By Jerald Uy
Applying the Golden Rule in the modern age, people should respect each other no matter the sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression (SOGIE). We need not be queer to respect the rest who identify as such. Extending this rule as a way to exhibit more kindness, those of us not necessarily part of the LGBTQIA+ community should instead work on being better allies.
Here’s a little info on how SOGIE-related discrimination affects younger generations who are part of the spectrum: Next to bullying, struggles in sexuality among the youth has been detrimental to both their physical and mental health. A May 2021 study, for example, revealed that 42% of 35,000 American teenagers (13-24) have contemplated on committing suicide in the 12 months prior. More than half of the respondents have identified as trans or nonbinary, reported the Trevor Project, the NGO behind the study.
I myself am a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community. And I’m writing this not as a call for charity. I believe that better allyship is a movement to sustain humanity.
Beyond Pride Month, I invite us all to work together in making this world happier, healthier, safer, and more livable. Here are some simple ways you can be a better ally!
1. Educate yourself first.
Familiarize yourself with all things that make the spectrum so colorful and exciting. Students may opt for gender courses offered at school. Employees can consult with HR about gender philosophies and policies at work. If all else fails, there’s always the Internet to guide you through. There are many personalities and communities in one with the #LoveWins cause, ready to invite you to the conversation.
You can immerse yourself a little deeper by talking to queer people closest to you. Without forcing them to open up or come out, let them tell you about their own journeys. Be patient with their pace. Listen without interruption. Learn from them. Hug them. In the end, promise them your support and love.
2. Stop it with the mean comments and jokes, once and for all.
Some of us admittedly grew up in old-school households, where the gays have become the object of insults, jokes, or even fear. Boys couldn’t cry lest they get called effeminate. Girls couldn’t play basketball lest they get called tomboyish.
In my late 20s, I confronted a straight friend about why he kept making jokes about gays when he had me as his buddy. He could only say, "Ganun talaga (It's what it is)."
We are living in the modern age and those days should have retired along with its patriarchal perpetrators. It’s high time to turn these things that we used to let slide OBSOLETE—and for good.
If you consider yourself an ally, you have to confront your personal prejudices. Open yourself up to society ever evolving for the better, especially when your loved ones are concerned.
In the process, you can also translate that support into action. If you encounter people letting out discriminatory remarks online or offline, go ahead and school them about the #LoveWins mantra. Remind them that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect.
3. Don't assume people's genders or preferences.
At work, I would usually wear my headset and play music to keep my creative juices flowing. One time, my officemates thought I could not hear them. I was still picking a song to play, when I heard them talking about me being gay. My bisexual self was left conflicted, hurt, and anxious by their comments.
So, even when you mean well, never assume about people's genders. It’s exactly the space and distance those navigating through themselves need.
4. Stop deadnaming.
Deadnaming means calling transgenders by their birth names, even though they have already transitioned and made their new names known to everyone. When you call them by their given name, it can feel invalidating. Make some effort to acknowledge their new identity by respecting their identity.
5. Respect people's pronouns.
Learn to be politically correct in your pronouns. It’s one of the most basic ways to respect people considering their chosen gender identity. This simple SOP instantly creates a safe space for people of all parts of the spectrum. Referring to non-binary people as "they/them," and other genders as "he/him" and "she/her" already sets the tone for allyship.
How to know which pronouns to use? Just ask. It may feel awkward at first, but it should clear the air quickly for a safe, proper, and respectful conversation.