What does it mean to be an ally to the LGBTQ2SIA+ community and why is it so important? Let’s start with the fundamentals and analyze LGBTQ2SIA+ as a term; generally, the initials stand for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, two-spirit, intersex, and asexual/aromantic. These are not indicative of an extensive list of initials and that is what the + indicates. Keep in mind, also, that the LGBTQ2SIA+ term encompasses multiple gender identities and sexual orientations. In comparison, it’s also important to differentiate between gender and biological sex; gender refers to a set of socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers acceptable. Alternatively, biological sex refers to the anatomical, physiological, genetic, or physical attributes that determine if a person is assigned male, female, or intersex at birth; biological sex also includes mentions of hormones, chromosomes, internal or external genitalia, or any combination of primary/secondary sex characteristics. (There are a multitude of additional terms that an ally may want to be cognizant of and are worth exploring with the listed resources at the end of this post.)
Now that we have a good foundation for knowledge, how does one actively engage as an ally to the LGBTQ2SIA+ community? I would say one should start with being aware of the systemic issues our communities are currently facing, such as: bathroom restrictions, sport participation restrictions, school curriculum restrictions, adoption/foster restrictions, healthcare restrictions (both in providing and receiving), gay/transgender panic defense being legal in 33 states, and a severe lack of consequences for deliberately sharing misleading/inaccurate information. At the microlevel, support and advocacy can look like: having open conversations with queer/transgender loved ones, correcting and educating others (while continuing to seek and further your own education), asking what kind of protection queer/transgender individuals want you to provide (and in what contexts), practicing talking to queer/transgender individuals (and about them) with their self-identified terms, offering redemptive opportunities (like bachelor parties, gay/queer prom, etc.), and continuing to value queer/transgender individuals (and treating them as a whole person [not just as one identity]). Support and advocacy at the macrolevel can be more institutional and may include actions like: voting at the local/state/federal levels for human rights protections, supporting/shopping at organizations/stores that equitably offer services for all customers, calling out educators/politicians/folks in power who support/use inaccurate/harmful tropes as scare tactics, avoiding engaging with sensationalized stories that derail human rights campaigns by refocusing on “woke” culture (and avoiding the slippery slope fallacy), and donating to mutual aid and legal aid groups that directly serve LGBTQ2SIA+ people. Furthermore, it may be beneficial for allies and LGBTQ2SIA+ individuals alike to dismantle myths, such as: a bisexual person in a straight-presenting relationship is not actually bisexual, a person who changes their sexual orientation label is just doing it for attention/as part of a phase, a person’s sexual orientation is a choice, queer people only “come out” once, etc.
What about the difference between performative allyship and true allyship? This is a more nuanced distinction; performative allyship is based on the idea of self-gratification and does not look at your responsibility within a community. It is done to make yourself feel better, to “prove” you are not a homophobe (or a biphobe, a transphobe, a racist, a xenophobe, etc.), to create a perception of yourself for others, and/or to be trendy. In comparison, true allyship requires follow-through and the first step is to recognize when your allyship is performative. Further steps include: informing yourself (and understanding that your personal education is never done), supporting the existing work (by standing behind organizations and movements led by marginalized groups), and creating change where you can (by identifying areas in which you have power/privilege, like in the workplace, at a religious establishment, and/or at an educational institute).
Finally, how do we as an organization support other LGBTQ2SIA+ groups? This ranges from highlighting/working with queer businesses/performers/community members and giving funds via our annual scholarship. We also raise money for/make donations to TransPonder and HIV Alliance; in addition, this year we will be donating to Queer Eugene.
Want more resources/places to find reputable information? Please consider the following:
· American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
· Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)
· Mind Mental Health Advocacy
· National Suicide Hotline: (800) 273-8255 or 988
· Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)
· Planned Parenthood
· Trans Lifeline: (877) 565-8860
· Trans Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF)
· Trans Youth Equality
· Trevor Project
· SPART*A (Trans Veterans)