- Mathew Lasky
6 Steps to Supporting the LGBTQ Community as an Ally After Pride Month
The NYC WorldPride March broke records on June 30. Reeling in over four million attendees, it was the most celebrated Pride event in history.
This year’s Pride month, which coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, felt like one of the biggest so far -- and the stats confirm it. Major companies were louder than ever, with Express launching their Love Unites collection to benefit GLAAD, Teva teaming up with Tegan and Sara to create a rainbow platform sandal, Smirnoff enlisting LGBTQ advocate Laverne Cox to release a WorldPride song and so much more. There were also plenty of events to attend in addition to the Pride celebrations all over the world, like Dan Reynolds and Tegan Quin’s Salt Lake City-based LOVELOUD Festival, Ruth Ellis Center’s Catfight For The Crown drag show in Detroit and Frank Turner’s Boston-based Lost Evenings Festival in support of The Ally Coalition.
But as with every year, Pride month ends. And while there are dozens of incredible organizations working tirelessly to extend the celebrations past June 30 nationwide, the community still needs help. A transgender student at a Memphis High School was allegedly followed by students who threatened to kill her in January. In March, two people were shot outside of a gay night club in Palm Springs, C.A. Last month in Burlington, V.T., a couple’s Pride flag was burned on their banister. That's not even to mention the continued murders of multiple transgender women of color all throughout 2019.
These are just a few examples of the harsh realities facing the LGBTQ community. So what do we do?
“Speak up when you hear people using anti-LGBTQ slurs or making discriminatory statements,” Mathew Lasky, GLAAD’s director of communications, tells Billboard. “Use your privilege to create space for less privileged people.”
Billboard talked to some LGBTQ advocates about how allies can work together to continue their support of the community when the glitter washes away and Pride month ends.
“A couple can get married on a Sunday, go to work the next day and be fired, kicked out of a restaurant and refused housing because of who they are,” The Ally Coalition’s executive director Jeb Gutelius tells Billboard. “So getting educated and knowing that that needs to change is a huge first step.”
While the queer community is making big strides, straight and cisgender people are not experiencing the daily fear of being discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. People without equal rights are being abused, harassed and rejected every day.
“During Pride Month alone, at least five trans women of color were murdered, as trans women continue to bear the brunt of the extreme violence against LGBTQ people,” Lasky says.
He also goes on to share some other heart-wrenching facts: In 10 states, LGBTQ couples can be legally denied the ability to adopt or foster children and in 32 states, the practice of gay conversion therapy is still legal.
One great way to educate yourself is social media. “Following national news and organizations like The Trevor Project, Human Rights Campaign or GLAAD on Twitter makes a lot of sense,” Gutelius says. “Lambda Legal has a lot around the legal side of what’s happening. There’s also New Alternatives, a great one based in New York for LGBTQ youth. Social media is one of the main ways we try to understand what’s going on.”
“There’s also big campaign organizations like Freedom For All Americans, which has done so much work over the last few years,” Gutelius continues. “There’s lots and lots of resources out there if you’re willing to watch them and listen.”
You can also connect with people who share news. “The Ally Coalition has also built a network of community partners, who we’re constantly in touch with so that the leaders and staff at those organizations can keep us in tune with what’s going on,” Gutelius says.
Be open to feeling uncomfortable
It’s okay to start with the very basics, even if that means learning the proper terminology. What it means to be pansexual, bisexual and gender non-conforming are important things to understand, especially with 20% of millennials identifying as LGBTQ (according to GLAAD). Start with the specific things you don’t understand and welcome the topics that make you uncomfortable -- all you have to do is open up the conversation.
“Non-LGBTQ people can oftentimes have trouble understanding the importance of using and respecting a LGBTQ person’s pronouns," Lasky says. "It can be a good practice for allies to begin introducing themselves to new people by using their own personal pronouns. This establishes dialogue that can allow allies to become more comfortable with talking about gender identity in an everyday setting.”
And don’t be afraid to ask questions.
“Many LGBTQ people are willing to have conversations about their identity as long as they feel like they aren’t being invalidated or interrogated,” Lasky shares.
