This June, L.A. CADA continues to celebrate Pride Month with you. Have you ever wanted to be a good ally to LGBTQ+ people? Here are some suggestions from L.A. CADA’s behavioral healthcare staff:
- First, listen to LGBTQ+ people and educate yourself. Be open and truly listen to their stories, and ask questions respectfully.
- Check your privilege. Many of us (including people in the LGBTQ+ community) have some type of privilege – whether it’s racial, class, education, being cis-gendered, able-bodied or straight. Being privileged doesn’t mean that you haven’t had your fair share of struggles in life. It just means that there are some things you won’t ever have to worry about because of the way you were born. Understanding your own privileges can help you empathize with marginalized or oppressed groups.
- Don’t assume. Don’t assume a person is straight or that someone else is gay. Don’t assume someone’s gender or pronouns. Asking is ok. LGBTQ+ people don’t always look a particular way and someone’s current or previous partner doesn’t define their sexuality for life. A person close to you could be looking for support – not making assumptions will give them the space they need to be their authentic self and open up to you in their own time.
Think of ‘ally’ as an action rather than a label. It’s easy to call ourself an ally, but that label isn’t enough. Oppression doesn’t take breaks. To be an effective ally you need to be willing to be consistent in your support of LGBTQ+ rights and defend LGBTQ+ people against discrimination. Anti-LGBTQ+ comments and jokes are harmful – respectfully let your friends, family and co-workers know that as an ally you find these things offensive. It takes all members of society to make true acceptance and respect happen, and you can lead as an example to others.
Know that language matters. People connect through language. The majority of us respect when someone changes their nickname – accommodating LGBTQ+ people’s names and pronouns is no different. If you are unsure of someone’s pronoun or label, just ask them. When meeting new people try integrating inclusive language into your regular conversations by using gender neutral terms such as ‘partner’ and keep an eye on any unintentionally offensive language you may use
Know that you will mess up sometimes – breathe, apologize, and ask for guidance. Did you have a conversation with someone who is trans or non-binary, and unintentionally use the wrong pronoun? It happens – don’t panic. Just apologize: “I’m sorry, that wasn’t the word I meant to use. I’m trying to be a better ally and learn the right terminology, but I’m still working on it. If you hear me misuse something, I’d really appreciate if you could let me know.” The person you’re talking to will know that this process of unlearning is new to you and will appreciate your honesty and effort.
Learn: How to be an Ally