Pride month is here again, and I’ve been thinking about how I can sincerely contribute to the LGBTQ conversation. Not being in the LGBTQ community myself, it only felt genuine to discuss my interaction with members of the community. And I thought about how to become a better LGBTQ ally.
For as long as I can remember I’ve been about approaching people with respect no matter who they are. I like to think of myself as an LGBTQ ally, but I’ll let others be the judge of that.
Sometimes we refer to ourselves as allies, only in words but our actions don’t tell the same story. And doing insensitive things, whether intentional or not, has an effect on someone else.
To call yourself an ally, you should have a desire to learn from, understand, support and include LGBTQ people. And as a straight person, your privilege gives you the opportunity to address barriers to fairness and justice for everyone.
“There is a point in advocacy where you need the people who hold the privilege to start the conversation because otherwise they [marginalized communities] don’t get heard,”Human rights advocate, Maybe Burke
Here are 11 tips on how to be a better LGBTQ ally.
Be a listener
If an LGBTQ person decides to talk to you about their sexuality or an issue they may be facing, listen. Don’t try to use that as an opportunity to prove to them why their issues are not valid or infinitesimal. Just listen to understand, and you will definitely learn a thing or two. And please don’t say things like ‘Why isn’t there straight pride month’ that’ll be very all lives matter of you.
Be Open to education
When in doubt, ask LGBTQ people in your life questions and have have deep and thoughtful conversations about their experiences. You might find out you’ve been doing or thinking about something the wrong way, learn and do better moving forward.
Do your Research
It’s all well and fine asking an LGBTQ person about certain things, but that should prompt you to do research. You shouldn’t expect the LGBTQ people in your life to always correct your mistakes. The internet is full of information about different aspects of LGBTQ culture and issues, you just have to look.
Learn from Your Mistakes
You’ll most likely make mistakes when acquainting yourself with the LGBTQ community, so don’t fret. If you mess up and someone calls you out, try not to indulge in negative feelings or get defensive. Acknowledge the possibility that this person may be right and isn’t trying to attack or hurt you. Then apologize and do better next time.
Invite LGBTQ friends to hang out with your friends and family, gestures like this makes room for them to exist in your life. Support LGBTQ artists, host panels for queer sex educators, or provide safe spaces for queer people to meet-and-greet.
Don’t assume that all your friends and co-workers are straight
Confront your own prejudices and bias which may not allow you to see people you respect in a queer light. Someone close to you could be looking for support in their coming-out process. Not making assumptions will give them the space they need.
Let LGBTQ people disappoint you
Western media representations of LGBTQ people tend to paint them as polished, funny, likeable, and righteous to unrealistic extents. In truth, most LGBTQ people are just as imperfect, unimpressive, and flawed as most human beings are. So if you’re frustrated when an LGBTQ person isn’t living up to your expectations, reflect on how those expectations developed. Then let them go so you can deal with that person as you would any other person.
Defend your LGBT friends against discrimination
If you hear someone say something homophobic, or mocks someone’s pronouns, correct them, even if the other person isn’t there. Let your friends, family and co-workers know that you find Anti-LGBTQ comments and jokes offensive. Actions always speak louder than words.
In your quest to be an Ally, don’t take up all the space
I’m sure some of us are familiar with performative allies who are more concerned with speaking up for their ego. It’s important not to overshadow an LGBTQ person’s right to speak up for themselves. Ask how you can get involved instead of assuming a role you’re not needed in.
Don’t wait for government policy
There’s a massive amount of work to be done in terms of humane government policies for LGBTQ people in Africa. It’s important to contribute to that fight but you don’t have to wait for victory to be a good person. And before you start getting purist on me, weed isn’t legal in Nigeria but I’ll assume you don’t harass stoners.
Many issues LGBTQ face exist outside the legal system; family rejection, street harassment, internalized shame, demeaning media representations, etc. As an ally, you should listen to the LGBTQ people in your life and frequently check up on them. Be aware that they may be going through some things you don’t understand, and offer support when you can.
Treat all people, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation, with dignity and respect
It’s weird that I still have to say this because some people are on a pedestal so far up their asses. I think some people focus on others too much, and they come up with the most convoluted reasons to be intolerant. I believe it’s much easier to mind your own business and focus on yourself.
Humanity is a diverse species, no two fingerprints are the same so why should all genders and sexual orientations be?
My golden rule is to treat people with respect if you desire to be treated with respect by others.
Ultimately, let’s all contribute to the thousand small steps it takes to reach the goal of equality for everyone.