Another Pride month has come and gone. But it’s important to remember that being an LGBTQIA+ ally to your friends and family doesn’t need to end with it. Skip the rainbow-themed paraphernalia companies are chugging down our throats this month (but keep the fierce playlists).
Instead, here are our tips on how to be a good ally during the rest of the year.
It’s easy to get lost in the noise of Pride month and become overwhelmed
After all, over the years more and more organizations have put out campaigns targeting the LGBTQIA+ community. Some because they actually stand up for it (shocking, I know), but most of them for the quick buck.
And what a buck.
From clothes to accessories and even tech. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a brand or retailer that doesn’t indulge in Pride merchandise during June (and the rainbow-washing usually gets pretty cringe).
As a journalist who deals with businesses daily, this comes as no surprise to me. It’s a tried and tested strategy, a sure way to kill several birds with one stone. By showing some type of support for the LGBTQIA+ community, a brand can wash off any bad reputation, increase engagement and customer loyalty, and will surely profit millions doing so.
But come July 1st, that temporary rainbow logo goes away and the stock is stored until next year. Pride has become a profitable holiday at the expense of its true purpose and nature: empathy, equality, justice, and solidarity.
So, if you’re trying to support and stand up for your queer peers, don’t dread the season’s passing. There’s more you can do besides going all-in on the merchandise.
Most of it won’t cost you a cent and the best part is that there’s no deadline.
Being an ally of the LGBTQIA+ community begins by understanding what being an ally means
Allies are usually people that don’t necessarily consider themselves to be part of the LGBTQIA+ community. They’re probably straight cis men and women.
But an LGBTQIA+ ally whole-heartedly understands its struggles and stands up for the cause.
Maybe your brother or sister are queer, or your children, and you want to show them that you stand by them.
Good for you.
But mostly good for them!
1. Understanding it’s not about you (!)
It’s not just about LGBTQIA+ people. Ever since the Stonewall Riots of 69, Pride has grown to become a safe space for people of all walks of life, gender identities, sexual orientations… The typical outcasts.
Pride is about fighting injustice, bias, prejudice, and violence against any vulnerable minorities. Sure, you’ll mostly find queer people on a Pride parade. But you must remember that Pride is made for those who can’t or won’t risk being seen in a parade, twirling a rainbow-colored tutu and dancing to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”.
It’s meant to shine a light on injustices that prevail to this day – and those on the receiving end of injustice are not necessarily queer.
Pride should be about anyone who feels oppressed.
And it’s an LGBTQIA+ ally’s responsibility to address that oppression, whoever it’s pointed at.
2. Educate yourself and others
History was one of my favorite subjects growing up, right through college. And to this day, I’m a firm believer that it’s crucial to understand – even if briefly – where we come from to shape where we’re heading.
This applies to the LGBTQIA+ community.
As an LGBTQIA+ ally, you should try to educate yourself on the matters that affect the lives of queer people. Talk with your friends, ask them about their struggles, and don’t be afraid to ask apparently offensive or stupid questions. If they come from a genuine willingness to learn, we’ll love it. Research books, films, documentaries, podcasts, and even scroll through Wikipedia.
Did you know we basically owe Pride to two black trans women who started the riots? Were you aware that, as of today, 71 countries in the world criminalize private, consensual same-sex relationships?
Now you know.
Information is empowering.
Being an informed ally, you’ll find more ways to make a difference in the lives of the queer people you care about.
3. Listen, respect, but don’t stay silent
Going on about your day-to-day life as an ally you’ll probably begin to grasp just how much queer people have to take. Just scratch the surface of any mundane, normal situation.
A co-worker or relative who cracks an anti-LGBT joke. A public worker who discriminates against someone. Some drunk and violence-inclined idiot in a bar who’s convinced your gay friend is checking them out. Cat-calling. A queer character who is demonized on TV. You name it.
In some of these scenarios, your best call is to ignore and walk away. Some people won’t think and feel as you do, and that’s okay. Show them your respect even if they don’t show you theirs. Absolutely don’t risk your own safety trying to prove a point.
But in those places where you feel like you should say something, say something!
That’s what real support looks like. And, sure, it can cost you some friendships, some nasty relatives will stop calling and it may even turn you into a target as well. But you did what you believed in, stood by the people you love, and I think that counts for something far greater.
4. Recognize, confront and work on your own prejudices and bias toward others
We all carry some prejudice and bias with us. We might convince ourselves we don’t, but we do. It’s a strange and often hard exercise to self-dissect those prejudices, own them and work on them. Acknowledge your own flaws and mistakes and be better for them.
At some point, we all said or did something we might regret today. Don’t beat yourself up for it. Being a good ally means keeping a check on yourself too, and avoiding inflicting harm or hate on anyone.
And, in reverse, don’t be too hard on people, and don’t rush to cancel someone for a misfired tweet or misunderstood statement. We’re all human and we’re bound to f*ck up every now and again.
What matters is that we grow from the bad seeds we all inadvertently carry.
5. Stay alert and show up
We don’t need your rainbow emoji during June – although we appreciate it. We need your focus and attention year-round. Check the news every now and again, follow some accounts on your most used social media that focus on LGBTQIA+ issues, and keep up with the topics that often get shadow-banned from mainstream media outlets.
Here’s a guide of online resources for LGBTQIA+ youth, to start with!
But most importantly, if you want to be a real, year-long LGBTQIA+ ally, remember those issues when the time comes to vote and remember to vote.
I can’t stress this enough.
6. Real-life > Social Media
It’s easy to retweet, share a post, or drop a like or a comment. And even though social media has allowed LGBTQIA+ people to create platforms to reach their peers, life happens off-screen. Your crying emoji reaction on that post about yet another queer teen who was beaten to death won’t likely bring any justice. If you feel comfortable and safe, protest with your community when it rises against oppression.
In my book, being outspoken in real-life beats social media viral any day. I’ve been labeled as an enfant terrible and annoying uncomfortable voice many times.
I don’t care.
Speak your mind if you feel like it.
(And to contradict me, you can start by sharing this article with your friends and family.)
7. Donate to and/or support LGBTQIA+ charities and businesses
I started off this article by telling you that you don’t need to spend a dime to support the LGBTQIA+ community – and that stands. Not everybody has the financial capacity to donate to non-profit charities and organizations (here are a few if you’re interested).
But your hard-earned money speaks. And it matters where – and to whom – it goes.
If you want to be a true LGBTQIA+ ally, be conscious about your frequent purchases. Research the companies behind your favorite products and don’t be fooled by top-notch marketing and branding strategies. Learn if that company provides any sensibility training, if it focuses its social initiatives on fair and just conditions for its workers, if it works to reduce pay gaps, if it provides career opportunities for minorities.
Dig deep for this, and you might surprise yourself! For example, did you know that there are organizations that helps providing housing assistance options for LGBTQ+ youth?
At the same time, stay on the radar for any LGBTQIA+-owned businesses and show them your support whenever you can afford to. If not, share their page, showcase what those queer people are selling and allow others to support them.
Much like a vote, money speaks. And big businesses know that a rainbow logo during June means money. Otherwise, they wouldn’t do it (and they don’t, in those 71 countries where it is definitely not profitable).
Actions have consequences, but so does inaction. Ask yourself what harm can you help prevent, and how you can do it, and encourage others to do the same, not just during Pride month, but every day 🌈.