LGBTQ+ Students! We See You and Want Everyone to See You!
LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning) people have been erased, oppressed, censored, and harassed throughout history – and it’s still (unbelievably) happening today. Before I begin on the matter of being an LGBTQ+ ally, I would like to say, I (and everyone here) support you and am with you.
A study in California reveals some sobering data on LGBTQ+ treatment in schools. Approximately 15% of surveyed students identified as LGBTQ+, with 3% confessing that they do not identify with their birth sex. And yet, despite the relatively high percentage of students coming out, school settings still treat this as an anomaly, subjecting kids to abuse and discrimination. As a result, LGBTQ+ students report higher rates of depression, lack of self-confidence, suicidal thoughts, and fear for their safety.
School and campus policy measures against discrimination often don’t help (enough) because aggression is propagated in conniving, surreptitious ways that go under the radar of authorities. And more often than not, LQBTQ+ individuals are too scared to report what’s happened to them. Additionally, LGBTQ+ students cannot always choose their dorm roommates and may end up in difficult living situations.
If you experience any of the following, please know that you are NOT alone:
- Depression, melancholy, and burnout.
- Fear and anxiety.
- A decline in your grades and academic performance.
- Struggling with body image issues and eating disorders.
- Struggling with your sexual orientation and identity.
The first step is to talk to someone in charge, and importantly, someone you can trust (a teacher or your principal, the dean of studies, the international office, or a school/university counsellor). When talking to them, be honest about what’s on your mind. Moreover, be adamant about changes you want to see to make you feel better. Join student groups promoting acceptance and tolerance, form a community (god bless social media) of allies, and help each other navigate student life.
If you’re not a member of the LGBTQ+ community, here’s what you can do to get involved and start your journey towards being an ally:
- Be careful what kind of language you use – please ditch those godawful phrases like ‘that’s so gay’ and any negative connotations about the LGBTQ+ community.
- Join straight-LGBTQ+ alliances on campus.
- Report anything that seems suspicious and discriminatory (this applies online as well). Stand up against homophobia and create safe spaces for LGBTQ+ groups.
The True Meaning of Being an LGBTQ+ Ally
The LGBTQ+ population is exposed to an insane amount of prejudice, discrimination, aggression, and violence. There’s not a single Pride parade without injuries or even casualties, and you can always count on conservative anti-Pride parades showing up. It’s time to take action. The only true way to create a non-biased world is to normalise what is already normal, accept that not everyone is the same, and understand that we don’t need to fit the old-fashioned idea of binaries. How can we do that? By proudly standing as an LGBTQ+ ally.
A basic definition of an ally is someone who supports, stands by, and joins forces with another person, group, or community. Simple as that. An LGBTQ+ ally, therefore, is a person who supports the LGBTQ+ community, speaks up against discrimination, and takes action to change the problematic circumstances surrounding the LGBTQ+ community for the better.
Quiz: Are You an Ally of the LGBTQ+ Community?
Have you ever wondered whether you are an LGBTQ+ ally? If the thought hasn’t crossed your mind before, it does not mean you’re not an ally – maybe you just didn’t know there was a term for you! But let’s see. Answer these questions truthfully to find out what’s up!
- How do you feel about homosexual individuals?
- I don’t mind them, but I’m not one.
- They’re great!
- They’re people just like all of us and deserve the same rights!
- How do you feel when someone comes out as LGBTQ+ to you?
- OMG, that’s not normal!
- Well, OK, just don’t hit on me!
- I’m happy for them.
- I am supportive of them and happy they know who they are.
- Would you join a Pride parade to show support to the LGBTQ+ community?
- Of course not; you shouldn’t parade that!
- I’m fine with them, but they don’t have to have parades about this. What if children see?
- I support the LGBTQ+ community, but Pride is not for me.
- Duh, been and will keep on going!
- How many genders are there?
- Only two.
- Two, but people are making more up.
- I actually don’t know? However many there need to be, I guess.
- Gender is a social construct and a spectrum, so there are many.
- How do you feel about LGBTQ+ representation on TV/film/stage?
- It’s just pushing propaganda.
- I don’t really like seeing it that much, but I can tolerate some.
- I’m happy about it – it’s time to have some representation!
- It’s about time! I’m even happier when they’re not just token characters.
- How do you feel about gay marriage and adoption?
- It should be forbidden.
- They can get married, but can they raise kids???
- I support them on both fronts.
- I actively speak in favour of legalising gay marriage and reducing conservative hurdles when adopting.
Every a) = 0 points; every b) = 1 point; every c) = 2 points; every d) = 3 points.
