Happy June! In the US, June is recognized as Pride Month.
This history of Pride Month itself is not well known. In recent years Pride has become more a celebration than anything else, but that’s not where it got its roots. Them.us did a thorough guide through the history of Pride month which you can read here, but the quick summary is that 50 years ago, as the result of a police raid of the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, LGBTQ led anti-police brutality riots broke out. This event was the marker of the spirit of resistance within the queer liberation movement, and as such has been celebrated as the “start” of the queer rights movement in America.
This is of course just a quick summary, and the start of the queer liberation movement can’t be traced back to just a single event–but during Pride month it’s important to know the roots of what you’re celebrating. Especially because–though we seem to live in a much more progressive world now–much of what the movement was fighting for at Stonewall is still being fought for today.
LGBTQ people in the US still face enormous struggles–particularly with mental health. A few statistics:
- Lesbian, gay and bisexual adults are more than two times as likely as their straight counterparts to experience a mental health condition
- Transgender adults are four times liklier to experience a mental health condition than cisgender adults
- Transgender youth are more than twice as likely to experience depressive symptoms, consider suicide or attempt suicide as their cisgender peers
- 57% of LGBTQ adults say they have non-sexually harassed, 51% have been sexually harassed, and 51% have experienced violence, all due to their gender or sexuality
- 22% of transgender adults say they avoid medical care due to fear of discrimination
- 27% of transgender individuals report being denied care outright
All of these are extremely traumatic experiences, and can lead to LGBTQ individuals being more at risk for things like rejection, substance issues, homelessness, suicidal thoughts, and poor medical care.
While Pride now is a celebration of our queer friends and loved ones it should also serve as a reminder for cisenger and heterosexual allies that there is still work to be done and support to be given. It’s not just about letting everyone know that love is love for one month of the year! To be an effective ally, you need to find ways to give real and tangible support–and give it beyond the month of June. So today we’ve put together a list of 4 ways you can support the LGBTQ community for Pride month and beyond.
Be Intentional with Your Language
This is one that will probably take some practice, but it’s an easy thing to do all year round that will make queer people in your life feel seen and safe around you. When meeting someone new, do things like offer your pronouns (“my name is X, my pronouns are Y”) and stick to gender neutral language until someone explicitly tells you their gender. While you may think you know someone’s gender given the way they look, gender presentation is a lot like playing dress up–it’s a fun way to express yourself on any given day. So just because someone is dressed in a particularly feminine way, that doesn’t mean they are a woman or use she/her pronouns. When you’re unsure, use they/them, and wait for them to tell you specifically how they are comfortable being addressed.
Also with this, it’s important to remove some well-meaning but inaccurate language from your vocabulary. These are things like “identifies as” or “preferred pronouns.” These phrases, while intending to be inclusive, can actually feel very alienating to hear as a transgender or gender non-conforming person, because they give the impression that the gender you “identify as” or the pronouns you “prefer” aren’t your “real” pronouns or gender. Stick to “what are your pronouns” and leave the preferred out of it entirely!
Speak Up When Something Comes Up
If someone is misgendered in front of you, don’t just let it slide because the conversation is uncomfortable. Being an ally is an action, so it takes work. It can be hard to be the one to constantly say something, but straight ans cisgender people can speak up much more safely than queer and trans people, so taking that role on is a great way to offer support to your LGBTQ peers. And it doesn’t have to be a dramatic confrontation. Here are a few ways you can address issues when they come up or redirect the conversation if someone says something that isn’t okay:
- I actually don’t find that funny
- Oh, their pronouns are actually they/them
- That’s their deadname, their name is X.
Addressing offensive language as it comes up in a no-fuss way lets people know that a) homophobic or transphobic language isn’t welcome around you and b) signals to queer people that you will do the work to make them feel safe around you without putting that burden on them.
Get Involved Directly
What are the queer run organizations in your area? Since it’s Pride month, they are likely to be putting on events so they should be pretty easy to find. While it’s great to go to the events or donate to them this month, continual support is better. Connect with some groups and organizations as you attend Pride events, but ask them if they’re looking for year-round volunteers. Online support only goes so far, and you can’t know what the queer people in your community need unless you’re asking them directly. Don’t assume that whatever is trending online is the issue your local queer community is most concerned with!
Get Curious about Your Own Sexuality + Gender
Whether you’re queer or not, getting curious about yourself is always a healthy thing. And in this case, it can help you come to a more intentional understanding of things that are very important to your person–your sexuality and your gender. If you’re cisgender and straight, you might not have ever questioned either. The thought of “questioning” could seem scary because it makes it sound like you don’t think your current identity is accurate–but that’s not necessarily true.
Questioning and getting curious about our sexuality and gender helps us know more assuredly who we are. (Think of the Dolly Parton quote: “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”) Ask yourself: how do you know you’re straight? How does your sexuality feel to you? What about your gender do you identify with? Where/how in your body do you feel your gender? What have you never considered about your gender?
You don’t have to question with the aim of proving your current label wrong–you can question your current label just to get to know it better. But having that process of curiosity with your own sexuality and gender can help you better understand the queer people in your life who have had to experience the same thing, only come out with a different answer.