Imagine feeling confused, isolated and not accepted for who you are and who you know you are supposed to be. Now more than ever, it is critical that we support and ally for LGBTQ youth. By being an ally, you help to increase awareness and acceptance of the LGBTQ community. Equally important, you also show them that they aren’t alone in their struggle for equality, inclusion, and acceptance.
Here are some ways you can support LGBTQ youth along their journey:
Members of the LGBTQ community, and youth especially, are often not given the respect they deserve when it comes to having their voices heard. This has to change. Be willing to listen to LGBTQ youth and pay close attention to what they are telling you, whether it is in person or second hand via social media or the news. They know what they want, what their needs are, and how they are feeling more than anyone. Listen with compassion. Listen without judgment.
It is crucial that we model kindness and inclusion in our everyday life. Go out of your way to be kind and always see the worth and dignity in every person. Strive for justice, equality, and compassion in human relations. It can be very difficult for LGBTQ youth to open up to you, but when they do, offer your support. Ask them what you can do to help them if help is needed. Maybe they haven’t opened up yet to their parents or other family members. Offer support because what they have to face and the conversations they’ll need to have could be challenging. Knowing they have your support could make all the difference to them.
Just because they may have opened up to you doesn’t mean you have the right to “out” them to others. It is not up to you as to who they entrust themselves with. Instead, respect their privacy and their wishes.
Being a young person in today’s society is hard enough, and add in the fact that you’re “different,” and it suddenly becomes even harder than it already is; this is the case for our LGBTQ youth. They often feel that they have to act like something they aren’t around others because of fearing that they won’t be accepted for who they are. Can you imagine the feeling of constantly wondering if it’s okay to be yourself around another person or if you have to be someone else? It’s unacceptable that LGBTQ youth still have to ask themselves this question almost every single day. So as an ally, it’s our job to make sure that they know they can always be themselves around us.
Imagine if you were being bullied, how alone and afraid you might feel. LGBTQ youth are at a much higher risk of experiencing bullying and harassment. Please be their ally and stand up for them (if it’s safe to do so), and report the incident to the appropriate people. Educate yourself on how to identify homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia. These phobias are quite prevalent in our society, so be prepared when you witness it by developing strategies to challenge those phobias and share your strategies with others.
Take it upon yourself to educate yourself about the LGBTQ community. One easy but really important way that you can be an ally is to use LGBTQ-related terminology in the correct way and with respect. Terminology today goes beyond ‘gay,’ ‘lesbian,’ ‘bisexual,’ ‘transgender,’ and ‘queer.’ Learn terminology like ‘gender non-conforming,’ ‘androgynous,’ ‘non-binary,’ and ‘two-spirit.’ Don’t be afraid to ask someone how they would like to be referred, especially when it comes to the use of pronouns, such as he, she, and they. You may look at someone and automatically think they identify as male or female based on how they appear, but please don’t make this assumption. Language has a significant impact on people, so to be an ally, help to ensure that language has a positive impact by staying current with LGBTQ terminology and asking pronouns.
Work with LGBTQ youth to make their lives better. If they want to get more involved within their community, help them plan and lead youth-focused events, and be the rock they need. Provide them the tools, resources, and support they need to have their voices heard. Also, take action by challenging policies that discriminate or limit LGBTQ youth that you may see in your community, whether that’s in schools, workplaces, or other public places. Or, get involved with advocacy organizations, such as Free2Luv.
Consider the opportunities you have to share your support. Have conversations with family, friends, colleagues, or other peers; use social media to educate and influence others; invite and encourage people to attend LGBTQ rallies and other events. By you speaking out, you are amplifying the LGBTQ youths’ voice – always ensure they are heard!
Thank you for taking steps to become an ally for LGBTQ youth. The more people on the side of love and justice, the better. If we join together in support, one day, hopefully, we’ll be able to say that we live in a world where we are all treated with love, dignity, and respect.
In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, “Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.” So let us all work together hand in hand and make it so.
We invite you to join us and support our LGBTQ youth empowerment initiatives. Together we can change lives.