As we celebrate this special month of Pride, it’s important to pay attention to how we can step up as allies for those exploring their sexuality. This can come in many shapes and forms beyond sporting a gay pride flag. It could be supporting a friend without judgement as they navigate their own preferences. Or perhaps you’re able to offer advice about the terminology that resonates on a personal level. Whatever actions we take, here are some sassy stories and tips on how to make one another feel supported in their LGBTQ+ journey.
Personally, I grew up thinking I was straight, or rather convincing myself I was straight, due to waves of external pressure within my heterosexual, religious circles. It wasn’t until I was 27 years old that I started opening up about my attraction to women. In doing so, I was met with responses such as “maybe you’re just bicurious” or “going through a phase”. Friends justified these questions based on the fact that I didn’t have any intimate experiences with people of the same sex.
It took me until I was 30 to understand that I didn't need to prove my sexual preferences through action. Simply desiring and fantasizing was proof enough that my sexuality moved beyond the binary of straight or gay. I decided to spend time exploring what terminology could suit how I felt, finally settling on pansexuality. This means I am attracted to people regardless of their gender. You see, what I find attractive and arousing is the human, the personality beyond any gender they identify with.
What would have been incredibly helpful in my earlier years, and even today, was to have the space and freedom to share my desires without being questioned about my sexual authenticity. Instead, it is essential that we protect one another's sexual journey and explorations in an open and non-judgemental fashion. So here, my friends, is a sassy guide to LGBTQ+ allyship.
1. Support & Share
If someone confides in you that they are questioning their sexual preferences, be open, supportive and encouraging. Offer tools and advice that may be on your radar so that they can continue their exploration without you grilling them on why, who, and what. There are many great LGBQA advocates who can shed more light on this for you to learn from such as Tanya Compass, Michael Sam, the Queer Eye’s Fab Five, and Laverne Cox.
2. We Change
Remembering that our lives are continually transient journeys of differing desires and needs means that one week we may be super into one person, while the next, we could feel ourselves leaning into our asexual side. It's important to respect and support people's journeys rather than question their shifts. If someone is confused about why they may feel differently then remind them that it's natural to fluidly move between attraction. The less pressure to prove anything or solidify a person's sexual preferences the better
3. Watch Your Words
When telling a close friend that I was going on a date with a woman, she asked in an accusational tone "are you queer now?". At the time, I wasn't sure how to connect with that term but one thing was for sure - I felt judged. If I said yes, would this friend push me away, would she accuse me of being attracted to her? 5 years later and I love embodying this term of queerness. It is something I am truly proud of and grateful for as the queer community has been the safest space to liberate my sassy self. However, the memory of my friend’s face and cutting questions left a scar. So I ask - watch your tongue, be aware of your reactions, give space for people to define themself and offer the toolbox of language rather than judgment.
4. Learn the Language
Let's dig into this toolbox I mentioned above. Terminology can be an amazing way for people to name how they feel. But labeling someone without them initiating their favored terms isn't helpful. Be it Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Asexual (or Ace), Pansexual, Omnisexual (the list goes on), there is a whole library of terms that may or may not resonate. Some people may also reject all labels and this is equally fabulous. Accept and research on your own terms.
5. Remember the Reality of Change
For years I was an ally to my queer friends. I marched, I supported, I educated but I never allowed the same acceptance for myself. I recognize now that this was partly due to my own internal homophobia; the fear of being judged, teased or discluded. The reality of homophobia within society is very real. It crosses between generations and global spheres. So never underestimate the power of being an ally. Call people out when they use derogatory terms and names. Stand up for your friends and if possible, for yourself too. Because no one should be made to feel judged, punished or at danger due to their sexuality.
Here’s to a fabulous Pride month, may it continue into the rest of the year!