How to Be a Better LGBTQ Ally
Posting rainbow hashtags, resharing the news of the Supreme Court decision, and condemning the Trump administration for their recent attack on transgender healthcare are all great armchair ally moves, but there’s more you can do to support your queer friends and family.
Allyship can take on many forms. Any degree of support for the LGBTQ people in your life is better than none, but sometimes shallow, performative allyship can do more harm than good.
Here’s a classic, common scenario:
A person comes out as gay or trans.
Their family is surprised, but comes around. The person is never physically or verbally attacked and is welcome in the family home and at all family functions.
And the “support” ends there. Maybe there’s an occasional Facebook post from mom, but other than that, the family stays silent on LGBTQ issues and never publicizes their child’s identity or romantic relationships and never corrects others who refer to them with incorrect pronouns.
Some families are private, and that is okay. But others are selectively private when it comes to their queer children.
The family members in the scenario above are not true allies.
Allyship is more than the absence of hate.
It is more than virtue-signaling social media activism.
It is more than going to a Pride parade or using a Pride-themed Facebook profile photo frame.
It is continued validation and acknowledgement of queer identity as a part of a someone’s entire personhood — recognizing that the person is more than their sexuality and gender identity, but also acknowledging that those things are very important, visible parts of them.
It is speaking up against the atrocities and discrimination against the LGBTQ community.
It is making space for LGBTQ voices and letting them do the talking when it comes to sharing their experiences.
It is calling other people out when they are homophobic, transphobic, or bi-phobic.
It is correcting people who misgender others.
Too many families will say “I love and support you!” but continue to mentally separate their queer family member from the LGBTQ community and ostracize them.
I liken this phenomena to the problematic phrase “I don’t see color.” If you don’t see color, you don’t see Black people and the struggles they are facing. You do not see their history, or their incredible contributions to our society.
If you love your child “no matter who they are or who they love,” make sure you make them feel seen. Disregarding their identity is not love and support.
If you don’t see queer, you don’t see them.
Another common issue I see in families of my queer friends (and admittedly, my own family), is microaggressions. The term is usually used for racial issues, but applies to LGBTQ discrimination as well.
Microaggressions against queer people can include:
— Homophobic, bi-phobic, and/or transphobic speech (whether directed at the person or in reference to other people, TV shows, celebrities, etc.)
— Speaking about and/or treating a queer relationship differently than straight relationships, implying that they are less valid or real (“You’re just experimenting.”)
— Asking inappropriate or invasive questions about queer relationships (referencing sex, having children, gender roles, etc.)
— Speaking about queer or trans people as if they are a monolith (“Gays always do [blank]” or “Trans people are always [blank].”)
Hopefully we have learned in these past few weeks that we have to be actively anti-racist to end the oppression and murder of Black people, not just non-racist. There is a difference.
Now, we can apply that same principle of allyship to the LGBTQ community.
As an ally, you cannot just be non-homophobic or non-transphobic. You must be actively anti-homophobia and anti-transphobia.
Allyship cannot be passive or performative. It cannot be done for likes. It must be an active commitment to change, fueled by an outspoken and visible love for the queer people in your life.