June is Pride Month, a celebration of those in the LGBTQIA+ community and an opportunity to raise awareness of current issues the community is facing. The team at EmpowHERto stands beside the LGBTQIA+ community and believes this is a great time to consider how one might become a better ally. Perhaps start by asking yourself, “How am I treating those around me and using my privilege to create a space for positive change?”
One major issue facing the LGBTQIA+ community is bullying. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bullying is described as “any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths…that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated. Bullying may inflict harm or distress on the targeted youth including physical, psychological, social, or educational harm.”
According to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), 49 percent of LGBTQ students have experienced cyberbullying, 55.5 percent feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, and 22.7 percent have been physically harassed because of their gender expression.
National LGBTQ Task Force released an analysis that shows “anti-transgender bias coupled with structural racism meant that transgender people of color experienced particularly devastating levels of discrimination, with Black respondents often faring worse than all others.”
You may be wondering what you can do to help alleviate bullying or other types of pain people in the LGBTQIA+ community face. We suggest applying behavioral changes one can adopt in their day-to-day life:
Call out homophobic behavior, whether it was meant seriously or as a joke. Try to intervene in moments of verbal or physical violence. All it takes is one voice to make a difference.
Vote for politicians who support the LGBTQIA+ community. While hate crimes are certainly illegal, there are still discriminatory practices that persist to this day. To create concrete change, it is best to put into law the necessary freedoms, rights, and protections that allow for the total safety of LGBTQIA+ individuals.
If you are in a position of authority, especially at school, create a safe space. One example of this is the use of genderless restrooms or creating a Gay-Straight Alliance (STOMP Out Bullying provides a great outline to start one).
Educate yourself through literature, cinema, television programs, or social media. Note that educating yourself might mean removing ingrained biases and changing the way you think of or perceive people in the LGBTQIA+ community.
Understand the nuances within the LGBTQIA+ community. We suggest reviewing the term “intersectionality” to get started, which is the idea that an individual may face oppression from several different avenues (this could be due to gender, socioeconomic position, career, education, sexuality, ethnicity, skin color, etc.).
Have tough discussions with family and friends. Explain where you stand and that you will not tolerate intolerance.
Use your platform to amplify LGBTQIA+ voices and spread awareness of injustices the community faces daily. By doing so, you are using your privilege to normalize the idea that mistreating any individual because of their sexual orientation or gender expression is wrong.
Listen to LGBTQIA+ stories. By listening attentively, you are promoting respect and providing an outlet for people to share. Do not argue or dismiss someone’s feelings, even though your experience may be different from someone else’s.
Take to heart what you are doing. If you are doing this for your own self-image, then you may be a performative ally. To stand with the LGBTQIA+ community is to stand for justice, equality, and freedom.
It is important to note that the personal behaviors and practices we mentioned above should be implemented every month (not just during Pride) to see positive change.
If you or someone you know is being bullied due to sexual orientation or gender identity, there is help. Look at resources provided by the CDC, such as communication tools, online support groups, and student-run organizations. If you know other efficient ways of being an ally and/or excellent resources to support, please connect with us on IG and Facebook @Empowherto.
Founded in 2015, EmpowHERto is a Toronto-based non-profit organization dedicated to helping 14-21 year-old women and girls reach their fullest potential.