8 Things Straight People Can Do to Support LGBTQ Folks Right Now
No one can deny that LGBTQ individuals have had a tough go of things under the current presidential administration. With the Supreme Court voting to allow a ban on transgender soldiers who have served their country bravely, the situation appears grim for those in the LGBTQ community and their allies. With the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, some have questioned whether the validity of their most personal relationships will continue to be upheld under the law.
Most jurisdictions exclude sexual and gender identity from their list of protected classes, meaning anyone from landlords to employers may discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community without legal consequence. Given the current divisive political climate, LGBTQ individuals need the support of their allies to fight back against growing prejudice. Consider lending a hand by following some of these tips:
1. Lend an Ear
Many members of the LGBTQ community, especially young people, often feel as if they have no one to turn to when they need to vent or process their emotions. Identify yourself as an ally on social media, and reach out to your friends in the community to let them know you’ve got their backs. Accompany them to Pride and other rallies to show your support, and offer to drive or chaperone younger community members to these events.
2. Educate Yourself
LGBTQ individuals often encounter difficulty with everything from obtaining medical care unique to their needs to simply finding people who speak their language. Take some time to educate yourself about the challenges facing the LGBTQ community and learn how to refer them in respectful ways. Speak with older members of the community to learn how they cope, and listen when younger people open up about bullying or depression.
3. Get Out Your Checkbook
Legal battles cost a ton of money, as anyone who has ever been involved in a lawsuit knows well. Right now, many reputable LGBTQ rights groups are scrambling to raise enough funds to challenge discriminatory legislation in court. Consider making a contribution to Lambda Legal or the New York City Anti-Violence Project to show your unity with the community.
4. Pick up the Phone
Contacting your elected officials via telephone works more effectively than connecting with them via email or social media. Learn about LGBTQ legislation proposed by your state and contact your elected officials to urge them to vote in a manner supportive of members of the community. Work to elect representatives who support equality by phone banking for candidates who work toward inclusion and legal protections for LGBTQ individuals.
5. Create a Safe Space
Many LGBTQ individuals avail themselves of community centers that provide safe havens free from bullying and harassment. However, these places often suffer from funding shortages that make recreation supplies hard to come by. Consider volunteering or providing supplies such as books, athletic equipment, and art and craft items.
6. Diversify Your Workplace
Because many LGBTQ individuals live in jurisdictions that offer no legal protection for those of different sexual or gender identities, members of the community often remain closeted, suffering through careless jokes and disrespectful banter at the office. Make your workplace as inclusive as you can by refusing to take part in inappropriate conversations and by reporting egregious statements to your HR department on behalf of those who fear speaking up. If you work in a supervisory capacity, make it clear to your team that harassment of people due to sexual or gender identity will not be tolerated and make an effort to hire members of the LGBTQ community.
7. Go Back to School
LGBTQ youth suffer far higher risks of anxiety, depression and suicide than their cis and hetero classmates, and budget shortages leave schools lacking adequate counselors trained to respect the unique needs of these students. Consider volunteering as a student advocate or attending school board meetings to support inclusion policies. Alternately, offer to chaperone an after-school support group for LGBTQ students.
8. Practice Kindness
Finally, the best way to support members of the LGBTQ community means acting as a role model for proper respect of everyone, regardless of gender or sexual identity. When you witness acts of discrimination in your community, intervene if you feel safe doing so to stop bullying in playgrounds or on public transportation, or just move to sit next to the harassed individual to make them feel less alone. Make an effort to practice kindness in word and deed toward everyone you encounter in your daily life.
The 2016 elections ushered in a dark period of American history where hate crimes against LGBTQ individuals have increased exponentially. Many LGBTQ individuals fear losing rights they’ve fought hard to attain. By taking action to support members of the LGBTQ community, you prove that kindness outweighs cruelty and that love conquers hate.