How To Be A Straight Ally During Pride Month
Throughout the colorful month of June, several parades and celebrations will be held all over the country in honor of Pride Month.
These events will be flooded with members of the LGBTQIA+ community, as well as hundreds of other people, eager to show their support.
I'm about to attend my very first Pride parade this weekend and personally, I can't wait to go!
If you are interested in being a supporter, but may not consider yourself part of the community, you may be wondering the best way to go about acting as a straight ally during this month.
Well, being straight doesn't preclude you from joining in on the festivities.
Just because you're straight doesn't mean you can't celebrate Pride and everything it represents. Many of us stick to the sidelines during events, as we may be worried about stepping on the community's toes, or don't feel informed enough to contribute.
Neither of those things, however, should prevent straight allies from celebrating with the LGBTQIA+ community throughout Pride month.
Below, you'll find several ways to assist you in being the best straight ally you can be during Pride (and well... all the time).
1. Listen to those within the community.
Dr. Traci Lowenthal, psychologist and gender therapist at Creative Insights Counseling, says it's important to listen to what the LGBTQIA+ people have to say in order to be informed.
"Speak with members [of] the community frequently," says Lowenthal. "It is possible to be a wonderful ally, but also possible to be insensitive and to actually cause more difficulty for the LGBTQIA+ community."
Ignorance breeds ignorance, so speaking on LGBTQIA+ issues when you haven't even spoken to members of the community is one of the worst things you can do as an ally. Not only that, but getting a personal view from a member of the community is invaluable to enhance your understanding as a straight person.
All it takes is an open mind and a willingness to listen. Don't assume that just because you've read an article or watched a film that you know what it's like to be a part of the LGBTQIA+ community.
While speaking to those within the community, Dr. Lowenthal insists on remembering that one voice is just that: one voice. It's never a good idea to assume that the community speaks as a group all the time.
"Understand that one perspective is just that - one," says Lowenthal. "One queer, gay or trans person is not the sole representative for that community."
Understand that view points are valuable, but do not mean the entire group thinks as one unit.
2. Be cognizant of the space you are taking up.
Dr. Lowenthal cautions against taking up space in the movement without being aware of what you are doing.
If you were specifically asked to go to an event, or you know that an event is open to the public, head over and celebrate. If you arrive at an event that is closed or has little space, the space should go first and foremost to members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
“Be conscious of taking up space that does not belong to you,” says Lowenthal. “If you've been invited into a space (a physical location, an organization,or group), go. [But] do not assume it is acceptable for you to take up space. If uncertain, ask. If the answer is no, be respectful.”
You aren't owed a presence at any LGBTQIA+ event, so don't cause a scene if there's no room.
If you are in attendance, make sure it's for a purpose. Pride is meant to be fun, celebratory, and an opportunity to enjoy yourself with the LGBTQIA+ community, but it's important to be respectful of the reasons why Pride takes place at all.
3. Do your research.
Megan Bronson, QueerOut Ambassador for MY LGBT PLUS, says it's important to research the history of Pride to know where it all began since it's "not just a party."
June was chosen to honor the Stonewall riots, one of the most important moments in modern LGBT+ history. On June 28, 1969, several members of the LGBT+ community rioted after police raided the Stonewall Inn, which is a well-known gay bar in New York City.
Eventually, marches, parades and events were held to continue commemorating the riots. Former President Clinton marked June as "Gay & Lesbian Pride Month" back in 2000, with former President Obama following suit by officially expanding June as "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month."
Pride is as much about celebration as it is an important marker of the progress this community has made.
"Primarily, Pride is a celebration for our queer community," says Bronson. "If you are 'cool with the gays,' but 'don't really get the whole trans thing,' please leave. Pride is supposed to be a safe space. Remember allies need to speak up and speak out every day."
If you're going to participate, you're going to need to support everyone in the community.
Pride isn't the place for any kind of hatred or bias.
4. Be visible with your support.
Head to some Pride events in your town and be outspoken about your support for the community. Wear the rainbow flag, create signs to show others that you are a straight ally, and cover your social media in color.
Justin Kamimoto, founder of MY LGBT PLUS, says, “Pride is about a day in history that we reflect on the LGBT+ movement towards equality."
Straight allies can be visible supporters [at] pride. Volunteer, during pride month and every month, at an LGBT+ organization. Take a stand and march in a pride parade. Be a part of a committee that hosts pride events. But most importantly, be visible. Share your story of connection with our LGBT+ community.
I can't wait to head to my community's first Pride event ever and show that I want to listen, learn, and support.
Being a visible ally is important during Pride and should be done all the time.
5. Speak up.
Being a straight ally means letting your voice be heard, both in celebration and in support of safety. Being an ally means defending members of the LGBTQIA+ community and nipping ignorance and hatred in the bud.
Even if something doesn't directly impact you, but you know it's wrong, let your voice be heard.
“When you see or hear something in the media that misrepresents truth, speak up,” Lowenthal says. “When a friend tells a homophobic or transphobic joke - speak up. Share LGBTQIA+ informative articles on social media. Discuss issues facing the community with other folks who are unaware.”
Don't be the person that stays quiet just to keep the peace. It's never worth it when the safety and human rights of a community are at risk. Be the voice that encourages other people to be better.
Your support for the LGBTQIA+ community as a straight ally should extend to the entire year - not just the month of June.