The definition and meaning of pride can resonate in several ways for different people. It can be experienced as being deeply satisfied by personal success or the achievements of others with whom we are connected — this is particularly true when there is struggle, strife, and stress that accompanies a group. There is a sense of self-worth, self-esteem, and efficacy developed by pushing through and thriving despite adversity.
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, and Asexual/Aromantic (LGBTQA) community know far too well the trials of being left out, dismissed, and disrespected. They have been plagued with tribulations of not being seen, heard, or acknowledged as equal citizens under the law, and worse, have, at times, been vilified for their identity. Still, in the face of this oppression, nominal gains have been made, whereby tremendous opposition has been overcome in more spaces so that LGBTQA community members can marry, have children, and work in the careers of their choice.
June is celebrated annually as PRIDE month to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots against the police harassment and persecution to which LGBTQA Americans were commonly subjected. This marked the beginning of a movement dedicated to achieving equal justice and opportunity for LGBTQA Americans.1 That was a moment in time, however, it is everyone’s ongoing responsibility to hold space and seek understanding for the various intersections of identity while honoring the needs, dreams, and desires expressed by the LGBTQA community.
Four Ways to Bring Acceptance and Protection to the LGBTQA Community
Ask how someone would like to be identified and/or referred to
Avoid making assumptions about anyone’s Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and [Gender] Expression(SOGIE). We all have a SOGIE, and we all express it in diverse ways. Yet, we have been conditioned in society to think that we know who someone is based on how they look, sound, dress, etc. It’s important to keep in mind that sexual orientation is separate from, and not determined by, one’s gender identity and expression2. Further, a person’s external appearance may not align with societal norms for their gender expression, and that’s ok too. Stereotypes, often reinforced by the media, can be harmful and damaging to the sense of self. Simply asking people how they would like to be identified and/or referred to is a great start — this includes the use of their preferred pronouns and chosen name.
Celebrate a person’s identity by actively listening to and learning from the individual
Lean into the learning mode by listening to the individual and respecting any needs expressed. LGBTQA youth, in particular, need to be safe and not condemned, pathologized, or criminalized if they explore and express their sexual orientation and gender identity through means of expression that are normative and expected of and appropriate for all youth1.
"Becoming involved in local movements, voting for inclusive legislature, and putting your dollars towards organizations committed to the cause are just some ways of lending your voice."
- Krystle Herbert, LMFT, PsyD
See mistakes as learning opportunities vs failures
Recognize no one is going to get it right every time, so we must give ourselves some grace when we misstep by saying or doing something that unintentionally has an adverse impact on another. Yet, we should be mindful and think before we speak. Moreover, accept when we are uninformed about an issue and use that as a learning opportunity as opposed to a failure. Exploring resources like the Gay, Lesbian, Alliance, Against Defamation League (GLAAD), and Gender Spectrum4 can help provide an understanding and deepen one’s knowledge around the needs of the LGBTQA community. And, most importantly, always defer to the individual as the expert on their journey and their self-expression.
Identify a means of advocacy and meaningful allyship
Advocacy is at the heart of any movement designed to bring freedom and liberation. There is no one way to have the backs of others, therefore identifying a strategy that works for you is key. While this has not always been the case, the global community is becoming more comfortable speaking up and taking action when we witness something unjust. Becoming involved in local movements, voting for inclusive legislature, and putting your dollars towards organizations committed to the cause are just some ways of lending your voice.
The GLADD Statement for Pride Month 2021 sums it up beautifully and inclusively noting that, “Full LGBTQ acceptance cannot be achieved until we protect the most vulnerable among us.” Now is the time to lend acceptance and protection by embracing all the dimensions of diversity in this country and around the world.