Updated: Jul 24, 2020
In this article, E talks about being an ally to the LGBTQ+ community. She also lists seven actionable steps that cis and straight people can commit to do to help break homophobia and heteronormative standards in society.
I'm a cis and straight woman, so what am I doing here?
Well, I recognize that I have privileges as a cis-straight woman that I can use to help amplify the voice of the LGBTQ+ community. For example, I have had the opportunity to explain to my mother what the difference between trans women and cross-dressing effem gay men is. In the Philippines, both are referred to as "bakla" or "bading" even though being trans is a matter of gender identity while being gay is a matter of sexuality. It's a discussion that my mother was willing to have with me, her daughter, and the opportunity to educate my close friends and family is something I never want to miss just because I'm not part of the community.
In this article, I want to encourage other non-LGBTQ+ folks to use their privileges as well. But "amplifying the voice of the community" is not the only role we can play in achieving equal rights for all. In fact, in some instances, our desire to speak for those who have less privileges than us does more harm than good. So I want to answer these questions: How can we be effective allies? How do we ensure that we're not stealing or appropriating the LGBTQ+ voice in our activism?
Here are 10 actionable steps that you and I can take to become better allies to the LGBTQ+ community. Treat this list as your Gay-Straight Alliance Starter Pack. If you don't know where to begin your journey as an ally, this is a good place to start.
Before you can educate others, you should first educate yourself. The last thing you want to do as an ally is to spread false or inaccurate information that misrepresents the community you wish to support. Educating yourself also ensures that you are prepared to have tough conversations with those who may not be as open to learning. I look at facts as weapons that I can instantly draw in the face of homophobic or bigoted comments.
There are tons of free resources available for those of us who wish to better understand LGBTQ+ issues. Here are some:
Helpful Handouts (University of California Riverside, LGBTQ Resource Center)
Queer Theory: Resources (University of Illinois, University Library)
Be an Ally & a Friend (GLAAD)
A Guide to Being an Ally to Transgender and Nonbinary Youth (The Trevor Project)
With learning comes unlearning. We need to unlearn internalized homophobia that society has taught us since we were young. This includes using "gay," "queer," or "homo," as insults. We also need to deconstruct traditional gender expectations that lead to the discrimination of LGBTQ+ folks. Men can be soft; women can be tough. Clothes should be genderless. Colors should be genderless. Anyone who wants to wear makeup should be able to do so without raising eyebrows. We shouldn't judge people by the way they look. We shouldn't assume someone's gender identity or sexuality by the way they dress, talk, or act.
Start with those around you. They may be more open to listening and accepting new information if it comes from a person who is close to them. However, you don't have to bombard someone with tons of information right away. You can start with a simple step, like introducing them to queer artists, musicians, and creators. This allows them to see past someone's gender identity and sexuality and to break some preconceived notions that they have about the LGBTQ+ community.
When they're more open to a real conversation, that's when you can start talking about the books and resources that you've been reading or watching to educate yourself.
As a person who is continuously learning about queer theory, history, and experiences, as well as unlearning heteronormative standards that exist in society, I used to think that I always need to do the talking. I need to use my privileges and fight for equal rights! I need to be loud and unashamed of being an ally!
However, I've learned that there's a fine line between advocating for equal rights and taking up space that's not meant for me. Before we speak, we need to listen first. What kind of support does the LGBTQ+ community need? Do they really need me to talk for them? Or am I stealing the microphone from someone who is more qualified to speak?
Listening allows us to learn about the LGBTQ+ experience from people who are actually living it. As cis and straight people, we can never fully understand the discrimination, hate, and inequalities that they face every single day. Sometimes, the best we can do is to shut up and listen. To really hear and comprehend what they have to say.
With that, here are some LGBTQ+ podcasts that you can listen to:
Look around you. Do you have people in your life that still believe homophobic sentiments? Are your friends still using LGBTQ+ terms as jokes or insults? Do you still have internalized homophobia? Before we try to change the world, let's first look at ourselves and those around us. There's a lot we can do where we currently are. When you observe your immediate surroundings, you'll find that there is work to be done, hearts to be touched, and minds to be changed.
Keeping an open eye also allows you to see areas where you can offer assistance. Do you have a friend who hasn't come out to their family yet? Do they feel unloved and unaccepted? Are they feeling depressed? (LGBTQ+ youth are more likely to have depression than cis and straight youth.) What kind of support do they need?
When you've educated yourself, started to unlearn toxic and homophobic beliefs, and listened to the community, you can confidently speak as an ally. It's not enough to accept the LGBTQ+ community on our own. We need to be vocal in our support because complacency allows bigotry and hate to exist in society. When we see injustices happening against the LGBTQ+ community, let's talk about it. Be loud about it. Let other people know that it won't be tolerated. Even if it makes us uncomfortable to speak up, we shouldn't be afraid.
Because for us to truly achieve equality, we can't stay in a comfortable place. We'll always offend people when we're fighting for the causes we believe in. Activism is messy and often unbearable. Don't let that stop you from joining the good fight.
We can show support to the LGBTQ+ community by participating in rallies and attending the Pride parade (when the pandemic is over!) As the saying goes, there is strength numbers. By showing up to these events, we can show the LGBTQ+ community that we got their back. We can personally give them encouragement. More importantly, we can show those who still throw shade that they are outnumbered. Love will always win over hate.
Learn, unlearn, educate, listen, observe, speak, and support. These are seven steps that you can do as an ally. But there's one more thing that you shouldn't forget to do. And that is to love. Love your neighbors like Jesus said! Because He didn't tell us that we should love our neighbors only if they are straight. At the end of the day, love is love is love.
This post is sponsored by Simula PH.