Every year when June rolls around I get excited to see a myriad of rainbows around the city of Boulder announcing the arrival of Pride Month. Then the month ends, and I find myself wondering if those individuals and businesses that displayed their pride so openly are still promoting LGBTQ allyship all year long?
Don’t get me wrong, I love to see people being open about their support for folx in the LGBTQ community during Pride month, however, I really want to see this behavior, this allyship, and this activism throughout the year. I want to see people continue to work on themselves (or their company) and think about ways they can do better and learn more.
At North Boulder Counseling, we feel strongly that allyship is not simply a shiny badge that you wear one month a year or put on when you want to impress others. It is a mindset and a way of life that shows your support for the LGBTQ+ community. So, today we’ll discuss 5 ways you can be a great ally beyond the month of July.
Allyship: The state or condition of being an ally: supportive association with another person or group specifically the members of a marginalized or mistreated group to which one does not belong
5 Ways to Be a Good LGBTQ Ally All Year Long:
#1: Listen Well
Listening to members of the LGBTQ+ community is absolutely essential to good allyship. Every member of the community has a different story to share and it’s important that you listen to gain different perspectives on what it means to identify as LGBTQIA+.
One part of listening well is making it known that you offer a safe space for LGBTQ folx to share their story and express themselves. For a member of the LGBTQ community to feel like they have the ability to say what’s on their mind and be vulnerable is powerful.
Keep in mind is that it’s okay to ask questions during a conversation, but you cannot expect a certain response. Sometimes, even though you likely don’t mean it, your questions may feel uncomfortable for the person you’re speaking with or they may just be tired of having to explain themselves and their identity to others. Ultimately, they DO NOT owe you a response.
Lastly, please remember that if someone shares their story with you, it is never appropriate to share it with others.
#2: Keep Learning About LGBTQ issues
This one may seem obvious, but it’s not so simple. Many people who are passionate about allyship learn a lot about LGBTQ issues in the beginning. Then, they begin to slip into complacency assuming that they know enough. But, here’s the thing, LGBTQIA+ issues change. Furthermore, what it takes to truly be an ally also changes with the times. So keeping up to date with what’s happening is really important.
Below I will share with you some initial places to get started learning more about LGBTQIA issues and the history of the LGBTQIA movement.
Overall Learning: The Human Rights Campaign publishes fantastic articles that pertain to allyship.
History: Here is a great PBS article that discusses the history of the LGBTQIA movement.
Key terms and their definitions: The Trevor Project’s glossary covers important words and terms that allies should know.
Bias: Take the Harvard Implicit Bias Quiz to learn more about where your implicit biases are. Remember, knowledge is power.
Other Allies: This one doesn’t come with a link, but make time to find social media accounts or platforms where other allies share their stores and discuss their activism. You may find that you’ll learn a lot from them!
#3: Speak Up For, But Never Over, LGBTQ Folx
When you’re passionate about a cause it’s natural to share your knowledge with others. Especially when you’re defending others. That’s an important part of activism! So while it’s absolutely okay, and very important that you stand up for members of the LGBTQ community if they’re being persecuted in any fashion, you need to be cognizant that your voice does not overpower theirs.
Imagine how you would feel if you never got the opportunity to advocate for yourself or stand up for yourself. Think about how you would feel if someone tried to speak for you as if your struggles were theirs? That would be frustrating, right?
So, allow members of the community to tell their stories, share their feelings, and educate others if they want. Step back and cheer them on!
#4: Know how to handle your missteps
As an ally and someone who cares deeply about how others feel, making a mistake like accidentally misgendering someone or not using their preferred name makes me feel terrible! So, it’s tempting to over-apologize. The thing is, this is not always appropriate and it may actually make the person you’re apologizing to feel worse.
If you’re caught in this tricky situation, take a deep breath to manage your anxiety. Do not become overly emotional or defensive. Do not make a big scene. If you do this it makes the situation all about you and that’s not okay. Instead, simply acknowledge your mistake, own it, apologize, and share what you’ll do differently next time. If you’re still feeling poorly about the situation, or feel like the person you were speaking to is still upset, then find a moment to speak with them privately. Listen to them explain why they’re feeling this way and discuss what you can do differently next time.
#5: Share your pronouns publicly
This is important, especially in a professional setting. You may be thinking, well my outside appearance matches the way I identify, so should I still share? The answer is yes!
Sharing your pronouns publicly makes it okay for others to share theirs as well. This prevents people from being misgendered or people from making incorrect assumptions about gender based on someone’s outside appearance.
Ultimately, sharing our preferred pronouns and using others’ correct pronouns is a way of affirming who they are. As an ally, I can’t think of anything more important than that!
Wanting to learn more about pronouns, check out this article from the University of California San Fransisco’s LGBTQ resource center!
Concluding Thoughts and Resources at North Bolder Counseling
As therapists, we feel passionate about being LGBTQ allies. So, we hope you found this article really helpful. We encourage you to continue to express your allyship all year round and support the LGBTQ community.
If you know of a member of the LGBTQIA+ community that is looking for counseling in Boulder or the State of Colorado, we would be honored if you would encourage them to contact our North Boulder Counseling. Our therapists offer supportive LGBTQ counseling in-person at our Boulder counseling clinic and online.
Our therapists offer a wide variety of mental health services including an anxiety treatment intensive program, anxiety treatment, postpartum anxiety treatment, postpartum depression counseling, perinatal support, parenting coaching, grief counseling, trauma treatment and EMDR, eating disorder treatment, depression treatment, teen therapy, and play therapy.
Additionally, we also offer professional supervision and consulting, for clinicians.
If you’re ready to get the support you need to overcome your mental health concerns, get in touch with our counseling clinic today and make an appointment to begin your healing journey!