Ah, the annual changing of corporate logos to rainbows, sudden influx of technicolor versions of their products, and otherwise unseen gay and lesbian couples in ads – it must be Pride Month. But this year, as anti-LGBTQ legislation sweeps the country and physical and verbal attacks on our community escalate, the queer community’s concern about rainbow washing has taken a backseat to much larger concerns.
Let’s not mince words: the LGBTQ community is under attack. Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has officially declared a state of emergency for queer and trans people in the United States for the first time EVER following an unprecedented surge in legislative assaults and anti-LGBTQ propaganda. In this legislative session alone, over 525 state bills have been introduced that target the LGBTQ community across 41 states. Of these, more than 220 specifically target transgender and nonbinary individuals. Eleven states (and counting) have already passed anti-LGBTQ legislation in 2023, with over 75 of the proposed bills – double last year’s number – being enacted into law so far. These discriminatory policies are deeply interconnected with and contribute to the increase in extremist anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, misinformation, and violence.
Even if your state is one of the very few that hasn’t jumped on the “let’s try to legislate queer people out of existence” bandwagon, homophobia and transphobia are rampant everywhere, and the harmful effects of the propaganda don’t respect borders. It’s been a rough year to be queer, but we’re never going to stop fighting for equality. And we, as a community, need our allies to step up and join the fight.
There are countless opportunities for allies to actively support the queer community, from calling out bigoted remarks to putting your pronouns in your email signature. If you’re looking for a beginner’s guide to queer allyship, there are plenty of great ones out there. This guide, on the other hand, aims to offer actionable suggestions that are particularly relevant at this moment in history.
So, without further ado, here are three ways to be an ally to the queer community in 2023, besides basics like learning key terminology, respecting pronouns, and, you know, not voting for politicians who are actively trying to erase us.
Educate Yourself and Others.
Look y’all: it’s exhausting for queer folk to have to educate everyone around us, all the time. And right now, it’s especially draining given the rampant misinformation being disseminated about us, particularly concerning the trans and drag communities. Please take the initiative to educate yourself on these hot-button topics, and save the questions for your queer and trans friends for when you’ve already done some research, but still have questions. And if you have a platform, use it to enlighten others. Your reach doesn’t need to be T. Swift-level to effectively educate and advocate for LGBTQ rights.
Here are some resources to get you started, so that when someone starts talking to you about how trans people are “mutilating children” or how drag queens are groomers (both things I heard on the radio this week), you’ll be armed to the teeth with facts and figures, instead of feelings and fallacies:
- This HRC guide lays out the facts about gender-affirming care
- GLAAD’s Media Guide, though primarily designed for journalists, has valuable information for anyone seeking to learn more.
- It’s Pronounced Metrosexual is a free resource that goes beyond a 101 and covers topics with a bit more nuance.
- This map of attacks on gender-affirming care and this state-by-state breakdown of current legislation impacting the LGBTQ community will help you stay current on legislative attacks.
- This guide has a wealth of educational resources and ideas for celebrating Pride in thoughtful ways.
Show Up. Physically.
This is a big one, especially right now, when homophobic politicians are trying to ban drag queen stories hours and Pride organizers are facing increasing challenges this year, from difficulty getting Pride events approved to issues finding sponsors to navigating security concerns.
Allies attending queer events show support and help normalize them, and can also help educate the next generation. So, please, go to Pride parades, take your kids to drag queen story hours, and attend drag shows – while being respectful, checking your assumptions at the door, and understanding that Pride is a joyous, radical celebration of queer survival and life, with all its aspects, including leather and kink. It’s okay if that’s not your cup of tea, but don’t try to force Pride celebrations to fit into your comfort zone (and remember, it’s okay – and even healthy – to be a little bit uncomfortable sometimes).
And for the love of Dolly Parton, if you see a queer person (or anyone!) being harassed or targeted, don’t just stand there. Don’t ignore it. Don’t look the other way. There are safe and effective ways to intervene as a bystander – take the time to learn them.
Put Your Money (Or Other Resources) Where Your Mouth Is.
One of the most direct ways you can be an ally? Provide material support to queers in your community, if you’re able to. (But please, only if you’re able to: remember, you have to put on your own oxygen mask first, then help others.)
This year, the generally tense atmosphere and backlash experienced by companies like Target and Anheuser-Busch has led many to scale back on visible Pride marketing. Whether you’re critical of rainbow-washing or love the once-a-year opportunity to buy your favorite items decorated with rainbows, this pullback is negatively impacting queer creators and businesses who can usually count on extra income from Pride-related partnerships.
On a more direct and personal level, a lot of queer and trans folk, especially those who are multiply marginalized, face financial instability, which impacts their ability to access healthcare, among other things. We do our best to help each other out, and often it seems like we’re all passing around the same $20 to help each other get through until payday. If you’re in a good place financially, consider donating to one of the many trans people crowdfunding for gender-affirming care or a relocation from a hostile state to a friendlier one, or even just shooting your struggling queer friend some cash on Venmo.
Our community and our rights are under siege. While flying rainbow flags is a great start, this Pride Month, we need our allies to step up and fight alongside us, because our very right to exist is being threatened. As Kayla Reed, a Ferguson, MI activist and organizer put it, “being an ally isn’t a title you claim. It’s a practice, a verb, a constant action.” Now, if ever, is the time to put your allyship into action.