I’m Noah Hanf, an intern for Queer Connect. Here’s a little crash course on how to be helpful and respectful towards queer folks by keeping it REAL! Respect, Educate, Assume (Nothing), and Listen.
Respect, and don’t doubt. This is the most basic rule, and as such it encompasses all the others. First recognize that we’re all humans who desire dignity and respect, then go a step further and be a friend. Respect the way that everyone looks and dresses. Respect the way that people identify. Respect who people love, and how they show it.
If you make a mistake, correct it immediately. And if you’ve ever failed to be supportive in the past, it’s never too late to apologize and make up for that in a personal and meaningful way. You’re a friend, after all, don’t let your baggage loom over you or come between us.
Educate yourself on how to be an awesome member of the LGBTQ+ community, because as an ally, you’re a member. Making sure that you’re educated on LGBTQ+ lingo is something important for anyone in the community. A great and potentially fun place to start is researching queer terminology, like different gender identities and sexualities. Go a step further and check out queer current events, or research more complex concepts.
Use the internet and other forms of media as your primary research tool, but also don’t be afraid to ask respectful questions to the people around you. It can be important to ask questions, because it shows your respect for the LGBTQ+ community, and your curiosity shows that you care. Even if it’s as simple as asking what different flags mean, respectful questions are always welcome.
Just so we’re clear, please don’t ask personal questions that someone (you, for instance) might feel attacked or disrespected being asked, or feel weird answering. As a general rule, let’s all agree to not ask strangers of anyperceived sexual orientation or gender expression any of the following: “What’s in your pants?”, “What are you into?”, “Is that your birth name?”, “Which bathroom do you use?”. You don’t need to know any of those things to truly know and respect a person.
An especially important way to educate yourself is about the people you meet. If you’re at a queer event, please include your pronouns as part of your introduction, and you can expect other people to do the same. If they don’t, feel free to ask their pronouns directly. It’s easy, and shows a lot of respect. Whatever you do…
You cannot glean any information about an individual by their appearance. That’s like trying to guess someone’s occupation by their perceived race; wildly offensive and presumptuous profiling. Ask for people’s pronouns. Don’t assume any degree of heteronormativity. Easy as!
The best friends are awesome listeners. We’ve got some issues we’re working through, and you’re here to help. Listen closely to figure out what the best way to help is. Sometimes on a small scale all it takes to help is to listen, and be responsive, empathetic, and understanding. If you’re there during a queer event, listen to what’s being said and react supportively, with action!
Now you’re ready to make REAL change!
Just follow these four easy rules, and I’ll be proud to call you my ally. Thank you for having an open mind, standing up for equality, and being generous with your time and energy. Go out there and be an exemplary ally! Good luck, have fun, and make change.