June is Pride Month, a time of year full of celebration among the LGBTQ+ community and their allies. While the parades, parties and colorful attire are a wonderful celebration of how far LGBTQ+ rights have progressed in the last five decades, it is important to remember the significance of Pride aside from the spectacle. Allyship is essential and VALLEY wants to help you be the best ally possible, so here are a few pointers to help you play a supportive role during Pride Month.
Know Your History
The first step in becoming an ally is to know the history of Pride Month. Understanding the discrimination faced by the LGBTQ+ community and how people fought against this discrimination is essential.
The Stonewall Uprising was a source of ignition for the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement, as well as the beginning of modern-day Pride. Prior to this event, members of the LGBTQ+ community were heavily marginalized, both socially and legally. At this time, raids of LGBTQ+ spaces — particularly bars — were common. The Stonewall Inn was one of these bars housed in New York City. On June 28, 1969 a seemingly routine raid was conducted at the Stonewall Inn, however this time the people fought back. Crowds, including LGBTQ+ leaders such as Marsha P. Johnson, forced police into the Stonewall Inn where they barricaded themselves from the bricks, trash cans and bottles being thrown at them from the growing crowd outside. In the following days, demonstrations continued throughout the area. As stated by the National Park Service, “Stonewall was a galvanizing moment that empowered a range of advocacy.”
The first Pride parade took place in New York City on the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. If you are interested in reading more about Stonewall, David Carter writes a detailed history — including interviews from several important Stonewall figures — in his book “Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution.”
Avoid Performative Activism
Sharing your support for the LGBTQ+ community online is a great thing to do. However, if you are posting about social issues it is important that you are following through with that support in your daily life. Peter Kalina illustrates in his article “Performative Allyship ” that the concept of performative allyship applies to nonmarginalized individuals who publicly broadcast their support of a social issue in unhelpful ways. This includes sharing posts on social media platforms with the intention of being met with praise. Simply put, if you are going to publicly present yourself as an ally it is essential that you are an ally in private as well.
Avoid Normalizing Discriminatory Behavior
It is easy to brush off discriminatory language and behavior as “not a big deal,” but you cannot be an ally and excuse actions that directly target the people you claim to support. For example, if you have a friend who continuously and purposefully misgenders people, a family member who doesn’t support their gay son or a colleague that refuses to use someone’s chosen pronouns. It is important to notice the ways in which these actions are harmful and speak up about it. It is common to excuse behavior because someone is “from a different time” or “doesn’t understand why it would matter,” but normalizing harmful behavior amplifies the struggles faced by the LGBTQ+ community.
Remember That Allyship is Earned
Perhaps the most important piece of being an ally is to remember that allyship is earned, not claimed. Members of the LGBTQ+ community select safe, respectful and supportive allies. This requires that you listen more than you speak. As an ally you will never fully understand the experiences of the LGBTQ+ community. Because of this, it is crucial that you know how to listen, empathize and learn. Oftentimes this means realizing and coming to terms with your own biases and shortcomings and working to change them — a difficult and necessary task. Once you identify your biases, consciously decide to act in more inclusive ways. Own your inevitable mistakes, apologize and say you are working to be a better person. You earn ally status for being the kind of person that LGBTQ+ people want to include in their community.
How do you know if you have biases towards the LGBTQ+ community? Take an Implicit Association Test at Project Implicit.