Dear Denver: Show Your Pride, Be an Ally

Katherine Miller | @runofthekmill

Although not officially recognized by the current administration, June is Pride Month, commemorating the 1969 Stonewall riots and acknowledging and celebrating the LGBTQ community. Yes, there are parades, picnics, concerts, and other festivities, but Pride is about so much more. In our current sociopolitical climate, it is increasingly important we support, honor, and recognize the struggles of marginalized communities not just in June or on parade day. How can we raise our critical consciousness to be allies every single day?

Broads, I know you all want to be better allies.

 And broads, I know you want to spark ideas and conversations among your friends about how they may be better allies to you and other LGBTQ folks. Here are some ideas to get those efforts underway.

1.     Educate Yourself and Read (More)

Even as a member of the LGBTQ community, I need to be doing this. Because knowledge helps us better support everyone. If you are going to participate in the Pride festivities, you should know about the Stonewall riots, the transwomen who paved the way for the revolution, and the struggles the liberation movements faced (and still faces). You should know who Sylvia Rivera is. Period. It’s about so much more than marriage equality; we’ve reached that pinnacle, and there is still work to be done. You need to know what the L, G, B, T, and Q stand for.

So pick up a book. Do a Google search. Watch a documentary. Take a class (MSU Denver offers a fantastic Introduction to Transgender Studies course, for example). BECOME INFORMED, and then share your new knowledge with others. Don’t depend on LGBTQ folks to continuously educate you; you’re perfectly capable of doing that on your own.

2.     Take Pronoun Usage Seriously

If people constantly referred to you by the wrong name—even after you corrected them—you’d be upset and frustrated, right? Pronouns are just as important as names; it’s a part of people’s identities, and needs to be unquestionably respected. If you are unsure of someone’s pronouns, ask! I promise you it will be much better received than making assumptions based on clothing and haircuts. If you make a mistake, correct yourself.

Here’s a helpful tool to begin such a conversation. I can’t take credit for this; a student at MSU Denver introduced themselves to me this way, and I thought it was brilliant. In fact, I wonder why we all don’t do it. The student said, “Hi, my name is _____, my pronouns are they/them/theirs, what about you?” Flawless.

Referring to someone by the wrong pronouns can lead to feelings of distrust, alienation, and being unsafe. As an ally, you should never want anyone to feel this way. Language matters. In case you need a little more guidance on pronouns, follow this delightful infographic, courtesy of The 519, a Toronto city agency dedicated to LGBTQ community health, happiness, and full participation.

3.     Don’t Tolerate Discrimination

Being an ally means speaking up when you see and hear things that are discriminatory and hateful toward LGBTQ folks. If you’re running around in rainbow gear at Pride, but won’t speak out when someone can’t use the restroom corresponding to their gender identity, you aren’t doing it right. We should never tolerate othering in our communities, or any behavior and language marginalizing those who identify as LGBTQ. Being an ally does not mean showing up when it is convenient for you. It is a constant state of being.

4.     Support Local LGBTQ Services

The Denver community provides incredible services for LGBTQ folks. Learn more about Survivors Organizing for Liberation (SOL), The Center, and Rainbow Alley (youth specific), to name a few. Donate to these groups. Volunteer your time, if you can. Keep resource numbers in your phone so you can share them when needed. This step may sound small, but can be a life changer for someone looking for support.

5.     Pay Attention to Local Legislation

We are only six months into the Trump administration. We still have 42 months left. That means we need to be vigilant about local legislation to support LGBTQ folks. You may think bathrooms are no big deal, but they can be scary and sometimes violent places for trans folks. I have friends who hid in stairwells, feared for the lives, and refused to use public restrooms. This shouldn’t have to happen. Ever. Let’s not let North Carolina happen here.

Pay attention to laws surrounding things like conversion therapy (which, P.S., is absolutely NOT therapy). Even though this unethical practice has been banned in Colorado for now, it is a constant topic of conversation.

6.     Take a Back Seat

Most importantly, if you do not identify as LGBTQ, you must recognize that PRIDE IS NOT FOR YOU. You can attend and show support, but you are taking a back seat. Outside of Pride, it means talking less and listening more. You cannot be an ally without listening to the needs of the community you are aiming to support. Remember: you are not the speaker box. There is no podium for you. LGBTQ folks get to speak on behalf of themselves, and should be front and center. You are the support staff, the backup singers, the understudies. You shouldn’t be an ally for the credit and if you can’t be an ally without getting a pat on the back, you are going to struggle.

Alright broads, you’re on your way. To encouraging others to be be better allies to you. To being a better ally yourself. Ally work is important. Social change requires movement of all people. Time to get to work.

For more information on Pride events in Denver, click here.