Members of the LGBT community have long faced discrimination, but today’s hostile political climate renders them even more vulnerable to unjust laws and societal scorn. Fortunately, many allies of the community want to help our friends and family members struggling with sexual or gender identity issues. We just don’t know how to do so effectively.
Simple gestures, such as offering a shoulder to cry on or lending a judgment-free listening ear, mean far more than we know. Additionally, the more people who keep pressure on lawmakers to protect vulnerable members of the LGBT community, the more quickly they’ll enact legislation to protect the rights of these individuals. Taking one or all of the following measures shows your loved ones identifying as LGBT that you truly do care.
1. Speak Up
Sadly, members of the LGBT community still face public harassment and bullying. Almost half of transgender individuals report being the victim of verbal harassment, and far too many others have experienced physical violence.
If you witness harassment in any location, take action if you feel safe doing so. Diffusing a bully need not take the form of direct confrontation. Simply moving to sit next to someone being harassed for their sexual or gender identity on the subway and striking up a conversation with them often stops haters in their tracks. If you observe harassment in the workplace, report it to your HR department, as many members of the LGBT community rightfully fear backlash for reporting.
2. Speak Out
Many Americans have grown disillusioned with our political system, but one fact remains: When the majority campaigns strongly enough for compassionate change, eventually, they win. Contact your representatives in Congress and urge them to pass further protections for members of the LGBT community. For bonus points, pen letters to the editor of local papers demanding greater inclusion for all.
3. Grow Your Understanding
While we may sympathize with their plight, few of us truly take the time to understand exactly how much anti-LGBT actions personally impact those we care about. Get involved and embrace learning about the unique struggles member of the community face in daily life. Attending events like Pride or even going on mission trips abroad offer perfect opportunities for allies to develop a better understanding of issues we may be unaware of.
4. Offer Sanctuary
Many schools and community centers have established safe zones where members of the LGBT community can relax, enjoy social activities or just blow off some steam free from the threat of harassment. Learn about how you can contribute to such programs, as scant resources leave many safe zones in need of recreational supplies. Search for online resources on how to build a successful safe zone replete with meaningful information and activities.
5. Drive to the Doctor
Members of the LGBT community often face difficulty in finding quality health care. Unfortunately, some health care providers can exhibit extreme prejudice, sometimes even refusing to provide certain treatments such as gender reassignment surgery. Having an impartial advocate accompany them to doctor visits often results in a higher degree of care for these vulnerable individuals.
6. Volunteer at Local Schools
School-age children identifying as gay, lesbian, bi or transgender often face bullying in the classroom. Budgetary constraints mean fewer counselors available to offer comfort and advice on campus when needed. Volunteering as a mentor in a local school gives LGBT students at least one friendly person to talk to when the pressure gets too much.
Spreading Equal Love to All
Even though society has made progress, full acceptance of those with different sexual or gender identities will likely take years. In the meantime, given the unique pressures members of the LGBT community face, we all hold a duty to do what we can to promote equality for all. Show that love wins the day by using your voice, advocacy and skills to make the world a more humane and just place.