By, Chelsea Turner
Local blogger, fiber artist, and Pela Case Customer Experience Specialist, Chelsea Turner (she/her/they/them) have shared with us, "How to Be an Ally". Read this post to gain a better understanding of how you can actively support the LGBTQIA2S+ community.
It’s that time of year again, Pride month, let there be rainbows and love for all!
There is one thing though, that happens during June, which the LGBTQIA2S+ community will audibly and collectively groan over - the ‘performative displays’. It can be hard to discern who actually is there for us, and not just targeting another sales demographic.
Big corporations, in all sorts of industries, show up in full ‘rainbowed up’ force for Pride celebrations while glossing over our most challenging and overlooked part: the everyday.
If you’re looking to support and elevate the LGBTQIA2S+ people in your life, I have a few easy ways you can accomplish this! These suggestions can help provide a welcome and safe environment for those who also might not be out yet. It’s a great way to ensure you’re showing off what a great ally you are and can be, whether it is pride month or not!
Words are powerful. This is, for sure, one of the easiest ways to show you’re an ally! My partner is non-binary; we got married in April and while they use ‘they/she’ pronouns - they requested and love that I call them my wife. How someone expresses their gender is not ..binary (yeah I did). It is a personal journey, so what works for one person might not work for another!
When someone is their authentic self and possibly changed their name and/or pronouns, it’s important you make the effort to respect that! We don’t always know what meaning or memories surrounding their given name can have, so something as seemingly small as addressing them by their correct name and pronouns can mean so much. It is a lot to overcome, so, if someone has confided in you to share their truth, it should carry some weight.
The easiest way to think of it is when someone's last name changes with a marriage. We don’t ask “Why would you do that?” or go out of our way to use a maiden name because “That’s what it always was and it's too confusing”. Plus, since many refer to cars as a ‘she/he’, we can give a human that same effort. It really is that simple - scouts honour!
I’ve been elated to see self-discovery and authentic living becoming more common. As society grows its awareness and more people with platforms challenge the status quo, from Elliot Page to recently Demi Levato, there is finally some more visible representation. Major social media platforms are catching on; Instagram updated with improvements to show pronouns, with Facebook leading that charge by offering pronoun options in 2014.
I believe it’s important to normalize having pronouns talked about and displayed. Our expectation shouldn’t be that someone who is already in a marginalized community needs to further identify themselves, but that people in general state how they liked to be addressed!
Need a better example? How did you feel the last time someone, perhaps slightly younger than
you, dropped a “Ma’am” or a “Sir” on you unexpectedly?
“Hey, I’m Chelsea, I go by she/they, I have 2 dogs and a cat, and I love hiking. What’s your name and pronouns?” is a quick, easy, and inclusive introduction.
If you take the initiative to mention yours first it can be an invitation to others to do the same, as well as taking off some of the pressure or anxiety someone may feel in disclosing theirs. It doesn’t always have to be a big show around pronouns and believe me, we don’t always want a big show!
Hey, you’re on a roll! You can tackle some quick changes in your workplace with phrasing when addressing large groups or doing introductions. This can open the floor to inclusive language, avoiding gendered phrases like “Ladies and Gentlemen” or “Hey guys” and using something more neutral like; “Good morning/afternoon everyone” or “Hey all!”.
In any scenario, even when we all have the pronouns out and understood, mistakes happen and we get it! It’s important to catch yourself when you notice, then carry on without dwelling on it. When a mistake gets drawn out, it can often lead to the misaddressed person feeling as though they need to console you, and it’s not really about the mistake anymore.
Ie: “Yeah, it was awesome! She, sorry, they had this really stellar set up!”
If it’s something that you catch later, reaching out to the person and acknowledging that you had the hiccup, and you’ll be more mindful next time, is also amazing. If it was something I’ve done, I don’t want to make it their responsibility to remind me or try and get an acknowledgement for my mistake. Society has come a long way from where it was when I was growing up. But there are still echoes of its teachings in others, who aren’t as inclusive or receptive to what wasn’t the ‘typical’. Accountability starts at seeing that it started in that misconception, but the growth is in understanding and owning that, moving forward.
Now, naturally, everyone and every situation is different. Some people might react negatively to a mistake initially; while it can be hard to receive that kind of response, it isn’t personal. Something to keep in mind; they have likely gone their whole life with this struggle. It could have been fight-or-flight mode in social situations for a long time and/or dealt with people going out of their way to misgender or ‘dead name’ them. Showing compassion in the face of that discomfort is something we’re all worth.
