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How to be a Better Ally and Friend to People in the LGBTQ+ Community
Oftentimes, a first impression rooted in misunderstanding or lack of knowledge does not lead to a friendship. In my experience, individuals, while well-intended, may let stereotypes or naivete prevent a true friendship from blooming. I don’t care about people that knowingly and consciously stop a friendship from occurring; rather, the not-quite-informed folks are who I am trying to educate.
Certainly there have been humans in public that see me and see my Pride earrings, but see my Pride earrings first in the scheme of things. Maybe they never considered me eligible for friend material strictly due to my sexual orientation. Other individuals may experience this type of treatment based on their gender, race, disability, etc. Educating yourself and others about internalized stereotypes or precalculated ideas is a great step towards recognizing and changing your reaction to first impressions.
Tip #1 - Educate yourself
Many stereotypes are unfortunately present in the LGBTQ+ community, and some of them are harmful. Those stereotypes stem from misinformation or homo-/transphobia. Challenge yourself to read #ownvoices books and media. #ownvoices writing is written about a marginalized community by a member of that community. A large amount of the time, #ownvoices pieces have positive and accurate representation of people in the LGBTQ+ community. You could also read autobiographies or memoirs of LGBTQ+ individuals that discuss their coming out stories, their journey to self-acceptance, or their work to better the community and the world. Music written by or performed by members of the LGBTQ+ community, and movies that highlight queer voices in their production are other options for learning about and connecting with LGBTQ+ characters. You could also talk to queer individuals about questions you may have, but keep in mind that it is not our responsibility to educate everyone. If someone is not in a place where they can teach you, consult a book or other resource.
- Simon vs. the Homosapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
- Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann
- Can’t Take That Away by Steven Salvatore
- All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson
- Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings
Listen to “Sun Goes Down” by Lil Nas X
Watch “Love, Simon”
Tip #2 - Don’t just focus on sexuality, gender identity, etc.
Once you’ve educated yourself so you can challenge your prenotions about the LGBTQ+ community, put that into play when you meet someone in the LGBTQ+ community. Remember that we are all people too, and our sexualities, gender identities, or types of attraction aren’t the defining factors of our lives. It’s something to remember and celebrate, but don’t hyperfocus on that one aspect of someone’s identity.
Tip #3 - Acknowledge and celebrate that part of someone’s identity
It’s not great to only see someone for their sexuality or gender identity, but be supportive! If someone you know comes out, congratulate them. Maybe a friend will enter a relationship that isn’t a heterosexual one. Do your best to be supportive, even if that’s new territory for you. Most importantly, be respectful. Use everyone’s preferred and correct pronouns and names. Ask if you don’t know. A major part of friendships or casual relationships is respect.
Being an Ally to the LGBTQ+ community may seem like a change at first, but by learning to better understand and accept different types of people, you will make new friends. Educate yourself about the queer community, especially through #ownvoices media, and challenge any misinformation you may have heard. Education is powerful and can bring individuals together through understanding. When meeting new people for the first time, consider what you have learned and how LGBTQ+ people and yourself probably have more things in common than you realize. If you begin a friendship or acquaintanceship with someone in the LGBTQ+ community, remember to be respectful and not to hyperfocus on just their sexuality or gender identity. We are all human, and we all should value friendship.