A A recent Gallup poll indicates that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals (LGBTQ) make up about four percent of the adult population in the US.Our society has made a lot of progress in accepting the LGBTQ community in the last ten years, but more needs to be done. Their representation in media has increased; according to GLAAD, “The overall percentage of LGBT regular characters on scripted broadcast series [IN 2015] is 4%, an increase of one-tenth of a percentage point since 2014.” In addition to the growing number of LGBTQ folks represented in the media, almost every major city in North America hosts a pride festival, parade, or other event. And changes are being made in the government to make sure that these folks are treated with equality. In June of 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that state bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional and the LGBTQ community celebrated nationwide.
However, discrimination is still widespread. This isn’t surprising, considering how recent these positive cultural changes have occurred. The good news is that there is plenty that you can do in your community to create a positive and accepting atmosphere for LGBTQ people. Small, daily efforts can go a long way toward combating discrimination and fostering a community where LGBTQ people can be open and proud of their identities.
Small Actions for Solidarity
The most basic thing you can do to foster LGBTQ pride in your community starts inside your mind: don’t automatically assume everyone is heterosexual and cisgender. A heterosexual person is one who experiences only opposite-gender attraction, and the term ‘cisgender’ denotes someone who identifies as the gender they were assigned at birth. According to Trans Student Educational Resources, this is the identity a person feels that they are inside their mind and is not indicative of their sexual orientation, their gender expression (the way they dress/present themselves), hormonal makeup, physical anatomy, or how they are perceived by others in daily life.
- Another thing you can do is avoid asking invasive questions about LGBTQ people’s sexuality or gender. Make an effort to educate yourself on anything you’re curious about. If you want to know more about the lives of LGBTQ people, reach out and get to know them, beyond their sexuality and/or gender.
One of the most effective ways to foster LGBTQ pride in your community is to use your voice to speak out against anyone trying to harass, intimidate, or otherwise verbally attack LGBTQ individuals. This is a simple but powerful gesture. This method of activism is confirmed by Southern Poverty Law Center in their guide on how to fight hate when they state that apathy in the face of hatred is interpreted as acceptance of hatred. Publicly calling out anti-LGBTQ words and behavior educates the person creating the hostile environment, communicates to others in your community that anti-LGBTQ rhetoric is NOT tolerated, and shows your LGBTQ neighbors that your community is a safe and inclusive place for them.
For example, a lesbian couple in Massachusetts hung a pride flag outside of their home in response to the Pulse shootings, a violent attack against the LGBT community, which left 49 people killed and 53 injured. When their flag was stolen and their front porch was egged, their neighbors decided to hang pride flags outside of their homes. The other neighbors caught on quickly, and over 40 pride flags in their neighborhood were hung in a miraculous show of solidarity.
LGBTQ youth are a high-risk group and need support. They are often victims of bullying, with 86% of LGBTQ youth reporting harassment at school, compared to 27% of all students being bullied. LGBTQ youth do not always have a safe, comfortable, or validating home environment, and if this is the case, they will seek out other places to hang out where they can be themselves. These youths are at a high risk of becoming homeless due to family rejection. If you are a parent, educate your children on LGBTQ terminology and issues. Empower your children to stand up to bullies who target LGBTQ children and teens. An easy way to support LGBTQ youths is to let your kids’ friends know that your home is a safe space where they can be themselves. Validation from a caring adult can go a long way.
The Bigger Picture
On a broader scale, there are several actions you can take to have a positive impact on your community for LGBTQ people. Support businesses that are owned by and serve the LGBTQ population and leave them positive reviews online. If you own a business, hang a pride flag in the window of your business, or place a pride flag image on your website to show solidarity. Donate money to and volunteer at non-profits dedicated to LGBTQ issues, especially those that serve youth and transgender individuals because these are the most at-risk groups within the community. Fight against the anti-LGBTQ legislation that lawmakers often try to pass by staying up-to-date, making others aware with social media and neighborhood fliers, and calling your local representative to let them know that you do not support anti-LGBTQ legislation in your state, and of course voting!
We’re All in This Together
The LGBTQ community needs allies now more than ever. Many positive strides have been made both legally and culturally, but discrimination is still rampant and more needs to be done. There is still a long way to go to make positive changes in individual attitudes, housing, the workplace, and legislation. Attitudes toward LGBTQ folks are slowly changing for the better and you can help expedite that cultural shift in your local community. Start by implementing the small positive changes from this article into your daily life until those changes become firm habit. Stand up for LGBTQ people wherever you see injustice! After that, you may feel inspired to move on to bigger actions. Eventually, you and your friends will be calling your government representatives on a regular basis fighting for equal rights for LGBTQ people on all fronts. Before you know it, you will be proud to call yourself an LGBTQ activist.