It’s pride season here in Canada. As we all look forward to summer celebrations and parades, it’s also an important time to consider how you can support the LGBTQ2S+ people in your life and your community.
Statistics Canada research shows that LGBTQ2S+ Canadians are more likely to experience mental health issues like anxiety and depression than their heterosexual, cisgender counterparts. However, research has also shown that when LGBTQ2S+ people feel accepted and supported within their communities, they are less likely to experience these mental health problems.
Being an LGBTQ2S+ ally during pride – and all year round – can help us build stronger communities for everyone. Here are a few ways you can help.
Being an active ally means speaking up rather than staying silent if you witness hateful or discriminatory comments or actions.
If someone makes discriminatory jokes or comments while you’re around, tell that person why their comments aren’t welcome. If the person seems open to engaging in a conversation, explain why their comments may be harmful to the LGBTQ2S+ community.
Speaking up doesn’t mean getting into fights or putting yourself in harm’s way. It’s often much more effective to call people “in” than to call them out. Rather than shaming someone for making an insensitive comment, offer to educate, and give them a chance to correct themselves.
Show your support visibly
Things like putting a pride flag sticker on your car or in your window, or decorating your bag with a pride pin may seem small, but they can actually be a helpful way to signal to LGBTQ2S+ folks that you are a safe person. If you’re a small business owner, displaying a pride flag in your store or having a window sticker can ensure that LGBTQ2S+ community members feel safe in your establishment.
These forms of allyship can be especially useful for LGBTQ2S+ folks who aren’t ready to come out or who don’t have the luxury of being out in their current lives. It enables them to identify a safe person or space without necessarily needing to ask or risk outing themselves before it’s safe.
Use preferred pronouns
Everyone has pronouns. In many languages, like English and French, pronouns are gender-specific. Referring to someone with the pronouns that match their gender identity is an important way to recognize someone’s identity and show your allyship.
If you’re not sure what someone’s preferred pronouns are, it’s okay to ask. If you’re introducing yourself to someone, letting them know your own pronouns can help create a comfortable environment for them to share theirs. Including your pronouns in an email signature or a social media profile is an easy way to show support. Normalizing sharing your pronouns can help make life easier for transgender, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming individuals.
Mistakes happen and that’s okay too. If someone corrects you, thank them for the correction and move on.
A lot of hate and discrimination stems from a fear of the unknown. Getting to know the LGBTQ2S+ community where you live can make you a better ally and can help you understand why fighting for LGBTQ2S+ rights is so important.
Even if you don’t personally know an LGBTQ2S+ person, there are many LGBTQ2S+ resources and stories available on the internet or at your local library. Check out resources from a reputable LGBTQ2S+ organization, such as Egale or PFLAG Canada. Watch a film or read a memoir to get familiar with LGBTQ2S+ history, in Canada and around the world. The more you know about LGBTQ2S+ people and history, the more effective you can be at offering support.
Reflect on your own biases
We all have unconscious biases, whether these are things we were taught growing up, or things that are ingrained in our society and culture. Biases can help us make choices and live our lives, but sometimes they can be harmful.
As an ally, it’s important to listen to LGBTQ2S+ voices, and be willing to make changes to your thinking or behaviour if someone tells you that what you’re doing is harmful. Remember that we’re all learning, and there’s no shame in changing your opinion based on new information.
In Canada, LGBTQS2+ people make up about 4 per cent of the population. As allies, we have the potential to give a much bigger voice to the community. As you celebrate pride this year, take the time to reflect on how you can help your LGBTQ2S+ friends, family members, coworkers, and community members – and don’t forget to have fun. Pride is a celebration after all, and love is much louder than hate.
For more ways you can incorporate allyship into your own life, talking to a counsellor is a great place to start. Many counsellors on the TELUS Health MyCare app have experience and training in LGBTQ2S+ issues, and can help you help your loved ones. Book an appointment in the app to see a counsellor conveniently from home.