Photo: Toni Reed on Unsplash
Allies of the LGBT+ community can sometimes have a hard time toeing the line between being too involved and too uninvolved. If they are too uninvolved, they are criticized for not being a true ally of the community or not using their privilege for good. If they are too involved, they can be seen as trying to emulate or make light of the struggles that the LGBT+ community faces. So what is the best way to go about being an ally?
Showing up is the first part and sometimes the hardest one. It can feel like there is no space for allies at a pride event, and even though the A in LGBTQIA stands for aromantic, asexual, and agender and not ally, allies still have an important role. If you’re an ally and are reluctant about going to a pride event, try to make it a group event -- invite some of your fellow allies or LGBT+ community friends so you don’t feel like the “odd one out”. Remember that your presence is essential -- actions speak louder than words.
Once at the event, be sure to participate! Don’t hang around the sidelines because you feel like you’re not a part of it -- that will just single you out more. Take part in what you feel comfortable with and make the most of the event!
One of the most important aspects of pride events is a lack of judgement. In the same way that you wouldn’t want anyone to judge you for being an ally, don’t judge anyone else. Appearance, clothing choices, or whether they appear “straight” is irrelevant. Don’t question it too much -- everyone there should have the same mindset. Create a judgement-free zone! A lot of how allies should act overlaps with how everyone at the pride events should act. Common courtesy applies here as it does in all aspects of life. It’s not likely that anyone will even know that you’re an ally unless you tell them. There is no certain “look” for people of the LGBT+ community or allies, even though some people think they can tell from their own preconceived notions and stereotypes. In a sea of rainbow flags and stickers, you’re unlikely to stand out. So don’t make yourself stand out! Be kind and considerate always.
The most prominent distinction between a member of the community and an ally is being aware of one’s place. First, it is essential to know the history of Pride and have a basic understanding of the oppression and discrimination that the LGBT+ community has faced. Knowing their struggles leads to more of an understanding of the important history but also allows allies to recognize their own privilege and realize that the event is not -- and has never been -- for them. While allies are welcome at pride events, remember that if you are an ally, this is not just a day you get to party once a year, to “join in on the club”. If you celebrate at Pride with the LGBT+ community, expect to step up the rest of the year as well -- your privilege and support is needed all the time!
Stephanie is an undergraduate student at Washington College. She is an English major with minors in Journalism, Editing, and Publishing, and Justice, Law, and Society. When not writing, you can find her either at a concert, reading a book, or petting a cat.