“Equality means more than passing laws. The struggle is really won in the hearts and minds of the community, where it really counts.” – Barbara Gittings
Despite what many would think, June is more than a movement of businesses rainbow-washing their logos or creating cute, "insta-worthy" foods that are multi-colored themed. Instead, the month is filled with moments of opportunity for education, integration, and a future, more equitable society. While I am not part of the LGBTQIA+ community, I stand alongside them and any other human beings treated differently simply because they may contrast with what society deems "normal."
I am lucky enough that when I walk down the street with my significant other, hand-in-hand, that I need not worry about glares, stares, or unfair treatment. I don't worry about the government affecting my right to love, marry, or even adopt a child. I have never had to face the discrimination placed upon someone who is not cisgender, white, and straight, like myself. I know of my deep-seated privilege within society, from resonating with the gender I was assigned at birth to loving someone who is of the opposite sex of myself. Instead, I have always hoped to use this privilege to make way for all underrepresented groups intersectionally.
In today's culture, love surrounds us in all colors, shapes, sizes, and sexual orientations. I was lucky enough to speak with one of my closest friends about what ally-ship means among the LGBTQIA+ community during and outside the month of pride. She spoke of changes that need to occur to make the world feel more inclusive and how many statements do nothing but solidify societal constructs of LGBTQIA+ persons and relationships. One does not need to single out a "male" or "female" figure in a specific relationship. You are not the individual who decides or needs to ask "who wears the metaphorical pants" in the relationship. This aspect goes hand-in-hand with no longer making assumptions about someone's sexuality by how they act or talk. Again, it is up to the individual to divulge their sexuality or gender identity to you. LGBTQIA+ individuals do not need to look or act a certain way for others to deem them worthy of such a title.
Despite the progression in today's society, every day, countries and people worldwide continue to constrict the rights of LGBTQIA+ persons, persecute them for their love, and murder them simply out of hate. But one cannot simply call themselves an ally by supporting some members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Tori, my wonderful interviewee for this blog post, divulged the true mixture of the community and how important it is to love and support all people's sexual orientations and gender identities. She also spoke of the understanding that people will have questions and those not familiar with the community may make mistakes; the important part is to learn from those mistakes and learn from those who are different from you, to ask questions rather than assume.
From speaking with Tori, I understand now more than ever to take part in making the world a most inclusive, love-filled place. To help the LGBTQIA+ community, this starts with listening, educating, and donating.
Such a simple word yet such a difficult task. It is so easy nowadays to become apathetic regarding those who are different from you simply by ignoring the injustices of other groups within society. Listening to the struggles, stories, and ideas of members of the LGBTQIA+ community allows us to acknowledge each other and the stories behind what makes us who we are. Communication is the key to lessening our lack of understanding of the world around us. Lack of communication leads to distorted ideas and hateful statements, whereas meaningful connections facilitate understanding, acceptance, and hopefully love of one another.
A human being who seeks justice for others cannot do so unless they genuinely listen to the problems unfolding around them. Therefore, before one becomes an ally or an advocate, one must become a sympathetic ear. One that does not discriminate based on gender identities or sexual orientations. One that lends a hand so that LGBTQIA2S+ community members have more opportunities to make a change, their own way or one that provides a safe space for individuals to indeed be themselves.
It is not the responsibility of the LGBTQIA+ community to educate you on their stories or struggles. With the resources to learn, grow each day, you must take the initiative to understand the current issues affecting the community and the history behind its movements. You have the ability to support queer creators while educating yourself through their social media outlets, art, books, etc. Take the time to learn about pronouns and various LGBTQIA+ terminology to begin using it correctly and explain to others if they have questions and want to understand themselves. Below are a few fantastic resources.
Giving away money to organizations you may have used to benefit your own life is often easier said than done. The most critical process is to gather information about where your donations go and the organization's purpose. Understanding the basics of their philanthropic behavior and what drives them to do so gives you essential insight into the organization.
Some fantastic organizations that continually fight for LGBTQIA individuals are GLAAD, The Trevor Project, Human Rights Campaign Foundation, and OutRight International, among so many others. Even if you cannot give money, there are other ways to donate - with your time, your passions, and your connections. You can donate your time by volunteering for organizations fighting for queer rights, taking the time to stand up for the community by gathering resources and tools to make sure their voices are never silenced. From works of art to even writing pieces, radiating advocacy through your passions can carry their stories farther.
It has never made sense to me how something that signifies such powerful love creates such hate. And time and time again, individuals utter the same statement, "It's everywhere." And they're right it is. Love IS everywhere, human beings having the strength to be unequivocally themselves IS everywhere, TV shows, movies, and art that depict real LGBTQIA2s+ perspectives ARE everywhere. They ask why those not a part of the community should even care about the injustices. To them, I ask, how could you not?" How can you stand by and watch as lives are being taken away by those who use hate as a justification for their actions? How can you hear about innocent lives being taken away simply because they don't coincide with what you feel is 'okay'? How could you be okay with the world being that way?
To those reading this who are a part of this community, I will continually use my privilege to make the world a better place so that you can be your most authentic selves and love whomever you wish. I promise to continue to learn and find better ways to uplift your community. Even if we've never spoken, know that my ears are always open to hearing your story or being a comforting individual in times of strife.
Being an ally isn't about building your own platform up to make a change. It's about assembling a bigger platform for the entire LGBTQIA2S+ community to stand upon and speak their truth, to make way for all individuals no matter their race, social class, ethnicity, background, gender identity, or sexual orientation.