The past year has been a lesson in learning — and unlearning. As global cries for equality and inclusivity challenged individuals, organizations and neighborhoods to change their predisposed discriminations. By being aware of the ways we lack support for marginalized groups in our community, we can influence meaningful change and transformation. Though you should be working on these efforts regularly, we celebrate Pride to support all on the LGBTQIA spectrum during the month of June. There are countless ways you can make a difference — but what carries the most weight? What’s the most significant? Here, we spoke with LGBTQIA leaders for their recommendations:
Honor their history
Supporting the LGBTQIA+ community first and foremost starts with a thirst for understanding, says Alex Jay, the creative director for Alex Jay Beauty. And to create this hunger for knowledge, begin by researching the history of the LGBTQIA+ movement. “Our history is rooted in protest, loss, suffering, but ultimately love,” he shares. “From Marsha at Stonewall to Harvey in San Francisco, LGBTQIA+ people have had to fight and lose to get seen so they can love freely.”
One of the best ways to continue to support the LGBTQIA+ community is to keep these stories alive and to lean into the hard conversations about the battles being fought today. “Without sharing the history of yesterday, we cannot come together to create change for tomorrow,” he adds. Add these books, TV shows and podcasts to your must-read and must-watch list.
Don’t make assumptions about a person’s gender, pronouns or orientation
For those who have always felt like another gender than the one they were born as, pronouns can be sensitive, complicated and triggering words. Rather than assuming a person you meet is a specific gender or sexual orientation, ask for them, suggests David J. Krause, the co-founder and chief operating officer of Alder New York. To go a step beyond as an ally, also include your own pronouns in your email and social media profiles to demonstrate support. “Make ‘they/them/theirs’ your go-to pronouns when referring to a person whose identity is unknown to you,” he continues. “These simple changes can reduce your contribution to the daily microaggressions a non-gender conforming person faces and combats the notion that cisgender, heterosexual identities are the default or norm.”
Support equality in all aspects of your life
It’s not enough to say you’re an ally and that you support the equal rights of all people, regardless of gender or orientation. You have to put your money, time and loyalties where your advocacy is. As Krause says, from the company you work for and the local government in your town to the school you study at, support laws, rules and regulations that promote and protect equality. “Be outspoken when there is something discriminatory, no matter how big or small,” he continues. “Remember to vote in every election for leaders that support LGBTQ+ equality and are against discriminatory laws. And remember you do not have to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community to care about LGBTQ+ issues.”
Though it’s not the only way to impact change, Jay suggests donating to LGBTQIA+ organizations and purchasing Pride-inspired items if your budget allows for monetary contributions. And if you don’t have the wiggle room to do this, remember, your time is just as important — if not more. “What needs more than a dollar or a rainbow can of bubbly water is time. Donating your time to help LGBTQIA+ organizations means more than a dollar ever could,” he says.
Clicking or posting your support on social media is helpful and appreciated. But to truly show your support as a straight ally in advocating for LGBTQ rights this year, sign up and get out, recommends Tammy Shaklee, an LGBTQ matchmaker. For PRIDE in your area or state, volunteer to work at the Pride Festival. “It’s usually during daytime hours, and the more straight allies who show up to volunteer, the greater number of the LGBTQ community can enjoy their festival as they work for the crowd, circulate among the booths, and fellowship among their entire community,” she says.
Last but not least: bring others along. As we all know, there is strength to be found in numbers. “Even if you invite only one friend or neighbor to join you, it doubles the awareness and support,” Shaklee says. “Small gestures can eventually lead to big change. If every ally reached back to pull another straight person into the LGBTQ community and its vibrancy, growth, and development, we could all help make the world a better place. Together.”