As an openly queer person, I often get the following question from straight folks: How can I be a better ally to the LGBTQ+ community? It’s a query I don’t mind answering, usually because it’s posed by someone who cares about me and wants to broaden their understanding of my lived experiences. If you’re reading this article, you may very well fall into that category yourself and want to know how you can support the queer people in your own life.
So, I’ve made you a little list. These tips are by no means exhaustive and it’s worth noting that they’ve been written by someone (read: me) who has a ton of privilege within the community i.e. someone tall, white, able-bodied, educated, and male-passing. Therefore, use these as a jumping-off point for your own research and remember that the LGBTQ+ community is vast, diverse, and far more nuanced than pop culture would have us believe.
Before donating money to queer charities or going to Pride marches, the most important thing you can do is educate yourself on issues pertinent to the community. And not by asking LGBTQ+ folks to explain their experiences to you, but by going online and doing the work yourself. As a queer person, it can be exhausting to educate straight people about things like preferred pronouns, identity erasure, or why X thing is offensive. It’s not that we don’t appreciate being given the space to talk about these things (most of us do!), but it means so much when an ally puts in the effort to meet us halfway. Organizations like GLAAD and the National LGBTQ Task Force make it easy to find these resources.
But if you do ask your LGBTQ+ friends, peers, or coworkers to explain an experience to you, it’s crucial that you listen. Like, really listen to what they’re saying. True listening is an incredibly hard skill that most people aren’t that good at, but it can make a world of difference when speaking with someone from a marginalized community. Maintain eye contact. Don’t look at your phone, or the time, and don’t interrupt. Take in what they’re saying and believe them — they know and understand their experience way better than you do, even if you consider yourself to be “woke.”
Once you’ve educated yourself on important LGBTQ+ issues, and listened to the reflections of those within the community, take your knowledge and share it with your straight friends. Have frank conversations about things you’ve learned and strategize ways you can all be better allies to the queer community. Speaking vulnerably about this topic with your buddies will not only open your eyes to who actually cares about true equity, but will also hold you and your pals accountable for the things you do and say.
After laying out this invaluable groundwork, now’s the time to open up your wallet and donate to LGBTQ+ causes, organizations, and charities. But don’t just focus on bigwig national names like the Human Rights Campaign. Instead, do a little research and figure out what LGBTQ+ nonprofits are in your hometown. It’s always a better idea to give money locally; more often than not, these groups aren’t super well-funded and could use all the support they can get. Plus, investing in a local org means you’re investing in your local community, which is key for meaningful allyship.
But money doesn’t just have to go to mission-driven organizations — it can also go straight into the hands of LGBTQ+ business owners, artists, writers, designers, restaurateurs, and more! It’s pretty easy to find queer entrepreneurs with a simple Google search, so the next time you need to purchase something specialized, buy it from an LGBTQ+ individual. By doing this, you’re literally helping us to survive, which is a pretty solid ally move. Visit the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce to learn more about how you can support queer businesses!
Though it may not feel like it when you’re going on awful Tinder dates or just living your normal life with its normal struggles, being straight is a privilege in this world. And by privilege, I just mean that you don’t have to deal with a lot of the BS (i.e. danger, threats, violence) that LGBTQ+ individuals have to deal with on the reg, so use your privilege to support us. Amplify our voices by sharing our writing in your blogs. Join us on the front lines of a protest. Have the awkward and difficult conversations with anti-LGBTQ+ folks that we can’t safely have. Stand up for us and join us in speaking truth to power as we take on the world!
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