Want to Become a Powerful LGBTQ Ally?

Resources to get you started

A proposed LGBTQ ally flag from a collection of public domain images at udimagen.org

Do you have friends or loved ones who identify somewhere on the LGBTQ spectrum? Are they lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, or genderqueer? Do you ever think about how marginalized people sometimes have to fight to breathe through a toxic fog of othering?

Maybe you’re marginalized too? Are you Black, Latinx, or disabled? Have you thought about how marginalized identities intersect? About how Black transgender women, for example, get hit from all sides? Think about how racism, sexism and transphobia focus in one spot against one person at the same time.

Advocating for justice and inclusion often means forming alliances based on recognition of shared oppression, probably an obvious thing to say, but possibly less obvious in practice. Allison Gaines, the publisher of Cultured on Medium, wants to get practical.

Let’s stick to the basics

She’s asked me to provide a list of resources allies can use to help fight for LGBTQ justice and inclusion. I’ve thought hard over the last couple of days about the best approach, and I’ve decided to stick to the basics. Rather than an exhaustive list, I’m offering a starter kit for people who want to become part of the solution.

I’m pretty sure that once you get started, your own efforts will direct you to the specific resources that fit your personal priorities.

How can you become part of the solution?

Solutions imply problems, problems lots of people don’t know exist. Given the paucity of LGBTQ representation in entertainment, people can get the wrong idea, as Christopher Kelly points out in a recent essay on Medium. Christopher writes that for every upbeat Love Simon or Call Me By Your Name, a Boy Erased somewhere silently cries their pain.

We LGBTQ people want our stories to be real, relatable, and not inevitably tragic, but we know our allies don’t always understand that the positive stories they see in entertainment aren’t the FULL story.

So what can you do?

1. Educate yourself and raise your awareness

Paralleling the relatively scarce treatment of LGBTQ issues in entertainment, hard news treatment is pretty sketchy too. Cable news rarely tackles LGBTQ stories, and when they do they’re seldom complete. Newspapers and magazines sometimes feature stories, but you can’t rely on them for daily news. Kudos to the Huffington Post for having a queer beat, but you’ll only see it if you seek it out.

So why not be proactive?

If you want to be a powerful LGBTQ ally, make LGBTQ issues a regular part of your day. Take just a few minutes each day to scan queer Huffington Post or LGBTQ Nation or Pink News, which aggregate journalism about LGBTQ people and issues around the world.

2. Help LGBTQ youth. They’re hurting.

LGBTQ youth are particularly vulnerable. Statistics about bullying, mental crises, and suicide are alarming, probably much more alarming than you think. Even one supportive adult can make all the difference to an LGBTQ kid in crisis.

Can you be that one adult? Even if you can’t reach out one-on-one, you can still help.

I think about my friend Charlie who goes to work every day at a middle school in Detroit where he teaches math and science. Charlie is an unassuming hero, an out gay Black man with effeminate mannerisms and speech who holds his head high despite fierce pressure to hide.

Charlie is a role model and leader. He sponsored a GSA (gender and sexual alliance) club at his school years ago after an 8th grade girl came to him with stories about bullying and hate speech she lived with.

Do you work in a middle or high school?

Sponsoring a GSA is a powerful step allies can take to make a serious difference in the lives of LGBTQ kids. Studies show that schools with active GSAs report significant reductions in bullying, not just for LGBTQ students, but for all students.

GLSEN will help you help queer kids

Even if you can’t be a Charlie, because you don’t work in a school or because you don’t feel safe enough, you can still help. He turned to GLSEN to help students form a GSA. GLSEN engages with school staff and students, providing training, resource kits, and legal networking. Want to help GLSEN empower people like Charlie and his students? Find a local chapter, and take action.

The Trevor Project helps kids in crisis

Want to help kids in immediate need? The Trevor project runs a crisis line for LGBTQ youth who feel overwhelmed or suicidal. Trained counselors are available 24/7. The Trevor project needs volunteers and money to keep fighting for lives and mental health. Can you help them?

3. Think about LGBTQ seniors, who are often uniquely vulnerable

Given queer reality, especially for people who grew up in a less accepting era, many older LGBTQ people don’t have the extensive networks of friends and family that cis/straight people have. Queer seniors face all the same challenges of isolation and loneliness that seniors in general face, but often lack places where they can socialize and feel safe at the same time.

Many seniors who were out and proud in their younger days find themselves pushed back in the closet as they age, especially in retirement communities or assisted living facilities.

Want to help? Contact SAGE, an advocacy and service group that assists LGBTQ elders all over the United States.

4. Think about transgender and genderqueer people

Gender politics are HOT right now, and not in any good way. All over the English-speaking world, transgender and genderqueer people are taking a beating on the public stage, and those rhetorical beatings have caused real physical violence and furthered isolation for people who ask for little more than to live in peace.

Want to be a good ally to embattled trans people? It’s not that hard. Pronouns are easy, and so are other issues once you get used to them. And if you make a mistake now and then? Nobody’s gonna hate on you if you apologize and move on.

How easy is it to be a kind and thoughtful trans ally? Check out this simple guide from transequality.org.

5. Think about getting political

Many LGBTQ advocacy groups fight for change on the US political stage. The following three are perhaps the most well known:

  • National Center for Transgender Equality — “In the nation’s capital and throughout the country, NCTE works to replace disrespect, discrimination, and violence with empathy, opportunity, and justice.”
  • Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — “The Human Rights Campaign envisions a world where every member of the LGBTQ family has the freedom to live their truth without fear, and with equality under the law.”
  • GLAAD “Leading the conversation. Shaping the media narrative. Changing the culture.”

Most LGBTQ rights groups have seen their share of controversy. Before supporting any group by donating or volunteering, you might want to make sure they align with your priorities. Here’s a much more complete list to choose from:

Be aware, take action, and join hands

Educating yourself and taking simple action to promote positive change can make you part of a powerful force for good. Othering and marginalization are sad human norms, but they aren’t inevitable. We can join hands and work together for equality and inclusion.

The resources above are trailheads, simple entry points into a forest of nurturing ideas.

I hope you find them valuable, and I hope they lead you even deeper down a path of genuine inclusivity and allyship.

James Finn is a former Air Force intelligence analyst, long-time LGBTQ activist, an alumnus of Queer Nation and Act Up NY, an essayist occasionally published in queer news outlets, and an “agented” novelist. Send questions, comments, and story ideas to jamesfinnwrites@gmail.com.

Writer. Runner. Marine. Airman. Former LGBTQ and HIV activist. Former ActUpNY and Queer Nation. Polyglot. Middle-aged, uppity faggot. jamesfinnwrites@gmail.com

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