Once again it’s the season of rainbow flags and flashy colors. In every feed we scroll to, we can see people posting their pictures with Pride filters. It’s a beautiful celebration of identity, fluidity, and acceptance. Among the LGBTQ+ friends who are celebrating, there are allies who march in with the parade, showing love and rainbow emojis in their captions.
Come July 1, some of these allies will return to their old, rainbow-free profile pictures and move on to the next big thing. Yet, the battles of our LGBTQ+ community will persist—battles of oppression, discrimination, exclusion, and hearing some of your so-called “ally” friends continue using homophobic slurs behind your back.
So, no, if you’re only in it every June of the year, you’re not an ally to begin with. Your photo with your gay friend smothered with rainbow hashtags doesn’t make you one if you can’t defend them from all the Karens and Kevins who judge them. In this sense, it is more likely that you’ll see some form of consistency from these Karens and Kevins with their disgusting, outdated hatred; unlike your annual virtual love that only comes at a certain time which frankly only perpetuates romanticization of a community’s protest—a protest against a conservative idealism that doesn’t even work against you.
This is not a preach: genuineness should be practical and consistent. It’s unfortunate how this is being said when it should go without saying. The moment someone becomes an ally, you’re not an ally with just your Twitter bio, every June, and to your close LGBTQ+ friends. You are an ally to the entire community. It’s not just about jamming to Taylor Swift’s You Need to Calm Down and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way in the comforts of your own room. It’s an arduous journey of self-educating, practical compassion which leads to tangible results.
Perhaps start with the closest LGBTQ+ friend that you have. Honor how they identify themselves. Know their stories (not through gossip and speculations) and let them (not you or anyone) be the one to tell it. The community is not voiceless, often they are silenced or not heard. But they have a voice. As an ally, we can only encourage, defend, and amplify.
Recognize their identity
When it comes to their pronouns, if you’re not sure, the simple thing to do is to just ask. It may seem confusing and you might find it awkward at first but we promise you that the community appreciates the effort of inquiring before assuming. Maybe start the conversation with it. “Hi, I’m Allison. My pronouns are she and her. Yours are?” It’s not appropriate to assume that every gay is a She and every lesbian is a He. They know how to identify themselves; they should be able to dictate that.
Boundaries, Respect, and Support
Sensitivity precedes awareness. However, there are times when it doesn’t usually end that way. Like how some treat Pride events like a photo-op and randomly take people’s photos because they look cool. Perhaps, they do. Maybe their ensemble (which freely reflects who they are, and they are only confident in showing at Pride) is something worthy to be shown to the world. However, they are people. We do not know why they are there. Maybe they haven’t been outed yet and just went there to celebrate. Unsolicited pictures of them posted on the internet for a couple of likes on your page steals them from the chance of telling their stories themselves. Also, it’s rude by default to take pictures of strangers. It doesn’t cause a penny to ask for permission nor is it a loss to comply with their request should they turn you down.
Okay, if you are unaware and you’re one of those who just want to flaunt the beauty of Pride because you’re an ally, we are here to let you know that there are many other ways of helping the community. One example and a very important way: giving financial support. No, we’re not talking about buying from brands who lavishly put rainbow colors in their products but are mute when fighting for the community. We’re talking about patronizing the businesses of the ones who do [advocate the causes of the community], get to know why they do what they do and what is their personal story behind their cause.
Even before the pandemic, they are already struggling with housing, education, and even looking for a job much more than a normal citizen. It is more punishing for the queer community who needs to overcome gruesome barriers before they even get into the game. Whether it’s supporting somebody’s crowdfunding, lending a money for a queer protest, or buying from queer-owned businesses—these acts do so much more than just Twitter love.
Gratefully, there are organizations, groups, and social media methods that help the community. Like the Ali Forney Center that helps queers who were kicked out of their homes or who ran away because of abuse, neglect or rejection. If you’re a queer business owner, there’s The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce who can help expand your economic opportunities and flourish more in the industry. If you want to directly help someone from the community, there are hashtags like #TransCrowdFund that will lead you to crowdfunds that they have personally set up themselves and maybe, keep in touch with the person you are helping.
Love is a beautiful noun, but it is also a verb. Real love takes action and so is being an ally. Yes, sometimes, it sounds like we have made much progress especially if we compare it to the last 50 years. But the truth is, we still have a long way to go. There are still imprisoning, oppressive ideologies that keep on persisting. In analogy, for every step forward, we are also making two steps back. Only with consistent and practical efforts from both the queer and ally population can we make these steps forward be just that—steps forward towards a more inclusive society.