I recently had the displeasure of going to a gay club and being hit on by not one, not two, but a whole handful of men. Although this may be a successful evening for some women, it is quite literally my worst nightmare. For me, nights out have never been about finding someone to take home anyway. I simply go out to have a laugh with my friends, critique the bartenders cocktail making skills and bust my best moves on the dance floor. Even if securing a romantic interest for the evening was my intention, I would expect the best (and safest) place to do that would be in a bar or club that is for gay people. Unfortunately, I found myself having to ‘come out’ repeatedly throughout the night just to have some peace, only to have one of my pursuers ask in disgust “Gay?! A pretty girl like you?!” Yes, that’s right sir, I’m a big ol’ lezza and there’s nothing you or your ego can do about it. P.S you’re clearly in the wrong venue.
Even as a friend or family member of an LGBTQ person, you might think your lack of homophobic treatment is enough for you to consider yourself an ally, however you may not be as supportive and accepting as you think you are. Whether you’re wanting to play a more supportive role, or you plan on forwarding this to someone who needs to read it, below are some tips on becoming a better ally:
Respect the Ongoing Battle / History of LGBTQ Rights
The LGBTQ community have been fighting for equal rights for centuries. A fight that continues to this day. Even supposedly progressive parts of the world such as the UK didn’t legalise same sex marriage until 2014, with Northern Ireland dragging its feet behind, finally legalising it in 2020. In over 70 countries worldwide homosexuality is still unaccepted, and in some circumstances, it can be punishable by law. Imagine facing legal battles for loving who you want to love – To love freely without fear of repercussions is a privilege that straight people take for granted.
Be Mindful of Who You Bring to LGBTQ Spaces
Perhaps you are one of the genuine allies, but don’t assume all your friends are as open minded. Anti-gay hate crimes are still exceptionally high, so taking anyone into a gay space who will respond in a hostile manner if someone tries flirting with them contradicts the idea of having safe spaces for LGBTQ people in the first place. Straight people are accepted everywhere so you have plenty of other options.
Many spaces which are created for gay people will always be welcoming to straight allies, but please be a genuine ally and respect the spaces you are in. This includes refraining from excessively yelling “Yasssss Queen!” in our faces.
Check Your ‘Friends’
In addition to the above, it’s worth having a discussion with any bad vibes friends if they make insensitive jokes or throwaway comments because these contribute to homophobia in the same way microaggressions contribute to racism. It implies a lack of acceptance. Although you can’t necessarily change people, you might be able to educate some of them to be less ignorant. Emphasis on the might…
Be Supportive of LGBTQ Relationship Difficulties
There’s often a running joke about how quickly gay couples tend to move, or that gay relationships consist of a lot of drama. Even if your friend is on their fifth bae of the year, or if they moved in together after two weeks, please take their feelings seriously if they are experiencing troubles in their relationship and they trust you enough to approach you for help. Their choices might not make sense to you however their feelings are valid, and it is important they feel they have supportive friends to help and guide them through whatever they may be experiencing, especially if you have an indication their relationship displays toxic or abusive tendencies.
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
There is no better way to support the LGBTQ community than financially supporting our organisations (which are often underfunded), establishments or creative endeavours. Simply choosing to live life as an openly LGBTQ person can come with a whole load of hardships including being cut off from friends or family, experiences with poverty, homelessness, and abuse. Anyone dealing with these types of trauma may not have access to the help and support they need and rely on organisations founded by members of our community to support them. To make it easier for you, I’ll link some notable places to donate to below.
Stonewall – Founded in 1989, Stonewall have been part of every major fight for LGBTQ+ rights ever since, including the legalisation of same sex marriages, adoption rights for same sex couples, protection from discrimination in the workplace and LGBTQ-inclusive education.
The Love Tank – A non-for-profit CIC promoting health and wellbeing, providing information on PrEP through awareness events as well as contributing to research surrounding PrEP and sexual health.
UK Black Pride – Europe’s largest celebration for African, Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American and Caribbean-heritage LGBTQI+ people.
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