Pride Month is celebrated in June every year, honoring the LGBTQIA+ community and equality for all, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. The modern gay rights movement started in June of 1969, after the Stonewall Uprising, which was followed by a Pride Parade one year later. Those traditions continue today all over the world recognizing the efforts of LGBTQIA+ people, the progress toward fair treatment for all people and the work left to do.
Participation in Pride Month is not exclusive to those who identify as LGBTQIA+. Straight and cisgender people can show support for their friends and family members at local events. However, progress is also not exclusive to the month of June. Anyone can be an ally for the LGBTQIA+ community throughout the entire year.
What is an Ally?
Allies join together for a shared purpose. They are people who are not part of a certain group, but use their privilege to help advocate and bring awareness to marginalized people.
Why are LGBTQIA+ Allies Important?
While the LGBTQIA+ community is a resilient one, mental health is at risk for people in the LGBTQIA+ community, as this community often faces judgment, stigma, discrimination and hate – sometimes even denial from their own families. People of color in the LGBTQIA+ community face even more discrimination and harm because they are part of multiple oppressed groups. As a result of these adverse societal experiences (stigma, lack of training/education, discrimination, institutional bias) and perspectives, the LGBTQIA+ community experiences significant health disparities including but not limited to:
- Behavioral Health:
- Suicide and suicidal thoughts
- 42% of LGBTQIA+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year
- 50% of the Transgender and non-binary community consider suicide
- Mood disorders and anxiety
- Eating disorders
- Substance use disorders
- Physical Health:
- LGBTQIA+ people are at increased risk for certain health related problems and also report less connection with their provider and having less social support.
- Access to Care:
- LGBTQIA+ people have less access to necessary health care due to:
- Being less likely to have health insurance
- Delaying care
- Lack of cultural competence of providers
- Poor quality of care
- Outright discrimination in care.
Wellness, and certainly mental wellness, is not possible without feeling a sense of inclusion and belonging. Allies are vital to help and support people who are being hurt and uplift them in an effort to achieve equality.
How can I Become a Better LGBTQIA+ Ally?
Here are some actions that can show love to the LGBTQIA+ community and the people around you:
1) Learn more.
Ask questions, do research, and be honest about what you don’t know when it comes to sex, gender and current LGBTQIA+ issues. The internet is a great resource. Podcasts, articles, blogs, books, etc. feature stories from members of the LGBTQIA+ community that you can use to educate yourself.
If someone in your life is open to answering questions, ask how they identify instead of assuming their preferred name or pronouns. However, avoid asking derogatory or overly personal questions. It's okay to be curious about certain things related to the LGBTQIA+ community, especially if you want to consider yourself an ally and offer support. Remember, though, just because someone is out—and proud—doesn't mean they are willing to open up about every element of their personal lives.
2) Listen to, elevate and share queer voices.
If someone shares their story with you, it means they feel like they can trust you. Reassure them by:
- Thanking them for sharing with you
- Respecting their wishes if they want to keep this information private
- Being there for them when they want to share their concerns
- Listening to their experience
- Checking in with them if they seem like they are going through a hard time
3) Language matters.
Try not to assume that the entirety of your friends, family or co-workers are straight. Try not to assume somebody’s sex or pronouns. LGBTQIA+ individuals don't have a certain “look” to identify them, just as their current or previous relationships don’t represent their sexuality. Someone who is close to you may be looking for your support. Be open minded.
We connect with humans through the words we use. Most of us appreciate when a new coworker or acquaintance remembers our nicknames or other things about us. Respecting and using LGBTQIA+ individuals’ preferred names and pronouns are the same. When meeting new people, try to use gender-neutral language.
4) Learn from your mistakes.
At the beginning of your journey toward becoming an LGBTQIA+ ally, you are likely say the wrong thing from time to time. We’re all human. You might call someone by a name they no longer go by or use the wrong pronoun for someone who identifies as trans or non-binary. If – and when – mistakes happen, apologize and ask for guidance.
5) Speak up.
You might face people who speak negatively about the LGBTQIA+ community. If you feel comfortable about your opinions and want to share them with others, do it! Sometimes, people might not mean to be hurtful but do not know any better. For example, some people still use the term “gay” to describe things they find unusual or stupid. If you hear someone say this, try explaining to them why this is wrong and how it is hurtful to gay people.
6) Stand up in your own way.
We all have different ways we deal with the injustice we see. Some people are more direct and others are more passive. If you see someone being harmed, help them in your own way. For example, if you are a student in school and see someone bullying a student for being gay, you can try to help them. If you do not want to directly get involved, you could tell a teacher or adult that is around.
Support policies at school, work and in other areas of your life that help protect LGBTQIA+ people from discrimination. Even if the issues seem small, they can have a big impact on people’s lives. Be proud to support the LGBTQIA+ community. You can show support with social media posts, signing petitions, and attending rallies or events.
5 Ways to Become a Better LGBTQ+ Ally - Mind Connections (mindconnectionsnyc.com)
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