Beyond Pride Month – Being An Effective Ally to the Queer and Trans Community For the Entire Year
Globally, Pride Month takes place in June. This month involves parades, shows, events, drag shows, and other activities to celebrate and advocate for 2SLGBTQIA+ people, communities, existence, rights, and joy.
While June is Pride Month, this does not mean that celebrations and activism should only take place for that one month of the year. While queer and trans visibility and joy are integral to Pride, these elements are necessary all year long just as much as during the month of June. It is crucial, especially for those who are not themselves part of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, to practice allyship beyond one month in the year.
“Allyship” is not a single act, nor is it a title to apply to oneself. It is an ongoing, genuine, and active practice – not discreet, performative, or centering of whiteness. Allyship to any community necessitates intersectionality, because all forms of oppression that our society is founded in are interacting forces, and as such create unique and compounding forms of oppression for folks belonging to more than one marginalized community.
There are many ways to practice allyship, and there is no right time to get started. Any time is the best time, and any small act is better than nothing. Saying something when witnessing injustice is vital in demonstrating allyship, especially where those facing injustice would face persecution for standing up for their own rights. Being an ally will mean conceding some of your own comfortability, but discomfort is part of growing. Consider instances where someone chooses to act instead of keeping quiet to stay comfortable, and how – compared to someone experiencing hate, discrimination, or violence – experiencing an uncomfortable situation is still safer and more comfortable than being the one experiencing such harassment.
If you would like to genuinely support the queer, trans, and 2SLGBTQIA+ community, ensure that your allyship extends beyond Pride Month.
Pride is not just a celebration, but an ongoing protest for rights and equality. It is still a protest to this day, and it will remain as such until the global vision for equality is achieved.
In acknowledging those who have paved the way for queer and trans folks, it should be said that it was Black and Brown trans and queer, working-class people, drag performers, and activists, who set in motion the protests and movements for 2SLGBTQIA+ rights, which we are still fighting for today. Pride exists as an ongoing reminder to the commitment made following the Stonewall Uprising, which was led by Black and Brown trans and queer people, including activists and drag performers such as Marsha P. Johnson and Silvia Rivera. This commitment was to continue protesting until global equality for gender and sexual diverse people is achieved.
The Stonewall Uprisings were a key moment in a long series of protests and activism in the pursuit of attaining rights for queer and trans people.
Same sex marriage was made legal in Canada in 2006. Globally, there are currently 34 countries where same-sex marriage is legal (of about 195 countries total). In none of these countries has full equality been achieved for people in the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. This is why we still have and need Pride.
Modern Activism and Protesting
Activism within and in support of the queer and trans community is vital in the ongoing effort to achieving equal rights, recognition, and acceptance in global society.
While it is commonly assumed that Canada is among the ‘best’ in terms of 2SLGBTQIA+ rights and social acceptance, there remain significant challenges and drawbacks to attaining true safety and belonging. For queer and trans people in so-called Canada, there are disproportionately higher experiences facing discrimination, hate, harassment, mental illness, self-harm, and suicidality, and of violence including sexual assault. When looking at statistics for Two-Spirit and other Indigenous queer and trans people, as well as queer and trans Black People and other People of Colour, the rates of victimization are significantly higher. While Canada and a few other countries in the world do have certain legal protections for 2SLGBTQIA+ folks, the majority of countries do not, and even in those with some protections, many queer and trans folks still face social discrimination and intolerance.
In recent years in both the US and Canada (among other Western nations), there has been an alarming rise in hateful ideology and violence against the transgender community. Alongside this ideology, anti-trans legislation has also been proposed, enacted, and enforced in many states in the US as well as certain provinces in Canada. The transgender community is being targeted as a scapegoat, with hateful organizations and politicians claiming that transgender people and ‘gender ideology’ is a threat to children and general society. This kind of rhetoric has been reused and recycled in hate campaigns against gay and queer folks in the past, specifically during the AIDS crisis. However, it is crucial to remember that transgender and queer people have always existed, and will continue to exist, so long as humanity does. Queer and transness are innate to humanity and nature itself. Hate and violence against the 2SLGBTQIA+ community is also nothing new, but it must be met with severe pushback and retaliation from activists and allies to ensure that as a society we don’t allow a few hateful people to negatively impact the millions of queer and trans folks that deserve equal rights and belonging. This is exactly why Pride and 2SLGBTQIA+ activism remain movements of the present, recognizing the path ahead is not yet clear of obstacles, hate, and violence against the community.
Allyship as a general term represents an ongoing, active, and genuine practice, commitment, and effort to advocating and acting in support of a specific equity-deserving community. Practicing allyship may take many forms, such as learning, communicating with others, and creating systemic changes. Allies should strive to centre historically marginalized voices, experiences, and communities, and aim to support the work already being done by individuals who themselves belong to the community.
Beyond Pride Month, there are many everyday examples of actions that people outside of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community can take to practice allyship in support of queer and trans folks.
Some examples of actions allies can take include:
- Celebrating and supporting the 2SLGBTQIA+ community beyond the month of June by planning initiatives throughout the year.
- Specifically, you could consider honouring different commemorative dates throughout the year that highlight different identities in the queer and trans community.
- Take intentional time to learn about the community (consider reading, using social media, watching movies, documentaries, or TV shows, and more).
