It’s good to remember that not everyone in the world is straight, cis-gendered or even gender binary. Here, the authors of Coming Out Stories, Emma Goswell and Sam Walker outline some simple ways we can all be better allies to the LGBTQ+ community today and every day.
Not everyone in the world is straight, cis gendered or even gender binary. We’re everywhere and sometimes like to go incognito. Not all gay men are camp, not all lesbians are butch and you sure as hell can’t tell someone’s gender identity just by looking at them. So next time you ask that cute guy if he has a girlfriend or a wife or refer to a woman as Mrs and ask if her husband is at home; know that you might have put someone in an awkward position. I know of plenty of trans people who have been told “Oh my god you’re the first transgender person I’ve ever met”. I can assure you that probably isn’t true.
No matter how someone might appear on the outside it’s up to them how they identify. Mis-gendering people or using their dead name (for trans people, the name before transition) can cause a huge amount of hurt. If you get it wrong – apologise, move on and don’t forget. If someone identifies as non-binary, refer to them as they or them. Sam Smith has been through a lot of abuse to try and have their pronouns respected. Think of gender as a fluid scale rather than binary and respect others identities. To normalise gender fluidity a lot of cis gendered people are announcing their pronouns. Adding it to social media profiles, email footers or business cards makes it clear how you identify and shows solidarity with trans and non-binary people.
If you hear homophobic or transphobic language – call it out for what it is. Challenge people. There’s no such thing as casual homophobia or casual transphobia – words and attitudes do hurt. The over use of the word ‘Gay’ as a derogatory term in playgrounds is just one example. Many LGBT+ people suffer huge amounts of shame, guilt and self-loathing brought on by years of hearing slurs. It’s one reason people struggle with their identity, fear rejection and really struggle to come out.
REPORT HATE CRIME
I’m not asking anyone to put themselves in danger – but if you see or hear anyone being abused for their sexuality or gender identity don’t just stand by. The statistics are shocking and getting worse. In 2017, 2 in 5 trans people had been the victim of a hate crime. If you see a crime in action and people are in danger call 999 or you can report on line too.
Why not try and make your work place more inclusive? Do you have an LGBT+ group? Could you celebrate Pride, LGBT History month, Trans day of remembrance or national coming out day? Could you put up posters saying homophobic or transphobic language won’t be tolerated or ones celebrating LGBT couples? And if you don’t have a workplace what’s stopping you celebrating pride anyway? Who doesn’t love rainbows, glitter and celebrating equality? Join the party! And if you have children – take them along. Kids LOVE a pride parade! Remember homophobia is taught and children aren’t naturally homophobic or transphobic.
HELP LGBT+ CHARITIES
If you’d like to help some of the most vulnerable in society think about supporting a charity like the Albert Kennedy Trust. They’re there to help young LGBT+ people who have been thrown out of their homes or are at risk of homelessness. Mermaids is also a fantastic charity supporting children and young people who are trans or non-binary and their families. And then of course Stonewall do incredible work campaigning for LGBT equality and also ensuring that schools are LGBT inclusive and free from bullying.
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Find out what’s really going on in the LGBT community by broadening your horizons with your news consumption. You’d be surprised just how many shocking examples there are people being denied their basic human rights across the globe because of their sexuality or gender identity. Conversely you’ll also find heart-warming stories of people coming together to support each other and fight injustice. And if you’re really lucky you’ll find stories about gay penguins bringing up baby chicks together! If you’re looking online I’d recommend Pink News, Gay Star News and the LGBT sections within the Guardian and Reuters.
LOVE THE LGBT+ PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE
If you’re lucky enough to have someone in your life come out to you then embrace it. Embrace them. If you really are shocked, then try and contain that reaction and tell them it doesn’t matter. Remember, being LGB or T is just small part of what makes them, them. Tell them you love them. At the end of the day that’s all we all want – to be loved and accepted for who we really are.