Many people who love and support the LGBTQ community still aren't sure how to be an ally. But with Pride quickly approaching, it seems a lot easier to spring into action. Whether you're in NYC for the Pride Parade on June 25 or are attending a celebration closer to home, it's the perfect way to get involved.
And if you're new to participating, it can be overwhelming. Make sure that you make an effort to educate yourself. For example, in some ways it's totally cool to ask questions — but don't expect every gay or trans person you encounter to be your encyclopedia. “Overall questions are always better than assumptions, but I don't always want to be educating people, especially about basic Trans 101 stuff,” says Gavin Rouille, a trans guy and artist who does work about gender. “I would encourage people to google questions first, and think about it before asking. If you still don't know, then ask, but use common sense and social skills to know if you are being inappropriate and overstepping boundaries.”
Don't worry too much — once you head to the Pride parade, it's going to be fun. Like, a lot of fun. But while you're getting caught up with the music and the dancing and the joy and the rainbows (yes, there really are a ton of rainbows), there's something really, really important to remember.
Being An Ally Doesn't End At Pride
Pride is absolutely amazing. And part of supporting and being an ally is joining in the important celebrations and being exuberant, proud, and happy. But it's not all there is to being an ally.
Being a person who 'is supportive and accepts the LGBT person' means doing it 365 days a year, not just when the cameras are flashing.
Being an ally is about so much more. It's about stepping in when someone uses the term 'gay' as derogatory. It's about listening, rather than acting surprised, when your friends say they were harassed on the street. It's about battling assumptions, getting involved in difficult conversations, learning, and sharing knowledge. Some of the same people who dance at Pride tell me I 'probably imagined' the woman calling me and my girlfriend 'dykes' outside the hospital. Some of the same people who dance at Pride will use 'fag' playfully, like they're in on a joke. Some of the people who are at Pride think that being an ally stop and ends there.
And I get it, not everybody feels like they have the time to be a full-time advocate. "LGBT people are our mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins," the GLAAD website explains. "This is a fact and it isn't going away. You have the opportunity to be an ally and a friend at home, school, church and work. A straight ally can merely be someone who is supportive and accepts the LGBT person, or a straight ally can be someone who personally advocates for equal rights and fair treatment." But being a person who 'is supportive and accepts the LGBT person' means doing it 365 days a year, not just when the cameras are flashing and the music is too good to ignore.
So, genuinely, have an amazing time at Pride. You should. Everyone should. Be silly and happy and get too sweaty and ridiculous. But when you wake up the next day, it's time to be an ally all over again.