Stronger in Numbers - Beginner’s Guide for Being a Better LGBTQ+ Ally
Updated: Oct 11, 2020
“The people who are targeted by racism, homophobia, heterosexism, and gender bias are not responsible for initiating these conversations and building the tables where they should be happening. That is not how this works. We have to be able to choose courage over comfort and we have to say, ‘Look, I don’t know that I’m going to nail this but I’m going to try because what I’m sure as hell not going to do is stay quiet.”
– Brené Brown, Call to Courage
Even though we are in the midst of an unprecedented, global advance in racial justice, we also want to remember that June is Pride Month. Black people, especially black transgender womxn, have played an integral role in advancing LGBTQ+ rights as members of the LGBTQ+ community themselves, and as fierce allies.
For those of you that have lost track of time with the shelter-in-place, “it’s 2040 and our president is a plant.” Thank you to Kate McKinnon in Ghostbusters (2016) for the epic one-liner. All joking aside, it’s 2020. You’re welcome for the calendar reminder.
Despite the year we live in, LGBTQ+ equality is still lagging behind the times. Members of this community have been fighting and are continuing to fight for basic human rights and social equality. All human stories are uniquely different, so it is difficult to speak on everyone’s behalf. But I can tell you this with absolute certainty. I am not the only LGBTQ+ person that has experienced unjustified hardship, criticism, sexism, and discrimination based solely on who I am and whom I choose to love. Despite the immense social progression that has been made since the Stonewall riots 50 years ago, the members of the LGBTQ+ community are still fighting an uphill battle. With the arrival of Pride month, it is my hope that this blog will provide the inspiration and education to make you the best ally you can be.
So, what exactly is an ally? According to Merriam-Webster, and ally is “one that is associated with another as a helper; a person or group that provides assistance and support in an ongoing effort, activity, or struggle.” According to Gallup and the Williams Institute in 2018, the LGBTQ+ community makes up approximately 4.5% of the total U.S. population, with the Millennials leading the charge with nearly 8.2% of the generation identifying as LGBTQ+. Statistically, this means you likely have people in your lives that identify as LGBTQ+, whether it be a friend, family member, child, client, neighbor, or co-worker. Cisgender heterosexual allies are crucial for support, visibility, and adding decibels to the voice of the LGBTQ+ community. Just for clarification, “Cis” is Latin for “on the side of “and is short for “cisgender”. Cisgender refers to anyone that identifies as the gender in which they were assigned at birth. The opposite definition of “cis” would be “trans” or “transgender”. If you are wondering why the LGBTQ+ community still needs your voice, here are just a few of many statistics you should be aware of.
- 4 in 10 LGBTQ+ youth say the community in which they live in is not accepting of LGBTQ+ people (Human Rights Campaign Youth Report)
- 68% of LGBTQ+ youth say they hear negative messages about being LGBTQ+ from elected leaders (Human Rights Campaign Youth Report)
- In personal discrimination, a majority of all LGBTQ+ people have experienced slurs (57%) and insensitive or offensive comments (53%) about their sexual orientation or gender identity. A majority of LGBTQ people say that they or an LGBTQ+ friend or family member have been threatened or non-sexually harassed (57%), been sexually harassed (51%), or experienced violence (51%) because of their sexuality or gender identity. (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health)
- In institutional discrimination, at least one in five LGBTQ people report being personally discriminated against because of their sexuality or gender identity when applying for jobs (20%), when being paid equally or considered for promotion (22%), or when trying to rent a room or apartment or buy a house (22%). (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health)
- Transgender people, especially transgender people of color, report significantly higher experiences of discrimination: 38% say they have experienced slurs, 28% say they have experienced insensitive or offensive comments, and 18% say people have acted afraid of them because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. Nearly a quarter say they have avoided doctors or health care out of concern they would be discriminated against (22%), and 31% say they have no regular doctor or form of health care. (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health)
- The following statistics were retrieved from the Human Rights Campaign’s State Maps of Laws and Policies.
Number of states that have laws protecting LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in employment and housing opportunities on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity: 22 and Washington D.C.
