International Pride Month may have officially ended, but there’s something to keep in mind about the months July through May. People of all sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions need safe spaces to be their true selves every day of the year. That means feeling the respect, support and inclusiveness of the people around them. Here are four simple ways to be a year-round LGBTQ ally.
1. Don’t assume everyone is straight.
If you’re a straight, cisgender person like me, keep your assumptions in check. When a woman says she’s married, don’t ask what her husband does. If a man is wearing a wedding band, don’t assume he has a wife. Try asking your nephew if he’s seeing anyone, instead of “Do you have a girlfriend?” Think partner, spouse, or significant other. Every time we assume someone is straight and/or cisgender, they have to evaluate whether or not it’s safe to come out. Imagine how stressful that can be! So keep an open mind.
2. Educate yourself.
It’s not up to the LGBTQ+ community to have to explain themselves to you. Other people, especially co-workers and acquaintances, are not responsible for your education. If you hear a new term, or need a quick refresher on the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation, it takes less than a minute to look up. There are a ton of online resources and glossaries to help you understand all the different ways we exist as humans.
3. Be aware of the issues.
Did you know over 100 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in 2017? North Carolina’s HB 186 would have repealed laws that define the LGBTQ community as a protected class, allowing for discrimination of employment and public accommodations. LGBTQ people can be legally fired from their job in 28 states just because of who they are or whom they love. LGBTQ+ youth can still be forced into harmful conversion therapy in 37 states. Paying attention to legislation in the works and how it might affect the people you know can help you understand what co-workers, friends and family members might be going through.
4. Start a conversation.
Engage more people like you. As allies, the more we can do to bring people who share our identity to understand the broad spectrum of LGBTQ+ identities and to also act as allies, the better.
Lastly, that Pride button on your jean jacket or rainbow flag on your desk is an all-season show of support to people who just want safe spaces to be their authentic selves. And if you have kids or grandkids, I assure you there’s no way you’ll be able to pack up their rainbow shirts, boas or flags until next June!
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