Ettinger: The LGBTQ Community Needs More Than One Month of Support

By Eve Ettinger

June 14, 2021

As we celebrate the LGBTQ community during Pride Month, it’s important to recognize the fight for equality doesn’t end on June 30.

BLACKSBURG-Welcome to Pride Month! Congratulations, you can see us queer folks for this month only! Target sells our merch, and even Raytheon changed its logo on social media to be rainbow-themed. If you weren’t looking closely, you might think that society had moved past the need for LGBTQ awareness. It seems like being queer is safely celebrated and normalized, if you’re just looking at pop and consumer culture. 

It’s disorienting to watch corporations launch their Pride campaigns while simultaneously watching my queer friends get arrested for protesting. Or while waiting for SCOTUS rulings that could jeopardize our legal protections to come down. Or while watching state legislature after state legislature vote on bills that would disenfranchise trans people. There’s a month-long public celebration of my community while we’re being ground down on all sides. It’s a lot to process. How can I celebrate being out when it puts me in danger?

But Pride Was A Riot

Recently, Roxane Gay wrote a piece for the New York Times, responding to queer cops who expressed frustration at being unwelcome at Pride. She had to break down the history of Pride and why cops are a distasteful presence at such events. There’s a history of police raiding gay bars to target and harass sex workers and trans people. It’s forced the queer community to historically protect itself and avoid involving the law out of self-preservation. (The history of Kitty Genovese’s death and bystander intervention is directly tied to this last bit.) Gay explained this in her piece, elaborating on the Stonewall Riot and how Pride wouldn’t exist without cops antagonizing queer folks just trying to live their lives. 

This tension–those who could make the lives of queer people easier feeling left out when queer people come out to play and don’t want them there–is part and parcel with this cognitive dissonance I’ve been experiencing. The powers that be don rainbows and want to dance in the streets with us every June. But when we ask for help rallying to push back against transphobic legislation or for protections to access medical care and housing and be securely employed without the fear of discrimination, the response is often crickets. 

How Can You Support The LGBTQ Community?

How can we alleviate this tension, close this chasm and actually show up for the queer people in our lives? The first step is to listen. Queer communities are vocal about the challenges that face us. Often we’re eager to point allies in the right direction for concrete ways to show support. 

In your workplace, suggest hiring a queer consultant to do a sensitivity training. Bring in an expert to talk about things that are overlooked or ways to improve. Don’t rely on the one queer person in the office to do this labor for you. Instead, pay someone who specializes in this kind of work. 

If you’re in the media, check out the Trans Journalist Association’s style guide and implement their recommended best practices in your communications. Make sure that you’re practicing the “nothing about us without us” rule for coverage of marginalized groups. Are you writing about queer people without citing any queer sources? That’s an area for improvement. 

If you’re interacting with a queer friend or family member, remember that queer folks aren’t a monolith. You can educate yourself on queer issues, but your friend or family member will always be the best person to ask. Treat them as an individual first, and ask before making sweeping assumptions. If you’re tempted to ask invasive questions, test it out on yourself first. How would you feel about being asked how you know you’re straight or cisgender? 

Give Your Attention and Money to LGBTQ Communities

Pay attention to your local politics. What’s up for debate or a vote that might affect queer communities in your area? Have you called your elected representative to comment on these issues? Showing up for queer concerns by adding your voice as a constituent is much more important than telling the world you’re an ally on social media or showing up for a Pride celebration.

And finally, if you’re going to celebrate Pride (and that’s just fine to do!), consider getting merch from queer artists instead of places like Target. There’s thousands of creative queer people selling art and clothing and buttons on places like Etsy or elsewhere. They’ll benefit directly from your purchases whereas a corporation is likely to just turn around and put those dollars into lobbying against workers’ rights and queer protections.

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