The beginning of June also marks the beginning of Pride Month. While Pride Month is a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community, you can also be a part of it even if you’re a cis-het individual. How? By being an ally! More than being a friend and supporter, it means using your privilege to lift voices that don’t experience the same kind of privileges.
Becoming an ally starts by understanding that you have an absence of obstacles that LGBTQ+ people may face daily. For instance, your privilege can stem from being born upper-caste, your upbringing, education, your gender, access to healthcare and familial support. Use your privilege to understand the issues the people of this community face. Another major part of recognizing your privilege is to confront your prejudices, even if it is uncomfortable to do so.
If you are learning how you can be an ally to the LGBTQ+ community, do not lay the burden of educating you on your queer friends. It is not their responsibility to educate others. Seek out podcasts, books, social media accounts of activists, and learn. And of course, there’s always Google!
Listen and Amplify
To best understand how you can help the community, listen to what they have to say. Instead of taking the platform away from them and speaking up FOR them, amplify their voices however you can. This can be on social media, or at your workplace. If your friends who are a part of marginalized communities decide to engage with you on the subject of discrimination, listen to them and offer support where appropriate. As an ally, your job is to listen and learn.
Speak Up in Your Social Circle
Silence isn’t a neutral position. Saying nothing can be perceived as an acceptance of discrimination. As a privileged person, you have access to certain circles that your LGBTQ+ friends may not. If you have ever heard derogatory language used by your family or friends against the community, call them out and educate them. This will mean having difficult, often uncomfortable conversations.
Certain people from the LGBTQ+ community face a lot more discrimination than others. A lot of things factor into this – socioeconomic status, caste, geography, access to education, opportunities and much more. For instance, a lower caste queer person hailing from a village may face a lot more discrimination than an upper-caste, well-to-do queer person. As allies, it is our responsibility to amplify the voices of the most oppressed.
Use Inclusive Language
Keep yourself up-to-date on inclusive terminology and inculcate it into everyday conversation. Understand the pronouns that other people want you to use while addressing them. When in doubt, just ask. Strive to move away from gendered terms like “guys” and “ladies” to refer to groups of people and instead, use gender-neutral language like folks, friends, and team.
Learn from your Mistakes
Being an ally is a verb, not a noun. If you’re actively learning and unlearning, you are bound to make some mistakes. You may accidentally misgender someone or make an ignorant remark – that’s okay as long as you accept your mistake and are committed to making a conscious change.
Support Queer Businesses
Another tangible way to be an ally is to buy from queer businesses. Instead of supporting conglomerates and big businesses, contribute to queer businesses and amplify their reach in your circles.