Ok, so, I’ll be honest, I really debated over this post for a long time. I’ve almost written it about a million times. It’s national PRIDE month. A month to honor and support and encourage our LGBTQ+ friends. As a straight, cisgender woman, it’s not my month, and to that extent, it almost feels like it’s not my place to say anything, but I love my LBGTQ+ friends deeply and I want to be a source of support and strength for them at all times, but particularly this month; and I think there are a lot of us “straight allies” who want to be supportive but maybe don’t always know how.
So to that extent, I’ve written out four really simple, basic ways a straight ally can help support the LGBTQ+ community. This list is not exhaustive and is not going to be the right answer for everyone. There may be things you do to help the LGBTQ+ community that I won’t list here and there may be things that I list that you don’t agree with. I am open to dialogue with anyone about how straight allies can better help and support our fellow humans this month and all months of the year.
With that massively wordy intro, here are my four suggestions on ways to be a straight ally this month.
- The first thing is to listen openly. This seems like a no-brainer for some, but I think it’s very important. Be open to conversation with your LGBTQ+ friends. Listen to the things that bother them, to the language that makes them feel uneasy, to the issues that they encounter in our society, but also listen openly to their life stories. Everyone wants to be heard and feel like their stories and experiences matter. Listen to your friends as they talk about their partner(s) and dating or marriage or whatever stage of relationship they may be in. Listening to someone as they talk about their relationship shows that you value their relationship as an important part of their life, and sadly some of our LGBTQ+ friends don’t have a lot of people who are willing to listen to their stories.
- Support LGBTQ+ political action. Our political world is very antagonistic against LGBTQ+ folks. As a straight ally, you can help support legislation that protects the rights of our fellow Americans regardless of gender or sexuality. You can help lobby for equal access to spousal benefits and the provision of appropriate healthcare to LGBTQ+ folks in all walks of life. Support LGBTQ+ politicians, attend political rallies, make phone calls, send emails to your local and national level legislators to help shift our political climate. An important note if you’re attending a rally or event for gay rights: as a straight ally, you are there to support your LGBTQ+ friends. It is important to be sure that you are lending your voice to LGBTQ+ leaders and speakers but not making your voice louder than theirs. Our LGBTQ+ friends are more than capable of speaking for themselves, they don’t need us to speak for them; but we can be there to support them while they do.
- Volunteer at Planned Parenthood. Many have focused on the importance of Planned Parenthood for maintaining access to healthcare for women, and while that is important, Planned Parenthood also provides a great source of care for the LGBTQ+ community. Many in the LGBTQ+ community struggle to find affordable healthcare or healthcare providers who can meet their needs and do so in a safe environment. Planned Parenthood has provided many in the LGBTQ+ community with access to affordable and appropriate sexual health care. With Planned Parenthood under attack lately, accessing these services is extremely difficult and often nerve-wracking. Volunteering with the organization can help to ensure access to healthcare for many of our LGBTQ+ community. (And don’t forget, you can also lobby your local, state, and national level legislators to maintain funding for this vital service.)
- Use your privilege to protect LGBTQ+ spaces. This is a big one, and I might step on toes here, but if you are a straight cisgender person, you can pretty much walk into any bar, any club, any event in your community and not have to worry that you will be harassed or attacked based on your sexual or gender identity. For many in the LGBTQ+ that isn’t the case. For many of our LGBTQ+ friends, the only time they can feel comfortable being themselves is when they are in spaces set aside for the LGBTQ+ community such as gay bars and clubs and LGBTQ+ events. As straight allies, we need to recognize that these are not our spaces. Gay bars do not exist so you can go out with your girlfriends and not be hit on by creepy guys. Pride parties are not there for you to crash with your friends. Drag clubs were not created for your bachelorette parties. While there may be times that as a straight ally you attend these events or patron these locations, these are not your spaces and you should enter as a guest. If you and your friends need a place to party, there are plenty of straight-friendly locations you can go to.
I wanted to add one more to the list, but it doesn’t directly affect the LGBTQ+ community: Donate blood. Today is the anniversary of the horrific mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and I’m reminded of the lines of people waiting to donate blood that seemed to stretch for miles. While donating blood does not directly affect the LGBTQ+ community, almost every blood bank in America faces routine shortages; and because of outdated medical practices, many LGBTQ+ folks are often denied the ability to donate blood. So, if you are an eligible donor, find your local blood bank and make a donation. It takes about an hour of your time and can save a life.
I’m so hesitant to push publish on this post. If you’ve read it, I hope you find it helpful. We are all in this together, and I only hope that we will take the steps necessary to love and care for one another.