February is the LGBT+ History Month – an annual celebration to raise awareness of the LGBTQ+ community and celebrate its history, achievements, and diversity. Together with Pride Month in July, it is an important time for the LGBTQ+ communities around the world when their voices can be amplified, a spotlight shone on their victories as well as struggles.
It is also the perfect time for allies to truly reflect on what they have done to help promote equality in their day-to-day lives – whether it is by having conversations, learning about the struggles of the LGBTQ+ communities in the UK and beyond, or introducing new ideas for inclusion in the workplace.
However, the truth is that even the people with the best intentions can sometimes feel powerless while seeing the inequalities everywhere, and it’s easy to doubt whether you are actually making a difference. It is normal to feel like this – even the most unrelenting human rights activists feel burned out from time to time. After all, we live in the times of socio-political unrest, snowballing climate crisis and the pandemic, which can make campaigning for equality even more exhausting, especially because the change often takes a long time and doesn’t give instant gratification.
With that being said, I want to bring you some excellent news from 2021 to assure all allies that their help really does make a difference for LGBTQ+ people. Just last year, Chile, Switzerland and Tokyo legalised same-sex marriage, while France, Germany and Canada all banned conversion therapy. A bit closer to home, Scotland became the first country to require teaching of LGBTQ+ history in schools, and blood donation ban for gay and bisexual men officially lifted in England, Scotland and Wales. These incredible wins for equality would not have been possible without LGBTQ+ activists and their allies, who stood by them and believed in a shared cause.
I hope these examples helped raise your spirits, and below are a few easy ways in which you too can help the LGBTQ+ community today.
1. Include your pronouns in your email signature or on your work badge
Pronouns are the words we use to refer to people when we’re not talking directly to them, such as she/her, he/him or they/them. Putting your pronouns in a place where others can see it is an easy yet meaningful gesture to show your support to trans people, and it also normalises the fact that people have different pronouns. If you’d like to learn more about pronouns, follow this link: https://www.mypronouns.org/what-and-why
2. Read LGBTQ+ stories
Literature has always been vital to the LGBTQ+ communities – it not only provides minority groups with a voice to be heard, but it also increases representation and social acceptance. During the last year, countless powerful and important LGBTQ+ books have been published, and they’ve helped people feel seen in new and exciting ways. For a list of must-reads, check out this article by Pink News, featuring the bestselling ‘The Transgender Issue’ by Shon Faye.
3. Sign the petition to ban conversion therapy in the UK
There is still time to fill out the consultation about conversion therapy in the UK, but only until the 4th of February.
Today, it’s still legal for LGBTQ+ people in the UK to be subjected to conversion therapy, which is an umbrella term to describe a wide range of damaging and degrading practices that aim to erase, repress, or change people’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Conversion therapy covers a vast array of pseudo-psychological practices, from talking therapies – that encourage a person to believe that their sexual orientation or gender identity is somehow wrong, disordered, or sinful – to physical abuse, beatings, or the use of so-called ‘corrective rape’. These harmful practices are still prevalent in the UK – in fact, 7% of LGBTQ+ people in the UK have been offered or undergone conversion therapy, according to Stonewall charity. The UK Government published a consultation to find out what people think about it, which is a chance for allies to raise their voices and help end these abusive practices. Stonewall created a helpful guide to submitting your response.
Bauer Media’s own LGBTQ+ dedicated radio station Hits Radio Pride recently produced a mini docu-series exploring conversion therapy, speaking to individuals who had experienced these “therapies” in the past and the organisations and charities that are dealing with the impact these “therapies” can have. You can listen to all the interviews here.
4. Consider donating to or volunteering with QTIPOC charities
QTIPOC stands for Queer, Trans and Intersex People of Colour, who encompass some of the most marginalized members of the LGBTQ+ community, existing at the intersection of identities that are targeted by racism and Islamophobia, as well as homophobia and transphobia.
In the UK, the main charity supporting specifically QTIPOC is the UK Black Pride, which is Europe’s largest celebration for African, Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American and Caribbean-heritage LGBTQ+ people. There are also a lot of grassroots organisations that don’t receive the same level of coverage and funding as more mainstream charities, but their work is essential in the communities they serve. If you have got any means to do so, consider donating or volunteering with the UK Black Pride or charities such as BLACKOUT UK, who support Black queer men, and Hidayah UK, who are a leading queer Muslim charity.
5. Have conversations about LGBTQ+ topics
It sounds simple but can be challenging – encouraging open conversation about LGBTQ+ identities with your family members, co-workers and friends is vital in the long run. It is especially important to call out any signs of prejudice and challenge existing biases in a safe and educational way. For tips on inclusive language, GLAAD organisation created ‘An ally’s guide to terminology’ , and this website by NSPCC includes guidance on talking to children about LGBTQ+ identities. If you prefer video, check out these 4 TED talks about diversity and inclusion by LGBTQ+ people and allies.