By now, you’ve all heard about the Orlando tragedy. The shooting at a popular LGBTQ club called Pulse this past weekend left the world heartbroken. Not only was this the deadliest mass shooting in American history, it was also a prime example of how homophobia is still very real and very relevant in our society. The shooting, which claimed the lives of at least 49 people, sparked nation-wide controversy and conversation about how America really treats those in the LGBTQ community.
It’s hard to go anywhere IRL or online without hearing or seeing people talk about the LGBTQ world. We all have our own opinions and ideas, and we all want to be able to voice them. Many of us have friends or family members who identify as LGBTQ, and naturally, we want to support them in any way possible. Sometimes, we want to show our support so badly that we end up doing the wrong thing or saying something offensive. In the midst of these conversations, it is important that allies (people who support the LGBTQ community) become aware of their actions and support the community in a positive way. Unfortunately, there are many things that straight people do that actually harm LGBTQ people. The worst part is, the probably don’t even notice it. Even if your intentions are good, your message is still important.
You might read this, scoff, and think, “That’s definitely not me.” But it could be! Here is a list of things people do every day that are actually harming the LGBTQ community, and how we can fix them. Doing this stuff doesn’t mean you’re a horrible person, it just means you need to put more thought into your words and actions. Just keep them in mind!
Speaking For ThemWhen something like this happens, you might think you're being helpful when you speak up on behalf of the LGBTQ community. You might think that lending your voice is helpful and is only showing support. But at a certain point, speaking for LGBTQ people is actually silencing them. For example: When Nick Jonas spoke at the Orlando vigil, he left a bad taste in everyone's mouths. Nick doesn't publicly identify as LGBTQ - he identifies as straight. He was rightly criticized for using his power as a celebrity to insert himself into a situation that wasn't his place. Sure, he can support and help the LGBTQ community, but he did it in a way that was silencing them. He spoke for them, meaning they couldn't speak for themselves. Silencing people is dangerous because you are not giving them a platform to speak on issues that are directly related to them and their lives. When Nick went to speak, he pledged his support, but it didn't matter: he took up their space. Sometimes, it's important to stay quiet and let the LGBTQ community speak. If you don't identify as LGBTQ, you don't know what they're going through - and you can't pretend you do. Image Source: iStock
Using The Wrong LanguageWhen you use the wrong gender pronouns, it enforces the ideas that LGBTQ people don't matter, and that their identity isn't valid. It's one thing to make an honest mistake, but when you are called out by somebody for using the wrong language, it is important to listen to them and not questions it. Saying things like, "well, you don't look like a girl" or "if you have a penis then you must be a boy" is harmful to this person and their identity. You should never, ever assume someone's gender. Image Source: iStock
Making Assumptions Based On StereotypesWe've all heard the stereotypes about LGBTQ people: gay guys are flamboyant and feminine. Lesbians are butch and have short hair. Etc, etc. Sure, maybe some lesbians are tomboys and have short haircuts, and maybe some gay guys love a good bitchy gossip session - but not all of them do. Don't assume someone is LGBTQ based on stereotypes and think you're progressive. You're not! It's just ignorant. Image Source: iStock
Not Recognizing The Privilege You, As A Straight Person, HaveStraight people have privilege, whether you want to admit or not. They are not discriminated against the way that LGBTQ people are. They are allowed to get married without anyone asking why they need to get married. They are allowed to like who they like without people wondering if they were born that way. You can be straight and be outraged at the treatment the LGBTQ community endures, but you also have to admit that you have privilege they don't. Image Source: iStock
Not Holding People AccounatbleWhen somebody says something offensive or homophobic, they must be held accountable. If they aren't, it shows others that acting in an offensive way is acceptable and tolerated when it shouldn't be. Next time you hear someone say "that's so gay!" remind them of why that is derogatory speech that is offensive. Speak up for the community in these ways! Image Source: iStock
Ignoring People Of ColorIt's important to remember that many members of the LGBTQ community are not white. Many of the victims from the Orlando shooting were people of color and Latinx. Intersectionality matters, and everyone must work to include every identity and race into conversations about LGBTQ issues. Not enough people do, and frankly, it's hurting everyone. Image Source: iStock
Not Listening To How They FeelWhen you are not sure about something, speak up and listen! If you want to help but don't know how, the best thing you can do is to listen to those who experience homophobia and discrimination every day, and ask how you can help. Image Source: iStock
Are you guilty of any of these? What do you think about it? Tell us in the comments!