It’s important to note that because of privilege, straight voices will often be the ones that are heard. For that reason, allies have a responsibility to speak up for those who are being marginalized.
“Call attention to injustices when you see them happening,” Lasky says. “Create space for less privileged people… Speak up when you hear people using anti-LGBTQ slurs or making discriminatory statements.”
Gutelius agrees, saying that being vocal “has got to make a change. In my case, as a white, straight male -- how can I turn that around and make sure that space is available for voices that are so often refused or so often have barriers that prevent them from speaking?”
Lasky adds that, if needed, allies can even make a change in their work environment.
“If your corporation does not have LGBTQ-friendly policies, bring it up to HR and try to make those changes," he says.
Support LGBTQ artists, as well as artists who support the community
Even during Pride month, LGBTQ artists are often overlooked for performance opportunities. “The sad truth and reality of the community we live in today, and especially the industry, is that LGBTQ artists are just not given the same power,” Dan Reynolds told Billboard in an interview last month. “It’s because the world has not been open and willing and it’s just starting to be a little more open, but not fairly at all. Anyone who says otherwise is just wrong.”
“In the music industry specifically, it is very important to make space for and to support LGBTQ artists,” Lasky goes on to tell Billboard. “For Pride-related events, there should be a conscious effort made to include and uplift performers who identify as LGBTQ. Also, musicians who consider themselves allies should help direct the general public’s attention towards LGBTQ artists, as many of them have historically had a more difficult time becoming visible in mainstream music.”
Both Lasky and Gutelius cited Reynolds of Imagine Dragons as an excellent example of how an artist can be an ally in the right way. The frontman's LOVELOUD fest raised a significant amount of money for LGBTQ organizations, while also making an effort to end conversion therapy and open up the conversation about the connection between religion and the LGBTQ community.
Another great example Gutelius mentions, is Ally Coalition’s co-founder, Jack Antonoff. “From the very beginning, Antonoff, who I’m lucky to work with, has consistently opened his platform up and has been a very outspoken ally for equality. His sister Rachel is his partner in all of this too, so both of the Antonoffs have been wonderfully open and supportive allies.”
Lil Nas X recently came out during his record-breaking streak on the Billboard Hot 100. At the height of his sky-rocketing stardom, he used his platform to make his fans feel more comfortable with their own insecurities.
“I was at the Pride show at the Stonewall Inn last week and Lady Gaga and Alicia Keys were both there. They’re terrific examples,” he adds.
Taylor Swift is another good example of an ally, especially as of late with her most recent video for “You Need To Calm Down.” Not only did it feature a long list of LGBTQ celebs, but it also urged people to sign the petition for Senate support of the Equality Act. Her efforts extend beyond that as well. According to Lasky, she made a donation to GLAAD at the beginning of Pride month before making a donation to the Tennessee Equality Project, a Nashville-based group working to defeat six anti-LGBTQ bills earlier this year.
Volunteer, participate and donate
There are so many ways to support both local and national LGBTQ organizations. Making donations is extremely helpful, but if that doesn’t fit your current financial situation, you can also volunteer at several different organizations and/or shows.
Some organizations with great volunteer opportunities are The Trevor Project, GLAAD, The Center, Sage, Global Volunteers, Ruth Ellis Center and more.
Even in the face of so much adversity, it's also important to understand that change is possible, and it's coming. “On Sunday morning at 8 a.m. [on June 30, the day of the New York Pride Parade], I commuted into N.Y. from New Haven with my four-year-old and six-year-old and it was so wildly inspiring. The train platform was totally packed with kids,” Gutelius shares. “Younger people than I am just dressed and out and proud and expressive. It just got more and more crowded with that at every stop. And then coming into New York, it’s everywhere."
But it also reminded him there is still work to be done. "I took the train home that night and while it was still really celebratory, these were people who were going back to towns where they weren’t able to be that expressive and show who they are," he says. "It reminded me that we haven’t done anywhere near enough and it has to be a year-round situation. A year-round campaign. A year-round of getting educated and showing up.”