What is Pride?
Pride Month is celebrated every year in June in memory of the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan, New York. The 1969 Stonewall riots were started by Stome DeLarverie, an African American biracial bisexual woman, Marsha P. Johnson, an African American transgender woman, and Sylvia Rivera, a Latin transgender woman. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, plus (LGBTQ+) community has made major advancements around the world and this month is to recognize those achievements as well as replenish spirits to continue to make an impact.
Armed with a brief history of LGBTQIA+, let us discuss how you can become an ally on your campus.
Know the History
Now when I say know the history, I do not want you to get overwhelmed. Educate yourself on important dates and months within the community. For example, October 11th is recognized as National Coming Out Day, November 20th is Transgender Day of Remembrance, June is Pride month. Understand the important dates and months within the LGBTQIA+ community and why they are celebrated. In working to become an ally, you also have to know this history so that you can relate such information in your circles that may be cisgender, homophobic, transphobic, biphobic, etc.
There is plenty that you will not know. Be willing to listen to the thoughts and feelings of those within the community. You will not be able to show up for those in the LGBTQIA+ community if you are not listening to how they want you to show up for them. Do not let your preconceived notions of what an ally is overshadow the voices of the community and what they believe an ally to truly be. Of course, constructive critiques are hard to digest for anyone, however, just remember it’s not about you and it’s not a personal attack. Try to willingly accept the correction, apply said corrections, and continue on in your allying.
The “A” Does Not Stand for Ally
Your role within the community is to support the community, not be the focus. Understand that the “A” in LGBTQIA+ actually stands for Asexual/Aromantic, not ally. The point of the acronym, of course, is to be welcoming and representative to all. Being an ally means supporting EVERYONE and their rights. Make sure in your personal support you don’t limit or exclude anyone. Understanding the plight of all members within the community and accepting them for who they are truly shows your willingness to be an ally.
Ask & Respect Pronouns
Do not assume that you know someone’s pronouns or how they identify within the LGBTQIA+ community. You do not know what journey someone may be on, but assumptions can lead to hurtful interactions. Never assume and never insist – instead ask, privately and respectfully. If it is a preference for them to be addressed with specific pronouns (male, female, gender-neutral, etc.) respect that and modify your language.
When there are community and or campus rallies, events, projects, etc. make sure you show up. Being there physically and giving your time is a big and important way to show your support. Be ready to walk into a space where you are the minority and be comfortable. This will go a long way in helping you understand more about LGBTQIA+ ‘s culture, in addition to helping you become aware of the communities’ needs and struggles.
Do Not be a Part-Time Ally
When you are not around anyone within the community, your views and stance as an ally should not change. You may often be in spaces that are potentially homophobic, transphobic, biphobic, etc. Address the offensive comments and jokes. No one may be there to hold you accountable, however, being an ally is not a part-time job. Understand that people of color are also a part of the community. You cannot be an ally for part of their identity. Stand up for all the offensive remarks. Being a person of color does not exclude someone from the LGBTQIA+ community.
You Do Not Have to be Recognized
A wise person once said to me “an ally is not a self-proclaimed title”. You may not get recognized or accolades for your support and work; that should not stop you from listening, understand, supporting, and educating yourself on the issue of the LGBTQIA+ community. Being an ally is simply the right thing to do – whether someone is watching or not.
Take all these points into consideration and activity apply them on your campus. There is a certain amount of privilege that comes with being a cisgender heterosexual individual. Use that to your advantage to push forward the efforts of those within the LGBTQIA+ community at your institutions.