That point leads right into a pretty fantastic thing to do with your language as an ally.
Use your voice to gently nudge or remind others to use the correct names and pronouns when you notice it’s not being done, as it might be a risk for the person it’s directed at to address on their own. Depending on the situation and people involved, this could be done in the moment or off to the side afterwards. This is very valued and is especially appreciated when you’re correcting someone who might be doing this intentionally. You are helping create a safer space by showing understanding and solidarity.
For a lot of the LGBTQIA2S+ community, being out and authentically themselves isn’t or wasn’t easy. Unfortunately, homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia are still acceptable and sometimes even celebrated or encouraged in over 130 countries. Even in 2021, as someone who works for a genuine and openly inclusive company in a progressive country, I still encounter people who comment on our platforms and others with this mentality.
It can be challenging to navigate and understand something that you personally don’t experience. An awesome friend of mine described his experience as feeling as though he would have to choose between lying and pretending to be someone he’s not, or be his authentic self with the potential to lose family, friends, jobs, housing and/or be harassed. Your support is needed because of this feeling that a lot of us have felt and because, in a few situations, it actually provides safety.
Prior to Covid, one of the most beautiful movements I witnessed at a Pride event was the ‘Free Parent Hugs’ volunteers. Watching grown adults break like water into the arms of strangers just as a result of that presence of love and solidarity they have never received, is such joy and sadness.
A hug can go a long way.
You can totally elevate this community with or without it being Pride Month! From ensuring support of businesses and events that are run by us all year long, to simply sharing & interacting on articles/posts that we share. It’s important to find a balance to raise BIPOC voices, establishments, and causes as well. Even in a community that already faces adversity, these voices are needing more support and recognition. At the end of the day, It’s not all about equality - it’s about equity.
But here’s the kicker, your contribution doesn’t always have to be monetary (although who doesn’t like and appreciate a cheque)! There are, very likely, a few local organizations around you that need volunteers, resources or mentors, that would love any offered help!
If you work in a space available to the public, displaying that you’re ‘Rainbow Friendly’ or a ‘Safe Space’ is a quick show of support. Taking it a step further, if you’re in a position to, by looking into arranging training or a diversity meeting for staff. This provides an opportunity to learn more about the challenges that the community meets, and how to be respectful and aware.
There are a lot of attempts to have my communities' rights and/or education denied or taken away. Try to be aware of what’s going on in your city and local ridings. Whether in levels of government or as small as, but super important, school board platforms! Our youth need us.
When you take a moment to see an issue and express your solidarity with us, as well as use your platform to encourage others to do the same, it makes a difference. The statistics surrounding our community, especially youth, can be devastating to learn.
There is a lot surrounding our struggle that is often overlooked or dismissed. Using your voice in support to open the floor in important discussions and listen to the experiences and issues is invaluable. Sometimes that might mean sitting in the uncomfortable, but as already mentioned, your attention and willingness to listen is your compassion. These are the moments it’s needed most.
Simply speaking, your awareness means that you have an idea of what topics we need addressed and issues we are currently facing.
There are people in your life that see how you interact with us. Things shared, ignored, said, and how you reacted to others' poor treatment. Those paying attention could be very impressionable, like children, siblings, or others within or outside of the queer community. It could be friends, coworkers, or neighbours who are not yet out, due to a myriad of reasons. Making these and/or other inclusive changes brings awareness, within discussions.
To be honest, being aware can be as basic as remembering that we are all the same bunch of meat popsicles, on a pale blue dot, ripping around a star, just trying to live life in a way that is happy, meaningful, safe, and authentic to the best of our abilities. Remember to be kind.
The way I’d like to end is by thanking you for being you, and taking the time to read this. But I do have a request.
For Pride awareness this year, I take this opportunity as a neuro-divergent genderqueer member of the LGBTQIA2S+ community, to challenge you to find someone or something within your community and raise them up after June is over.
That can look like: Sharing a post, story or something someone has created, a business, bringing awareness to an injustice, reaching out to an organization and inquiring about volunteering or any assistance they might need - just to name a few ideas.
The topics I have touched on in this post can make the space and experience with you a safe and supportive one.
But, to be frank, remembering that the need for supporting this community isn’t over when June is, is also absolutely ace. Pun intended.