June is Pride Month! As LGBTQIA+ community members and allies celebrate the occasion, rainbow flags hang from windows, and social media is filled with content educating the public on Pride Month’s significance, it’s a fantastic time to learn more about how to be a supportive ally for loved ones who identify as LGBTQIA+. Yet, while Pride Month is a time to come together in celebration and support for LGBTQIA+ community members, allyship does not begin on June 1st, and end on June 30th. It is an ongoing, lifelong role that that requires education, advocacy, and important, oftentimes vulnerable, conversations with the people you care about most. LGB adults are twice as likely to experience a mental health condition than heterosexual adults, and transgender folks are practically four times as likely than cisgender folks (those whose gender identity corresponds with their birth sex) to experience a mental health condition (Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness, https://www.nami.org/Your-Journey/Identity-and-Cultural-Dimensions/LGBTQI).
To help break the stigma surrounding mental health, and to help express care and empathy for loved ones, Pride Month can be an excellent time for allies to learn more about their role in cultivating an atmosphere of inclusivity for everyone regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and any other personal identities. Every day is a great day to learn more about how to be a supportive ally! If you are looking for ways to best support loved ones in the LGBTQIA+ community, take a look at some of the tips below. By learning more about your role as an ally, you are taking important steps that show your loved ones that they are seen, heard, important, and valued.
5 Tips on Allyship for Loved Ones
1. Listen with an open mind
While you are only an expert in your own experiences, and might not know exactly what your loved one is going through, it is important to listen carefully and without judgement. Empathy is really important in order to deepen relationships and foster trust, and it’s established through vulnerable (sometimes tough) conversations.
2. Always defend LGBTQIA+ community members, even when they’re not around
If you overhear a friend, family member or co-worker make an offensive statement or “joke” regarding the LGBTQIA+ community, call them out on it, and explain why it’s not okay. Educating others is an important part of allyship!
3. Share your pronouns, and ask others to share theirs
On social media platforms, place your pronouns (she/her/hers; he/him/his; they/them/theirs) in your biography. When you’re in a group setting introducing yourself, share your pronouns and suggest everyone else do the same. Type your pronouns after your name on Zoom, and don’t be afraid to ask other people for their pronouns. To be a supportive ally, it’s important that you do not assume anyone’s gender identity. Taking these steps may make folks who identity as nonbinary (someone who does not identify as a man or woman) or transgender (someone who’s gender identity doesn’t correspond with their birth sex) feel more comfortable, and creates a more inclusive environment.
4. Don’t assume everyone you meet is heterosexual
It’s important not to assume that everyone you meet identifies as straight, or heterosexual. Making this assumption can make those whose sexuality isn’t the norm feel uncomfortable and excluded.
5. Ask your loved ones how you can best support them
If a loved one confides in you, sometimes the best thing you can do is simply express that you are there for them. Saying things like “I know I don’t understand what you’re going through, but I want you to know I will always be here for you,” and “What can I do to best support you right now?” help show loved ones that you’ll always have their back.