CHICAGO — Flying rainbow flags in June is a good thing to show support for Chicago’s LGBTQ+ community, but it’s just the beginning.
As anti-LGBTQ+ legislation spreads across the country, including laws depriving trans people of health care, restricting drag performance, and banning information on LGBTQ+ issues, members of the community are calling for allies to take a more active role in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights.
From enthusiastically asserting people’s identities to denouncing homophobic comments, there are countless opportunities every day for allies to create a safer environment for LGBTQ+ people, as long as they rise to the challenge, said Channyn Lynne Parker, executive director of Brave. Space Alliance, a black and trans-led LGBTQ+ Center in Chicago.
“People mean well and we appreciate our allies, but we are looking for comrades,” Parker said. “When we think about what that looks like, it’s friendship. We are looking for people to join us, support us and show us that they are in this fight with us, not sitting passively on the sidelines.”
Eleven states (and counting) have passed anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in 2023, and while Illinois is not among them, Parker said homophobia and transphobia exist everywhere.
“I am a firm believer that there are no safe states, only states that can resist,” Parker said. “If people don’t step up, we can only hold out for so long. We cannot believe that we are safe; all we can do is challenge Illinoisans to be brave, stand with us, unite and fight with us.”
Being an active supporter of the LGBTQ+ community requires understanding that creating a world that is safe for the queer community protects and uplifts everyone, Parker said.
“True alliance requires understanding that my release is tied to yours,” Parker said. “It requires seeing ourselves as truly interconnected. We are not free until we are all free.”
Block Club compiled ways you can support the LGBTQ+ community every day, even after the Pride flags fell in late June.
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Honor people’s identities
Be sure to use the correct nouns and pronouns for everyone you meet. If there is any question, it is helpful to respectfully ask someone their name and pronouns or start the conversation by sharing your own.
But referring to someone the way you want them to is the bare minimum, Parker said.
Try to affirm and celebrate people’s identities by talking supportively and giving them space to share their experiences, rather than avoiding topics you’re not used to talking about. Learn to put your prejudices aside and fully embrace every part of a person; you can’t just ignore parts of their identity.
“Tolerance is a boring virtue,” Parker said. “We want to be celebrated as ourselves. It’s not just about having a seat at the table, it’s about being fully active at the table.
“We want to tell people who we are and feel completely accepted.”
Little things can add up:
- Ask LGBTQ+ friends how their partner(s) is doing.
- Don’t assume people are straight.
- Use gender-neutral language when talking to friends, and avoid gender language like “girls’ night out.”
- Ask your LGBTQ+ friends where they want to go instead of expecting them to feel comfortable in heterosexual-dominated environments.
These kinds of actions show their loved ones that they don’t need to hide parts of themselves to fit in with the group.
Donate time, money to local groups
There are many groups already working to provide resources and support for LGBTQ+ Chicagoans, and by supporting these organizations, you can help many people at once.
Are you looking for where to start? Chicago may be your first stop: Because Illinois has fewer laws restricting LGBTQ+ people, it’s a place many people travel to for gender-affirming health care and other services, Parker said.
“We have gone to the heart of the matter to provide resources to people who need these things, but that requires financial support from people we know love the LGBTQ+ community,” Parker said.
These types of investments can have an immediate impact on residents.
For example, people can donate money or volunteer their time to the Brave Space Alliance, which then provides a variety of resources to LGBTQ+ people, including food, clothing, and housing support. The food pantry is one of the organization’s most robust and expensive services, so unopened food donations are always appreciated, Parker said.
Supporting a group doesn’t mean you have to give money. You can also donate your time or supplies you no longer need or want.
Here’s a list of LGBTQ+ organizations across Chicago that you can support financially or through volunteer work.
If you hear someone say something homophobic or transphobic, you should interrupt them and correct them. Even if it seems like a small comment or joke, comments that alienate the LGBTQ+ community can be incredibly hurtful, Parker said.
“When we think about how to create security, it starts with you and the daily conversations you have,” Parker said.
An analysis of the alliance, shared in the Harvard Business Review, found that one of the most impactful things allies can do is take action, and that includes speaking out against discrimination.
GLAAD suggests that allies make it clear to others that they will not engage in offensive conversation, and allies should advocate for LGBTQ+ people from discrimination.
How can you do that? You can proactively speak about LGBTQ+ people and issues in “positive ways,” which will encourage others to think differently, according to the Strong Family Alliance. If someone says something offensive, respond “calm down and ask questions” and try to teach them why their comment is wrong and offensive.
The person you’re talking to might ignore you, or they might have a good conversation, leading to a growth moment for that person, according to the Strong Family Alliance.
At the very least, you make sure people know their comments are problematic and show LGBTQ+ people that you will stand up for them.
Getting off center when apologizing for a mistake
There will be times when you will slip up and say something hurtful towards members of the LGBTQ+ community. Because negativity toward LGBTQ+ people is so ingrained in our culture, anyone can accidentally mislead someone or unintentionally make a hurtful comment.
When this happens, apologize concisely and move on quickly. Don’t try to process your mistake with the person you’ve hurt with your words. Instead of trying to explain yourself, prioritize their feelings and work through your guilt on your own time.
“We know you’re going to go oops and ouch!” Parker said. “But the more time we have to spend unraveling your feelings and navigating your mistake, the more time we have to center you and decenter our own pain. Just say sorry, say the correct noun or pronoun, and commit to doing it right next time.”
Remember: when you hurt someone, you shouldn’t be the center of attention, and that person shouldn’t try to make you feel better.
GLAAD suggests that one of the best ways to be an ally is to listen, and this is a great time to really listen and better understand how you’ve hurt someone and how you can be better in the future.
You can become more comfortable defocusing by learning to pause and think before reacting, learning to allow yourself to feel uncomfortable, and avoiding controlling the tone of an outcast who says something that might make you uncomfortable, according to guidance from Baylor University. .
do your own research
In general, don’t ask LGBTQ+ people personal questions about their bodies, health care, or lifestyle. It can be exhausting for LGBTQ+ people to repeatedly explain their identities. If you’re curious about their experiences, do your own research online first.
The Trevor Project, a national organization that supports LGBTQ+ youth, offers information on sexual orientation, gender identity, and issues facing the LGBTQ+ community on its website.
The GLAAD website also has resources you can refer to to ensure you are using appropriate language, being respectful, and constantly growing as an ally.
And the Human Rights Campaign has a comprehensive guide to being an ally, as well as educational information on LGBTQ+ issues.
Those are just a few places to start.
It’s also important to seek information about political representatives and proposed legislation to ensure politicians’ platforms and policies affirm the LGBTQ+ community, Parker said.
“We don’t want people to feel sorry for us; instead, what we share with you is grace and understanding that it will take time to get things right,” Parker said. “While we’re being patient with you, your responsibility is to actively work to get it right.”
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