- When taking steps to learn about an identity or a topic relating to gender or sexual diversity, be intentional to centre and learn about BIPOC queer and trans perspectives as well as other marginalized communities. Pride exists as it is today because of the activism of BIPOC trans and queer women.
- Donate! If you want to be an ally and demonstrate your support to a particular community, directly donating to organizations or activists is a tangible and very-needed way to help. You could donate to organizations and non-profits, or individual people through mutual aid, Venmo, and other money sharing apps. If you have the capacity to donate and give your money, it is always needed.
- In a workplace, employers or employees can create affinity groups to allow people within marginalized groups to meet, socialize, share their experiences, and discuss how their experiences in the workplace may be improved.
- Creating space as an individual for your queer, trans, or questioning colleagues, loved ones, and acquaintances is a hugely impactful small act, involving simply listening, being empathetic, and offering genuine support.
Beyond the above specific examples, there are many actions that allies can take to support queer and trans folks.
Consider the many complex ways that society reinforces binary sex and gender conceptions as well as cis-hetero-patriarchal norms. In challenging these standards and striving to create a gender neutral and inclusive space, try the following:
- Use inclusive and gender-neutral language
- Consider gender-neutral greetings for events and meetings (such as, “Honored Guests”, “Welcome everyone”, “Hello all,” etc.)
- Gendered titles are not always necessary, but if they must be used, provide alternatives such as ‘Mx’ (pronounced “mix”) as an option along with Mr, Ms, and Mrs.
- Use gender neutral language, such as the pronouns ‘they/them,’ when someone’s gender identity or pronouns are unknown (though, make an effort to confirm their pronouns when the opportunity arises). This acknowledges that gender cannot be assumed based on how people present or
- Challenge cis-hetero-normativity, for example,
- Do not assume someone is straight unless they say otherwise. Acknowledge that sexuality is complex, and one cannot tell if someone is gay, straight, bisexual, queer, or other sexualities based on their appearance.
- In a similar vein, do not asked about their “husband” or “wife,” assuming someone is in a heterosexual-presenting relationship.
- Acknowledge that clothes and other items do not have a gender, and people of any gender can have any hobby, interest, fashion style, and career.
- Learn about and practice gender-neutral pronouns.
- Make a commitment to respecting everyone’s pronouns.
- Using incorrect pronouns is called misgendering someone, which may be very harmful for trans and gender diverse folks.
- Ensure you practice. It may take time if it is new to you, but the key is making a conscious and intentional effort to try.
- Avoid assuming someone’s gender and their pronouns.
- Pronouns are not indicative of someone’s gender identity, gender expression, nor their sex characteristics or sexuality. These separate categories do not predict. You cannot know unless someone tells you (and even then, gender and sexuality are fluid and may change over time).
- Introducing yourself with your name and pronouns can demonstrate and indicate to others that they are welcome to share their pronouns with you.
- For gender diverse people entering new environments, this is a matter of safety and visibility.
- If you make a mistake, best way to address and move on from the situation is to:
- Correct yourself using the right pronoun,
- Apologize (careful not to linger or resonate your feelings of guilt),
- [If they corrected you,] thank them for reminding you of their correct pronouns,
- Move on in the conversation and internally, commit yourself to doing better, keep learning, and practice more.
- Even if the idea of pronouns is new to you or if it feels complicated, that does not mean people with gender neutral pronouns are not worthy of respect.
- Make a commitment to respecting everyone’s pronouns.
While allyship may not be easy or comfortable, is a crucial pillar to the advancement of queer and trans rights and inclusion globally. For straight/heterosexual and cisgender folks, the easiest thing you can do immediately to contribute is to make an intentional effort to learn more, and commit to doing so. On social media for example, people can easily find themselves in echo chambers that lack diverse voices, so a simple change can be finding new intersectional queer and trans people to follow. Aim to really break out of your comfort zone and expand what you learn and hear about on a daily basis. You may also try reading books by intersectional queer and trans authors, or watching shows, movies, or consuming other media created by and including queer and trans people.
Allyship is ultimately about basic respect, empathy, and equity. Recognize that queer and trans folks are people, and as such, do not pose invasive questions about someone’s sexuality or their sex characteristics. Additionally, stand up for people when you notice mistakes or unkind transgressions; corrections, reminders, and even calling folks in can go a long way in letting queer and trans colleagues know that they are not alone, that others see them for who they are, and people are willing to stand up for them.
Pride is far more than an opportunity to make profits by hopping on a ‘trend;’ it cannot be passive, performative, nor exploitative – Pride necessitates much more than that, and allies along with workplaces should go beyond rainbow capitalism and performative allyship if they truly support the 2SLGBTQIA Plus community.
Pride Month takes place in June as an opportunity for 2SLGBTQIA+ people and communities to celebrate and advocate for their existence, rights, and joy. This time is equally an opportunity for allies to the queer and trans community to demonstrate their support. While Pride Month is a distinct event taking place only for one month of the year, this does not mean that celebrations and activism should only take place then. Queer and trans visibility and joy belong in society all year long.
To genuinely support the queer, trans, and 2SLGBTQIA+ community, ensure that your actions are not restricted within Pride Month, but are extended far beyond one month of the year.