In case the sudden abundance of rainbows didn’t make it clear, June is Pride Month. Founded in honor of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, Pride Month has become a time for celebration, acceptance and discussion between the LGTBQ+ community and the world at large. We’ve made great strides in recent years toward acceptance and equality, but, as our current governing administration has shown us, we still have a long way to go. You may be thinking “How can I, a straight person, be supportive during this time?” The short answer is to be a friend, to both the community and to individuals, and show your support without commandeering the cause. The long answer is to be an ally, but what exactly does that mean? We reached out to the LGBTQ+ community to find out.
Be a Friend
As stated above, this is the very least you can do, and yet it means so much. Just being accepting, open and welcoming to others can make a world of difference in their lives.
“Not outing anyone without their permission,
being there for a friend whose family isn’t supportive of them,
not going to a pride parade unless you’re invited by one of your lgbtq+ friends,
don’t joke about why there isn’t a straight pride parade.
Common sense stuff really.” – Jamie F.
If you are invited to attend any Pride events, and if the event isn’t age restricted, then don’t be afraid to bring the kiddos. Take them to parades, bring them to festivals, and let them know and see that there’s nothing to fear and everything to love.
“Even if you’re an ally, I think some people think
that queer people coming together
and not including straight people in their dialogue
is straight oppression or “straight hate.”
It’s not. It’s just queer voices appreciating
being able to actually hear other queer voices. “ – Alyssa L.
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
Thanks to the wonders of capitalism, every major corporation that rides the moral gray line of human decency is putting out Pride campaigns to try and convince consumers to choose them over others because they support the cause. That sounds great on paper, but in practice, not all of these organizations follow through on these promises or are telling the whole story. This might get tricky, but do your research and find out which organizations you’re using ACTUALLY support the cause, and which ones are still paying for anti-lgbtq+ lobbying in congress (I’m looking at you, Hobby Lobby). It’s understandable, however that sometimes boycotting certain companies in this age of conglomerates is incredibly difficult, so if you can’t afford to shift your purchases, at least consider donating to some pro-lgbtq+ charities, or even donating your time to them instead (we’re big fans of the Trevor Project).
“Buying rainbow products during pride month doesn’t make you an ally.
If you call yourself an ally, take to time to listen to queer people
and actively support them in your community.” – Alyssa L.
Stand Up, but Don’t Overstep
We see celebrities on Twitter retweeting advocacy videos and championing causes for equality left and right, but it’s important to know your place and acknowledge your privilege when doing so. If you aren’t a member of the LGBTQ+ community (i.e., a queer, trans or non-binary person), then you need to be careful not to take the cause away from the community. Never make it about yourself, and don’t do it to make yourself look good. Do it to make the community look, feel and be good. Boost your LGBTQ+ friends and their causes, but don’t assume you’re some sort of savior. Too often straight allies fall into what’s known as a “white knight complex,” where they believe that, because they have the power awarded to them by their privilege that it is their job to herald the cause or save those less fortunate. Surprise, they don’t need saving! What they need is support, not narcissism. In short, don’t make it about you!
“Pride events are meant to be safe places for people to gather and celebrate
with those they can relate to. Sometimes they aren’t able to express
themselves outside of these gatherings which
makes them even more special.” – Camille R.
Support Positive Representation in Media
A few weeks ago we posted about Mr. Ratburn’s gay wedding, and we’ve also been proud to mention games with inclusive representation whenever possible, so we know that the representation exists in our media, and that it’s becoming more commonplace. Not all representation is good representation, however, and while we’re not saying you should boycott a show simply because someone on the internet told you it wasn’t a perfect example, it’s important to be conscious of how lgbtq+ characters are handled in the copious amounts of media we consume, and how that may shape our cultural understanding and perspective on the lgbtq+ community.
It’s also important to support the creators of said media that put in the effort to include and represent lgbtq+ in their work, and especially important to support lgbtq+ creators directly. So, what exactly constitutes “good” representation? Well, for starters, if you’re going to include a lgbtq+ character in your show, movie or video game, their personality and story arc shouldn’t solely revolve around being “the gay friend,” and they shouldn’t be a throwaway plot-line for someone else’s benefit. While it is important to show positive, healthy example of the lgbtq+ experience, with all the ups and downs that come with it while our society still does not fully accept them, it’s also time we move on from tropes like “the gay friend” to “the character with X dream or X purpose, who just happens to be in love with someone of the same sex, or just happens to be transgender, etc.” LGBTQ+ people are just that, people, like anyone else, and it’s important to treat them as people instead of martyrs, pariahs or tools.
Give them their narrative, have them come out and struggle with society, but don’t be afraid to just let them exist, too, and normalize them in popular culture. It’s not about being “in your face” about gender or sexuality, but about making it just as regular as seeing a straight romance or cisgender person on screen. Some great examples of this include:
- The Crystal Gems from Steven Universe, who do not have gender but often identify as female, and who carry on relationships with other gems that appear female-coded.
- Tracer from Overwatch, who is not only a flagship character for a series, but also an accomplished pilot and hero who just happens to have a girlfriend back home in London.
- Bloodhound from Apex Legends, who does not have a gender, and doesn’t need one in order to have a fully fleshed out character, personality and career in the Apex Games.
So, throughout the month of June, while Pride is on our minds, take some time to reflect on society and culture, and the roles we all play in it. The best way to be a good ally is to be inclusive and supportive. Support your local LGBTQ+ friendly events, venues and hangouts, but don’t take them over. Make strides toward making your whole community welcoming and inclusive, and you’ll make a world of difference to future generations. Don’t over do it, just be a decent human being.
Sarah Nowack is a senior professional writing major who is minoring in graphic design. Her days are spent haunting the local library, consuming copious amounts of coffee, playing unpopular video games, and making terrible puns. She can be found at @battlerouge on Twitter and @shiverbound on Instagram.