This week I’m pleased to present a guest post from Naomi, an active member of the generation that’s on the leading edge of change:
My social media pages this summer overflowed with rainbow-hued profile pictures. June’s historic SCOTUS ruling on marriage equality inspired many to share their support for LGBTQ rights. It struck me like a piñata stick – thousands were “coming out” as accepting people!
I guest-wrote a blog post here at the beginning of the year on how to be a better LGBTQ ally, so I was thrilled these past few months to see numerous supporters take a stand. After doing a little research I was surprised to find that while more than half of adults think of themselves as allies to LGBTQ communities, far fewer self-identified as “active allies.” Anyone can take that next step, including kids, so I whipped up an easy 3-part recipe for entering the rewarding world of active allies.
1. ALLIES LISTEN
There’s a quote I love from a post in Everyday Feminism: “Listening is bearing witness to the testimonies, stories, emotions and experiences being shared.” Each LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning) person embarks on their own journey, informed by other parts of their identity like race, ethnicity, religion, or socioeconomic group. I identify as a queer femme but I’m also white, Jewish, and a proud Wisconsinite. All of these intersecting identities impact my daily life and how I view the world.
Even Caitlyn Jenner is still growing and listening in her new trans community because that’s how we learn what we can do to truly help one another. I recommend the True Colors Fund’s TRUTH project, where transgender and gender non-conforming youth and their families get to share their coming out stories and their dreams. And take a moment to listen to LGBTQ celebs like RuPaul, George Takei and Laverne Cox share their experiences in the compelling online docu-series It Got Better.
2. ALLIES LEARN
One important aspect of becoming an active ally is being aware of issues that disparately impact LGBTQ communities. From housing and job discrimination to bullying at school, to fear of using a public restroom, there are lots of topics that specifically affect the LGBTQ people you know and love.
The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and family-oriented PFLAG are great sites to start expanding what you know. With one click you can follow them on social media or have weekly news roundups delivered right to your inbox.
As we all get more familiar with what it means to be an active ally, resources like Straight for Equality are here to help with your questions about vocabulary and inclusive language. Julie told me that when My Son Wears Heels first began, she occasionally needed to double check the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation, even with Harry as a teacher.
3. ALLIES LEAD
The ally pool may look deep, but don’t worry – it’s okay to start on the steps of the shallow end. Just dip in your toe!
If you find an article that surprises you or moves you about LGBTQ issues, go ahead and share it on Facebook or Twitter with a short personal note about why you think it’s powerful. And you can often make a difference by signing an online petition to advocate for equal rights.
You can also lead by participating in annual events like the Day of Silence or attending local Pride parades.
Family activities are a fun option too. Whip out some dance moves to music that celebrates gender freedom with little loved ones. Or make some popcorn and host a screening of an LGBTQ-themed film for friends followed by a discussion.
The best part about being an ally is that we’re all in a burgeoning community that’s constantly learning and growing together.
We’re never too young or old to be an ally. I’m a big fan of equipping kids with the tools to speak out against bullying and discrimination. As they head back to school, remind them to stand up for kids who are treated unfairly. Let them know it’s okay to tell a teacher when they see or experience hurtful behavior. Allyship is about working together to make the world a safer place for everybody.
New allies, welcome to a wonderful world of growth and sharing. Celebrating our differences helps all of us learn! Start today by sharing this piece.
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