The first step in allyship that we can all agree on
Skip the cookie cutter 12-step articles and bring it back to basics with the universal first step in supporting the LGBTQ+ community.
The month of June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month in honor of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. The Stonewall Uprising was a tipping point in the Gay Liberation Movement. The first Pride march in New York City was held on June 28, 1970. While we have come a long way in America since 1970, much work remains necessary to ensure LGBTQ+ people are treated with equity, dignity, and respect as humans, no matter who they choose to love.
There is no cookie cutter method for how to be an ally, despite the laundry list of ideas flooding your social media feed from formal and self-proclaimed experts this month. Let’s put all the 12-step methods aside for a moment and focus on the one universal step that we believe we ALL need to take in order to move the needle closer to a more inclusive society that embraces our LGBTQ+ family… that universal step is self-reflection.
It is natural for many of us to question our discomfort or avoid humans who do not look, walk, talk, act, and live like we do. The flaw many of us have is that we question everything that’s different as if it is a problem. Why do they talk that way? Why do they look that way–not like us? Why do they dress funny? Why do they listen to that type of music? Why do they eat that kind of food? Or in the case of the LGBTQ+ community: Why do men want to be intimate with other men, and women want to be intimate with other women? Why are there other genders when all I knew all my life was only two binary genders—male and female? Why do men like to wear makeup and dresses? The list of questions can go on and on.
Having questions about how others live and think, about their specific communities and cultures is perfectly natural. It is this curiosity that helps us learn, grow, and evolve. But in order for this self-reflection and questioning to be productive, we must be willing to accept answers that reflect a different perspective of the world than our own. We have to be willing to put aside our own lived and learned experiences and embrace the differences we see as a strength and not a threat.
There are actually some very simple questions you can ask that will help overcome any biases you may have and embrace the LGBTQ+ community with dignity and respect.
We call it the Harm Test:
- Has a person in the LGBTQ+ community ever done anything to bring personal harm to you or someone you care about? If they have harmed you, was that harm due to their identity as LGBTQ+, or simply because they were a bad human?
- Do LGBTQ+ people cause harm to your community?
- Do they harm the food you eat?
- Do they harm the house you live in?
- Do they harm the car you drive?
- Do they harm the clothes you wear?
- Do they cause harm to you on your job?
- Do they harm any other product or service that you use?
Our guess is that the answer is no to these questions.
Those who identify as LGBTQ+ are human beings that may happen to live parts of their lives differently than you, but are no different than the friendly neighbor down the street who lives parts of their life differently than you. If people who identify as LGBTQ+ are not doing personal harm to others, they should be allowed to live in peace and harmony just like those who identify as straight.
We implore everyone to spend more energy self-reflecting about your own challenges relating to those who are different than you rather than self-destructing through resistance to change. Despite the many articles and 12-step guides you may see over the coming weeks, allyship requires more than just following a few cookie-cutter suggestions. The very first step begins with you. Identify – and then overcome – your biases, and get to work helping others do the same.
LGBTQ+ people are people—period.