The people you love should feel safe around you. It might hurt to think of them feeling uncomfortable or unappreciated in certain spaces, and that’s where allyship comes in. An LGBTQ+ ally, while not being a member of the community themselves, strives to end oppression and aspires toward equality for all people, regardless of gender or sexuality.
Allyship doesn’t have a checklist with items to mark off as you do things. You don’t want to seem performative in your love for the community. What’s most important is that you remember to always listen to the people affected most by the hardships of being LGBTQ+. Step back to let them speak, but stand up for them when they’re not around.
There are more than five ways to support the LGBTQ+ community, but these are five of the best. These suggestions don’t require an extravagant investment of time or money, so they can be used to make a difference immediately.
1. Educate Yourself on the Acronym
If you haven’t already, now is the time to learn what each letter of the LGBTQ+ acronym means. This includes the ones that aren’t represented in the abbreviation. If you don’t know the difference between gender identities and sexual orientations, you can easily teach yourself using free resources online.
An ally pushes to be comfortable with all identities, even those they may not fully understand yet. If you can’t accept everything or only pick and choose the ones you’re OK with, you cannot consider yourself an ally as you might hinder the efforts of the LGBTQ+ community. You must love and appreciate the validity of every identity under the LGBTQ+ umbrella.
2. Clear up Misconceptions
Do your part to research any suspicious things you’ve been told that may just be a stereotype to make LGBTQ+ people look bad. For example, the belief that gay men are more likely to partake in regular drug use is merely a myth founded on harmful beliefs, driven to damage and generalize the community.
The bulk of educating yourself about LGBTQ+-related topics falls on you. It’s up to you to confront your biases with facts and research, and learn and accept why your past views could have been wrong.
Be on the lookout for locally-owned stores that members of the LGBTQ+ community run. At the very least, find shops online run by allies and considered a safe space for LGBTQ+ individuals to shop.
You should always support brick-and-mortar shops in your community that advocate for LGBTQ+ equality and acceptance, but you can turn to online stores if you don’t have any near you. Plenty of LGBTQ+ small businesses, artists, crafters, and more are online just waiting for your order.
Additionally, you could check out books and movies that feature LGBTQ+ characters. Seeing representation in all its forms is essential in media. By partaking in things that get depictions right, you’re showing a demand for healthy, nonstereotyped LGBTQ+ characters and relationships in fiction. It’s an easy way to call for change.
Understanding the history of the LGBTQ+ movement and its key players, especially the people of color who have contributed to the strides the community has made today, can help you learn about the community. Knowing how far it has come through history and the obstacles and hardships people have faced along the way can help you better understand why many members of the LGBTQ+ community are so outspoken and celebrate Pride every year without fail.
Similarly, you should understand that Pride celebrations every June aren’t just big parties. They were created to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community and how far it has come in worldwide acceptance and show how many obstacles they have left to overcome. Maybe next Pride, one of your LGBTQ+ loved ones will ask you to tag along with them if you express interest in the event.
If you’re talking to a friend and they start to misgender or deadname someone else — that is, use the pronouns or name a person no longer goes by — stand up for them and tell your friend they should correct their speech. Being an advocate makes LGBTQ+ folks feel more accepted and comfortable around you.
Be the Best Ally You Can Be
You aren’t going to know everything as soon as you start, and that’s OK. Learn from your past mistakes and beliefs, and always strive to do better. Listen to your children and educate them on what they may not know. Teach them to grow up supportive and loving toward everyone so they, in turn, feel supported if they try to define their own identities in the future.
Advocate for fairness for everyone. The fight doesn’t end with marriage equality for LGBTQ+ folks — discrimination is still happening in other fields and locations worldwide. Do your part as an ally and be on the right side of history, the one making waves and changing for the better.