Be an Ally this Pride Month (and Every Month!)
Written by Erin Michel (she/her/hers), Graduate Assistant for the Graduate College
June is Pride Month, a time to celebrate LGBTQ+ folks in our community and reflect on the ways we can all fight for equality. For many, pride is a joyous time, full of self-expression, togetherness, and unbridled celebration. However, non-LGBTQ+ celebrants may feel unsure of their place with regards to pride; they may want to show their support and take place in the festivities but might fear overstepping or quite simply not know where to start. Being an effective ally isn’t necessarily simple; rather, it is a process of continuous learning and humility, listening and taking action. Don’t be too intimidated, though; now more than ever, the queer community needs allies to support our efforts, protect our rights, and keep us safe. Here are some tips to get started.
A well-informed ally is an effective ally. Take some time to learn about the LGBTQ+ community and the vast and breathtaking diversity that exists under the umbrella of “queer.” Gender identity, sexual orientation, and gender expression are all important aspects of queer identity and exist on a spectrum rather than discrete categories. Try to avoid making assumptions about people just because you know they identify as LGBTQ+; unless you take the time to be curious and learn, you won’t know exactly how they define their queerness and how they would like to be seen by others. An LGBTQ+ person might identify as heterosexual while their queerness comes from gender, and vice versa! Someone who identifies as nonbinary may or may not also identify as transgender, and might use any number of pronouns. It can feel confusing or overwhelming, but try to embrace the discomfort and lean into the learning—think about how validating it feels when people notice and respect parts of your own identity, whatever it may be! Don’t we all deserve that? Educating yourself about queer identities while also remaining open to learning from the queer people in your life about their own identities can help you show up as an ally.
Seek out some resources to get yourself started! NPR’s Guide to Gender Identity Terms is a great starting resource. Buffer.com has compiled an incredible, extensive list of resources for allies, covering many facets of the queer experience including the history of pride/significant LGBTQ history events, social media accounts to follow, book and movie lists, videos, and more. UC’s own LGBTQ+ Center offers a host of educational programming throughout the fall and spring including Safe Zone Ally, Advocate, and Activist trainings; visit the LGBTQ+ Center website for more info.
Be Aware of the Space You Take Up (But Still Show Up When Appropriate!)
While it’s great to be an enthusiastic ally, it is important to remember that pride events primarily center around the LGBTQ+ community and their experiences. Remember that your role as an ally is to support and uplift their voices, rather than overshadow or dominate the conversation. Actively listen and learn, allowing queer individuals to share their stories and perspectives. Avoid monopolizing discussions or making the event solely about your own experiences while engaging in meaningful dialogue when appropriate. Additionally, be conscious of your physical presence—some pride events might specify that they are intended for queer individuals only, while others might be safe spaces specifically for smaller subsets of LGBTQ+ individuals, such as Black and Brown queer people or transgender individuals. When you are in queer spaces, ask yourself: am I keeping others from speaking up? Am I blocking others’ view? Am I making anyone uncomfortable? Being conscious and empathetic is key; ultimately, being a respectful ally means finding the right balance between showing solidarity and amplifying LGBTQ+ voices while maintaining humility and recognizing your position within the community.
However, your presence still matters! Don’t be so worried about not taking up space that you don’t show up at all, because when it comes to many/most pride events, more is truly merrier. It is a powerful visual for a queer person (who may be feeling particularly discouraged in our current sociopolitical climate) to see the streets positively packed with rainbow-clad attendees at the pride parade. It is a tangible, visual reminder that there are many in the community who support and celebrate those of us who are queer. We just ask that you be mindful and let us lead the way.
Support LGBTQ+ Businesses
Although you might be tempted by Target’s iconic line of Pride merch, a great way to show allyship is to patronize small queer-owned businesses rather than large corporations. Many LGBTQ+ activists are outspoken in their criticism of corporations’ motives in pride-related marketing, asserting that their motives are purely financially driven (read PBS’ article about this phenomenon, termed “rainbow capitalism,” to learn more). Small queer businesses often face significant challenges in the marketplace due to limited resources and visibility. By choosing to patronize these businesses, you can help create a more inclusive and equitable economy and put money directly in the hands of queer individuals.
Check out Buzzfeed’s list of 32 Pride Products from queer-owned businesses if you are looking to stock up on some pride merch. And if you want to take your allyship a step further, look at this list of LGBTQ+-owned Cincinnati businesses to support queer entrepreneurs right here in our own community!
Take Steps Towards Inclusivity in Your Daily Life (Not Just in June!)
In my own experience, it can be a bit disconcerting as an LGBTQ+ person to see rainbow flags abruptly disappear on July 1; pride merchandise marked immediately down to clearance prices. Although the outpouring of support through the month of June is wonderful, effective allies act consistently throughout the year. Being an ally isn’t necessarily about grand gestures; even small actions can have ripple effects in making professional and social environments more inclusive. A gesture as simple as including preferred gender pronouns in your email signature fosters an atmosphere of inclusivity and paves the way for trans or nonbinary people to feel more comfortable communicating and asserting their pronouns. Donating your money or time towards LGBTQ+ organization in the area such as PFLAG, Caracole, and even UC’s own LGBTQ+ Center, can be another great way to show allyship and solidarity with the queer community.