Spaces: Lexington Pride Festival 2017

“the queer community made a powerful statement about the overwhelming love we have”

When I traveled to Kentucky with my boss, I wasn’t sure that the south would be the most accepting place. I am happy to say that, as far as Lexington is concerned, I was very wrong. We had the booth set up for about twelve hours that day so I was on my feet for about ten and it happened to be our busiest day ever so I was able to interact with a lot of people.

At Lexington’s Pride Festival, I was able to witness something I had never seen before in real life: Christian extremists protesting. They had the classic “HOMO SEX IS SIN” sign, some other ones about how we were all going to hell, and even an anti-Islam sign (for good measure I guess? I don’t know how they think. It was not super pertinent to the day’s events other than they fact that they had intersectional hatred.) They gathered around the entrance and for at least seven hours in the blazing heat held these signs and said horrible, hateful things at the crowd through bullhorns.

What I also witnessed that day for the first time was how much love the LGBTQ+ community has. Our table was fairly near to these protestors so we overheard them all day. I was not super bothered by it after awhile (apparently after being told you’re going to hell repeatedly eventually the edge wears off) but some people, especially young kids, were. Throughout the day, people stood in front of the protestors and made noise to drown them out. From students for the rights of trans students with pride flag capes and signs of their own, drag queens, a big gay marching band, and large groups with noisemakers, there was constantly a group who refused to let the message of hate from the protestors be heard. It was comforting to know that we (specifically here I mean queer youth and others who were bothered by it) were so loved by this community that people would sacrifice their time and energy to make us feel safe. It was powerful stuff.

I know this might not be the best way to try to get protestors to leave, but it wasn’t necessarily about that. We knew they wouldn’t leave. Instead, the community took it upon themselves to make sure that everyone who was there knew that we had each other’s backs. It was beautiful. To be around such a tangible symbol of how much love we have and how dead-set we are on combating hate was amazing. While I wish there had not been protestors, I am glad that the day progressed the way it did. At LexPride, the queer community made a powerful statement about the overwhelming love we have and how we believe that can and should be first and foremost in combating this type of hatred. Not necessarily fighting back or retaliation, but love and support for the rest of us.

Stay proud.

Being an Ally to the Queer Community 101

On Wednesday I was blessed to help and watch Meghan (my boss) give a presentation on some basics of how to respect and communicate with transgender people. She spoke for about four hours on issues specific to transgender people. She touched on the importance of being an ally and thus inspired me to write this little guide on the parts of allyship which I think should be more emphasized.

 

  • Remember that your number one job as an ally is to offer support for the LGBTQ+ community.

As an ally, you have to remember that your voice is only as important as it amplifies the voices of those who you are allied with. Constantly educate yourself on issues important to this community. Don’t depend on queer people to educate you, but always listen to the voices in this community because they know more about their experiences than you do.

  • Understand the impact of your vote and use it correctly.

This means voting for people who support the rights of queer people and sometimes queer politicians themselves. The LGBTQ+ community is a significant voting bloc, but we by no means make up enough of the population to elect the officials and vote for the issues we need by ourselves. As an ally, you have to support us both in word and action.

  • Understand your place.

Allyship does not align you with the struggles or discrimination we face. Don’t make this about you. Know that we appreciate the support, but also know that you’re here to offer that support by listening to us, advocating for us, voting in ways to help us, and so forth. Being an ally is an important part of being a good person and doing good for your fellow man. Don’t expect a gold star for doing your duty.

  • Accept that you will make mistakes.

Sometimes you’ll flub up pronouns or say the wrong thing. Don’t freak out about it. Apologize, correct it, thank someone if they corrected you, and move on. Don’t argue with a queer person about whether or not you meant to make a mistake, and don’t make this about you by over-apologizing and giving a million reasons as to why you would never mess up on purpose ever (“I have a gay friend!” “I love Modern Family!” “I voted for Hillary!”) That’s all super cool, but again, this isn’t about you. Apologize, understand that you may have offended someone deeply and they may need time or space to deal with it, and then continue with your life and try not to make the mistake again.

  • Support us when we can’t speak up for ourselves.

Here’s where being an ally really is tested. Much like voting for our interests, you have to remember that queer people are people too at all times. This means not making insensitive jokes, not laughing about them, and even correcting your friends if they make them. This is saying “Hey Tom, it’s not cool how you use (insert offensive term here) as an insult” even when no one who is queer is around. This is not watching shows or films which use homophobic, transphobic, or biphobic schticks to be funny or edgy. This one is difficult, but it is also of one of the most important, as change must happen in communities dominated by non-queer persons for equality to truly be reached.

  • Learn the importance of intersectionality.

I am a white gay woman and as such I only understand my struggles. I cannot speak on the journey of queer POC, transpersons, bisexuals, etc. I do consider myself an ally of and the family of people in these communities! Good allyship necessitates the understanding that the LGBTQ+ community is diverse and that just considering yourself an ally of queer persons neglects this diversity. You should consider yourself an ally of all persons less privileged and differently privileged than yourself.

 

Stay out and proud and loud y’all. Good luck navigating allyship. You can do it!