Our world is growing to be as diverse as ever, and our communities must come together to support inclusivity. It’s becoming more and more common to run into people who identify as something other than straight or cisgender.
Now, around 5.6% of U.S. adults identify as someone in the LGBTQ+ community. That number will most likely increase as more young people are coming to terms with their identities.
Because more people are coming out and living their lives authentically, LGBTQ+ members must receive support. Being an ally can be mystifying for some people — what does it mean to be an LBGTQ+ ally?
There’s no one answer to this question, which means allyship can look different from person to person. The main objective of an LGBTQ+ ally should be to fully understand what it means to be LGBTQ+ in today’s society. This includes facing stereotypes, dealing with discrimination and internalizes shame or guilt.
Let’s dive into what allyship with the LGBTQ+ community looks like and how you can improve your sense of inclusivity when you’re around LGBTQ+ folks.
How to Be an LBGTQ+ Ally
It’s normal for cis-gendered straight people to feel uneasy, awkward or uncomfortable when discussing topics related to LGBTQ+ individuals. Thankfully, there are plenty of resources available to people who are looking to be allies. Here are some other ways to show up for your LGBTQ+ friends who help make our world a more diverse place.
1. Understanding the LGBTQ+ Acronym
People outside of the LGBTQ+ community are sometimes at a loss for what the acronym means, but it’s crucial to use this as a starting point. Let’s break it down:
- Lesbian: A woman who is attracted to women emotionally, romantically, or sexually.
- Gay: A person who is attracted to a person who is the same gender either emotionally, romantically or sexually.
- Bisexual: A person who is attracted to more than one sex or gender, simultaneously or not, and not necessarily to the same degree.
- Transgender: A term for people who identify as something other than their assigned gender at birth. Transgender does not refer specifically to someone’s sexual orientation.
- Queer: A term that is often used to cover a wide variety of identities and attractions that are outside the traditional framework.
It’s important to note the + in LGBTQ+. The plus sign covers all other identities and attractions that are not listed in the LGBTQ acronym. This could include individuals who are intersex, asexual, or pansexual to name a few. By having a +, anyone who identifies as something unlisted is still considered a community member and should be valued as one.
Understanding the acronym is the first step in being a reliable ally. It’s crucial to use someone’s preferred pronouns and understand that their identity is an essential piece of their lives. Many people take comfort in knowing their sexual orientation, but it may take some time after coming out to reach that point.
2. Ask Questions and Check Your Privilege
Many straight and cis-gendered people are privileged in the sense that they’re free to explore relationships with members of the opposite sex. It’s considered the norm to be in a heterosexual relationship, and some privileges come with that.
Like any norm, people will fall into the margins of society if they’re not supported or feel included within that norm. Asking questions to educate yourself about LGBTQ+ topics is crucial if you’re looking to be a good ally.
Suppose you’re not a member of the LGBTQ+ community. In that case, you’re unable to use the firsthand experience to form an understanding of the struggles associated with being LGBTQ+. Be sure to ask respectful questions if you’re looking to learn more about the experiences LGBTQ+ have, and always ask if specific questions are appropriate to ask.
3. Avoid Trivializing Someone’s Sexuality
Anti-LGBTQ+ jokes come at someone’s expense, and they can easily cause emotional harm, embarrassment, and other unwanted, negative feelings for the LGBTQ+ individual. Trivializing a part of someone’s identity is unfair no matter what the circumstances are. LGBTQ+ individuals are a vulnerable group that can sometimes battle with mental health issues or substance abuse disorders, which only add to life’s daily stressors.
As an ally, it’s vital to approach conversations and interactions with LGBTQ+ individuals with compassion and care. Although there’s more to a person than just their sexual orientation, it’s essential to see it as a piece that helps make up the puzzle of their personhood.
4. Support People When They Come Out
Like many of us, LGBTQ+ members are living life one step at a time, and we all know how tumultuous that journey can be. Having to come forward about one’s sexuality is no easy feat. It can take years for someone to feel comfortable enough to be open about their feelings. The best thing you can do during this time if you know someone who just came out is to honor their feelings, lend a shoulder to cry on and let them know that you’re there to support them fully.
Keep in mind that these are only some ways you or someone you know can be a good ally to the LGBTQ+ community. Essentially, educating more people about LGBTQ+ life is the best way to encourage people to become supportive allies and speak out against discrimination.
LGBTQ+ Allyship in the Future
As the world enters a more progressive era, we can all hope to see more and more people shift to an attitude of acceptance. There’s still plenty of work to do for the LGBTQ+ community, but building a supportive community of allies is undoubtedly a great place to start.
Kara Reynolds is the Editor-in-Chief and founder of Momish Magazine. Mom and step mom living her best life while managing anxiety and normalizing blended families. She enjoys pilates, podcasts, and a nice pinot grigio.
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