Every June for as long as I can remember I have participated in Pride Festivals across the United States. From Minneapolis, to Nashville, to San Francisco, to Winston Salem, the message is ALWAYS the same: LOVE is LOVE. It’s really a simple thought. Love is Love. A man and a woman, and man and a man, a woman and a woman. Sometimes the turnout varies in size at these events, but the message is always the same: Love is Love. So in order to help learn how to be a better Ally, here are just a few tips I’ve picked up along the way.
1.) Be willing to listen.
Not just hear words, but really listen. This one took me a long time to learn, but it has made a tremendous difference. My wife tells me all the time that I would try to offer solutions to problems that I’ve created. Meaning, when she is venting to me about her day, instead of listening, I would offer solutions. She wasn’t looking for solutions, she was looking for someone to listen. Be ready to just listen.
2.) Be prepared to have your sense of what is right and what is wrong challenged.
I was lucky in that I grew up in a home that supported and encouraged my siblings and me to be ourselves. My aunt to this day, tells us to “be and become the best of whom we are meant to be”. It’s not easy, but growing up and learning to unlearn discrimination is possible.
3.) Educate yourself on issues the community is facing.
A question I hear a lot from my friends is WHY do we need a whole month dedicated to a sexual orientation? The answer is to remind ourselves that not everyone has it has easy as we do. There are issues big and small that the LGBTQ community faces daily. Issues that include worrying about what pictures you display on your desk (there are still 28 states in which you can be fired just for being gay – not to mention many countries where being gay is illegal and punishable by death), to being limited to which bakeries you can buy your wedding cakes at.
4.) Be prepared to defend against discrimination.
As an Ally, you may face SOME of the same bigotry and hatred that the LGBTQ community faces. Be ready to speak up. No one can change the world alone, but we can all do our part to make a difference. People face racism, bigotry, and sexism everyday. An Ally should not just be an Ally for LGBTQ rights, but should be an Ally for HUMAN rights.
The golden rule. So simple, and yet, so often forgotten.
I shouldn’t be on this planet. No, really. I shouldn’t be here. Let me explain. My grandmother was a Holocaust survivor. I say survivor and truly mean survivor. At the age of 11, her family was put on a train to the Treblinka death camp and exterminated. She, along with her brother, was able to escape and survive the remaining years of the war due to the kindness, love, and bravery of others. If others didn’t step up to fight against what they believed was wrong, my grandma wouldn’t have survived. Which means my mother wouldn’t be alive, which means I wouldn’t be here. So even though the fight for equality is not being waged by any one group, there are still serious risks involved. LGBTQ persons have suicide rates that are much higher than average. Homelessness and shame are rampant among the LGBTQ youth. It’s too important of an issue to do nothing. So do something. #BeYourself