How We Can All Be Allies: Regardless of Our Sexual Orientation
By Melissa Lipari
I am heterosexual, which means I can kiss my boyfriend at a park or hold his hand on the subway, without the fear of judgmental or unkind eyes. I can get married in any state in the United States and every country in the world. I can have children with my partner, without having to go through the long and sometimes difficult journey of adoption or surrogacy. I can simply exist without having the impending doom of someone targeting me in a hate crime because of who I choose to love. I am one of the lucky ones.
With Pride Month in full swing, I often use this time to reflect on how I can be an ally to my LGBTQ+ friends from my privileged position. This reflection does not stop with friends though; I think about people that I have never even met before. I think about every queer disenfranchised person in the world because I have never had to worry about my sexuality being an issue in my life. My privilege is unfortunately not one that extends to all others. The rights that I, and many other straight cis-gendered people take for granted, are rights that the LGBTQ+ community have had to fight to gain for decades. They are rights that have not fully been accepted yet by society, government officials, and states across the country – let alone globally.
I have never had to come out to my family. When I had my first boyfriend, my parents did not question my decision or feel fear about what this relationship could mean for my safety. I have never had to ask myself the big “what ifs” that many queer people are forced to ask themselves in common situations. What if someone does not accept me? What if someone wants to hurt me? Because of whom I am attracted to, I have never had to think about deviating from the “norm” or have had to fear tough conversations with loved ones. I often discuss with others their “coming out” stories and most of them say this: “If I did things the traditional way, perhaps I would never have to deal with those ‘What If?’ scenarios.” These hypothetical “what ifs” to a straight person, are something that consume the minds of LGBTQ+ youth everywhere.
When I hear someone question whether their life would be easier if they never deviated from the norm, I say this: society does not work with tradition any longer. Normality does not exist. Quite frankly, normality is boring. If I had to pinpoint something that I felt was still “normal” in society, I would say non-conformity is the new normal. As a society, we have outgrown the cookie-cutter expectations that were set-up by our grandparents and their parents before. Expression, individuality, and self-acceptance are some of the most important defining factors of who we are. This is what we should be passing on to the younger generation. Not a twisted perception of what life and happiness is supposed to look like.
Some of my first encounters with the LGBTQ+ community occurred on the Internet. I remember watching countless Youtubers “come out” when I was young, before I had any physical connection with queer people. One of the recurring statements that would happen in every video, regardless of the publisher, would be a plea for people to be kind in the comments. Thinking about someone having to ask for acceptance, let alone basic human kindness, when heteronormative people are just given acceptance from the public about who they love is disheartening and infuriating. This is when I realized that I had to stand with queer youth, because they are the new generation. Together, we are the ones who are going to set the rules for how the LGBTQ+ community is treated for the next 50+ years. Even if you do not personally know someone who is of this community, put yourself in their shoes for five minutes. I can almost bet, that if you were on the other side, you would want advocacy and support from your peers. More importantly, you would want equality for all.
To help be a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community, we can become an ally. According to the Human Rights Campaign, an ally is “A person who is not LGBTQ but shows support for LGBTQ people and promotes equality in a variety of ways.” In this article, I wanted to break down a few ways in which all of us can be allies towards the LGBTQ+ community. It does not matter what race, sexual orientation, or gender you are; we all have a part to play in making an equal opportunity for everyone. No one should feel like they cannot be themselves or love who they want to. We all have the capacity to love and help one another, we are one world united by our experiences, our empathy, and the beauty of human connection.
10 Ways To Be An Ally for LGBTQ+ People:
- Give respect.
- Educate yourself on the history, terms, culture, etc. of queer people.
- Realize how much space you take up.
- Use your voice to stand up for them, especially in situations that they cannot defend themselves.
- Volunteer at your local LGBTQ+ center or non-profit organization.
- Donate (if you can) to the queer youth, especially to those who are homeless or in shelters.
- If you cannot advocate in person, be an online advocate.
- Support queer artists.
- Follow LGBTQ+ activists/activism groups on social media.