0-4 points. You’re not an ally. You should try to read more about the LGBTQ+ community, practise empathy and compassion, and challenge your limiting beliefs. There is a documentary on Netflix called ‘Pray Away’ that you can also watch if you’re religious 😊.
5-9 points. You understand that the LGBTQ+ community needs support and should have equal rights, but you still have some deep-seated beliefs against it. Now’s the time to start learning how to support the community and questioning why you have these views.
10-14 points. You’re an ally! You support LGBTQ+ rights and are aware of legal and social constraints put on the community. Now I challenge you to find more ways to actively show your support!
15-18 points. You’re a strong ally with some nuanced views on what’s going on! You’re vocal about LGBTQ+ rights and don’t hesitate to show support. Keep it up!
Looking for Ways to Be an LGBTQ Ally? 🏳🌈
We’ve got you covered. No matter what you scored on the quiz (PS, don’t take it too seriously, it’s just a quick diagnostic test), you can always do more to support your LGBTQ+ friends and the community at large. Follow these steps to increase your positive impact:
- Learn and engage. Most prejudice, homophobia, transphobia, and general aggression towards the LGBTQ+ community stem from willful ignorance and conservativism. The only real way to weed out narrow-minded views is to inform yourself on the topic. Read everything you can, from psychological and medical standpoints to personal testimonies of what it’s like to be LGBTQ+ and what challenges there are. Don’t be afraid to ask the community about anything you don’t know, as this is far better than stumbling in the dark.
- Be vocal. Actively counter homophobia, transphobia, and any other type of prejudice. I found that many people parrot some common contentious views just because they’ve been socialised to do so, but if you approach them with level-headed ‘why’ questions, they double back and slowly start to re-evaluate their ideas. The key is not to come on too strong because that just makes them extra defensive and solidifies their initial stance. Fight against the derogatory language used in phrases like ‘don’t be gay’ – language shapes perception, so reclaim it as a positive space!
- Support your LGBTQ+ friends in any way they need to be supported. Not everyone needs the same type of care. For some, it’ll be enough that you know that they identify with the LGBTQ+ community, whereas others might have a harder time with it, especially if they don’t have support at home. Learn to be a good listener and be present in your loved ones’ lives.
- Come out as an ally. Don’t hide your status. Be proud of being an ally, speak up on social media, and show your friends that they can count on you. You never know what someone from your circle might be struggling with. If you show you’re an ally, they will feel confident about coming to you and talking if they need help.
- Be mindful of the space you take up. Remember, being an ally is amazing and should be the default, but ultimately, it’s not about you but the LGBTQ community. So, if someone asks you questions about it and wants to sound out your ideas and recommendations, direct them towards LGBTQ+ speakers, bloggers, and online spaces so that they get the most candid info direct from the community.
PS If You’re on the Fence about Being an LGBTQ+ Straight Ally …
… don’t be! The LGBTQ+ community needs you to stand your ground because it’s mostly straight people imposing limitations on their rights. The more straight people stand up as allies, the more likely it is that the world will shift in a positive way.
Online Spaces: Going Beyond LGBTQ+ Ally Hashtags
A lot of activism has migrated online these days, increasing visibility and accessibility to information, data, opinions, and materials. As an ally, you can use online spaces to raise your voice and promote equality and eradication of oppression levelled against the LGBTQ community.
To increase your own online visibility, your best friend is #lgbtqally, which ranks as the most popular hashtag for identification and support. Additionally, you can use any of the following hashtags to reach different target groups: #lgbtq #loveislove #lgbt #pridemonth #lgbtqia #lgbtqpride #queer #lgbtqcommunity #lgbtqrights #lovewins #lgbtqsupport.
However, your activism needs to be genuine. It’s not about throwing tons of hashtags into the social media abyss – it’s about being an ally #foreal. Don’t paste hashtags onto everything and anything, and make sure your posts are relevant and helpful! Follow the tips listed above to strengthen your alliance in meaningful ways, learn about what you can do beyond social media, and be a good friend. Remember, being an ally is not about you; it’s about the LGBTQ+ community and should be owned by it.
Wave Your LGBTQ Ally Flag! 🏳🌈🏳⚧
Being an LGBTQ+ ally is a bit like flying in Peter Pan: You just have to believe. You have to believe in equal rights for everyone and act on that belief. Stay informed and in touch with what’s happening in the LGBTQ+ community, ask questions, and show support online and offline. Don’t hesitate to wave your ally flag and believe that soon enough, we can change the world for the better!