also note any homophobia or transphobic situations in your own life. Always strive to do better and be better and eventually, the world will get better.
Also published on Medium.