Pride month is the special opportunity for LGBTQ+ folk to be centered and to celebrate, and for the rest of us to celebrate along with them as a beloved community. At surface level, it has been a recognized month of affirmation and visibility for the LGBTQ+ community since 1999. Dig deeper, and you’ll find that the importance of Pride stretches back hundreds of years.
Each Pride month is not only a celebration, but a reminder of the long battle LGBTQ+ folk have faced for equal rights - and how far we still have to go. Yance Ford, the first transgender person to be nominated for an Oscar, says it well: “This isn’t history that gets taught in school… it’s so important that Pride is in the world now, because people really need to have the perspective of how long we’ve been fighting for simple, basic protections under the law.”
There are marked similarities between the struggle of the LGBTQ community and the struggle for Black liberation - the fight to be seen and valued, both socially and legally, as promised to all people in the land of “liberty and justice for all.” Just as Black folk have had to do, LGBTQ+ people have been forced (sometimes through violence or extermination) to center white, Evangelical, heterosexual males in our own lives and experiences. Both communities are working toward a world where we can freely center ourselves alongside that narrative. This is the struggle all marginalized groups have had over centuries, as the series “Amend” on Netflix chronicles.
For hundreds of years, LGBTQ+ folk have convened, campaigned, rioted, and risked their safety for the right to have public, authentic gender identities and life partnerships - and to ensure that having those things won’t endanger their lives and livelihoods. We aren’t there yet. While marginalized people can (and constantly do) fight for equity, we’re at a disadvantage because White, heteronormative voices are still at the forefront of the American narrative. That’s what makes allyship, or the use of heteronormative privilege to help the LGBTQ+ community achieve equality, so important.
I recently saw a piece which took the letters of ALLY and instructed thusly:
A – Always center the impacted
L – Listen and learn from those who live in oppression
L – Leverage your privilege
Y – Yield the floor
Once you’ve educated yourself by listening to LGBTQ+ folk, you can use the voice, resources, and platform you’ve been given to publicly support their right to occupy the narrative in the ways they need you the most. You can also help by donating time or money to nonprofits that provide resources and protection for LGBTQ+ folk.
On the legislative side, join the dialogue and campaign for change in current issues such as:
As an ally, it’s important to recognize the need for intersectional support of LGBTQ+ folks. The issues faced by Black trans women are very different from the issues faced by white gay men. Any actions you take as an ally should benefit the community, but also take into account the struggles of its specifically disenfranchised members.
One harmful practice of “allies” is performative activism, or declaring support for a community to increase your own social capital rather than benefit said community. Performative allyship is a problem because it is done at the convenience and comfort of white people: they are still centering themselves! Genuine allyship centers marginalized groups and responds in ways they invite you to, in ways that they need and want. Then, as an ally, you give your all or what you honestly can to that response. This is because you want to work toward equity and truth, not because you are seeking praise or recognition, or to assuage your own guilt or shame. Check-out this article to read a perspective on the performative works belied by their actual practice of some big companies to understand a little bit better.
Allyship during Pride month is a step in the right direction, but true allyship is a year-round practice. White supremacy and oppression are insidious and pervasive, and are the foundation of the problems for all marginalized groups. They leak discrimination into places where LGBTQ+ folk hold space. By creating space for all voices and genuinely supporting our LGBTQ+ fellow human beings, allies contribute to a more equitable world for this truly beautiful part of our inclusive community.
About Dr. Audrey Jordan:
Dr. Audrey Jordan is the Jerry D. Campbell Professor of Civic Engagement and DEI Specialist at Claremont Lincoln University, and is a certified executive life coach, focused on "accompanying social justice leaders and teams to unchain power for transformation." Audrey’s areas of expertise are in capacity building for constituent-centered, place-based community change; cultivating community democracy; strengthening organizational and collaborative partnership capacities for learning and accountability; and teaching about and facilitating conversations to promote racial equity and social justice. She provides ongoing training services as a race equity consultant and coach with Race Matters Institute.