Number of states that have laws protecting LGBTQ+ students from discrimination in education on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity: 16 and Washington D.C.
Number of states that have laws protecting LGBTQ+ students from bullying and/or harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity: 22 and Washington D.C.
Number of states that have laws that ban health insurance exclusions for transgender people AND provide transgender inclusive health benefits: 13 and Washington D.C.
Number of states that have laws addressing hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity: 21 and Washington D.C.
Number of states that have laws banning conversion therapy: 20 and Washington D.C.
The LGBTQ+ community is still fighting and we need the continued support of our allies. Support comes in many forms- donations, political activism, creating dialogue within your communities and social circles, or just simply listening. Here are some ideas that you can take with you into Pride Month and beyond.
1. EDUCATE YOUSELF AND OTHERS- “To fear what you do not understand is to mistake ignorance for safety.” -Ginn Hale. If you have questions, I encourage you to research LGBTQ+ resources for statistics and important projects happening within the community. General disclaimer- Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media platforms ARE NOT acceptable educational resources. Take a step outside of your social media bubbles and take a look at these sites for data and relevant LGBTQ+ information.
Human Rights Campaign (HRC)*
It Gets Better Project*
The Trevor Project*
Matthew Shepard Foundation*
Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)*
Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)*
National Center for Transgender Equality*
National Gay & Lesbian Task Force*
TransYouth Family Allies (TYFA)
2. DONATE AND GET INVOLVED- All of the organizations represented by an asterisk listed above are non-profit organizations that rely on donations to continue their missions of fighting for LGBTQ+ rights. August 17th is National Nonprofit Day, so I encourage you to put the date into your calendar and consider donating to one of the organizations I mentioned. The organizations listed above are large, well-known national entities, but I encourage you to also research state and local groups promoting pro- LGBTQ+ agendas. Join, volunteer, and be active.
3. VOTE- I am not here to argue sides or turn this blog into a politically charged discussion. We will keep this simple. Support and vote for local, state, and federal candidates with policies that promote LGBTQ+ equality.
4. SPEAK UP AND OUT- The only way we can make progress is to talk about the issues at hand and work toward a common goal. That is one reason why the quote introducing this article resonates so much to the topic at hand. These are very difficult conversations that have to happen from BOTH sides. Members of the LGBTQ+ community cannot be the only ones setting the table for this discussion. We need the help of our allies to respond to injustice, promote equality and acceptance, and speak out against discriminatory content and language.
5. SUPPORT THE LGBTQ+ PEOPLE IN YOUR LIVES- As I mentioned previously, you statistically know at least one LGBTQ+ person in your life. No matter who they or where they fall in terms of importance in your social circles, your support matters. Now, I also do realize that people are unique and come with their own life experiences and opinions. Your approval and support of the LGBTQ+ community could fall anywhere on the spectrum, and guess what? IT’S OKAY! Work at your own pace with self-discovery and progression. As I wrote previously in my “Run Down of the Pronoun” blog, you do not have to completely agree or understand this topic in order to treat another human with respect. Listen, voice your support, and let your actions speak louder than your words.
Pride month is here, so I encourage you to reflect on your own LGBTQ+ stance. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Pride events from all over the world have announced their cancellations to maintain public health. These events are integral for self-expression, community support, and global visibility to the social and political issues acting as barriers to forward progress. Members of the LGBTQ+ community are feeling the additional grief and loss of visibility. In the midst of these crazy times, rise up to these challenges and pass them along to your spheres of influence. Start the conversations. Your voices as an ally are needed and deeply appreciated. Remember, you are all beautiful. You are all amazing. Your differences make you extraordinary. Be kind to one another and most importantly, yourself.
Dr. Corinne Alexander, D.C., Chapter 115
Corinne Alexander, D.C. is the ambassador of Chapter 115 in Cupertino, CA and has been a member of the Women’s Networking Alliance since July 2019. She is the owner of Dr. Corinne Alexander, D.C. located in San Jose, CA. Her interest in joining the Diversity and Council was fueled by her personal experiences as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. She aspires to be a positive role model in her community by promoting kindness and education, and creating an environment of mutual respect among others.