Coming out on the LGBT+ spectrum is more than wrestling with labels. It requires far more than a minute of stupidly blind courage and it’s more than saying you are now living authentically. As an officer in Trinity’s PRIDE group, we often get questions from straight and cisgender students regarding allyship. How can we help? Can we come to your events? The short answer is always yes. Please. More.
The last few years have been record-breaking for the LGBT+ community. The federal government finally granted equal marriage rights and more and more states are protecting the rights of LGBT+ couples to adopt children. These are the things we usually talk about the most. It’s easy, beautiful and encouraging.
We rarely see big conversations about how 2016 has seen an influx in transgender murders. As of September, we know of 21 deaths. A majority of these were transwomen of color. One of the most recent deaths to hit the news occurred only a day’s drive away in Tyler, Texas. In June, we experienced one of the largest shootings in our country’s history. We lost 49 LGBT+ lives in a single night in Orlando. Major TV shows killed over 200 LGBT+ characters in 2015 and 2016 seasonal runs alone. A majority of these character deaths were violent.
Larger ally networks such as the Trevor Project have reported that calls to their suicide prevention hotlines have doubled since the passing of targeted legislation such as the notorious “Bathroom Bill” in North Carolina. The Republican Party is supporting a vice presidential candidate that openly supports conversion therapy and the defunding of HIV/AIDS programs.
These issues have a nasty habit of trending for a day or two before dropping off mainstream radars, if they even manage to hit the news in the first place. It’s ugly and it’s uncomfortable, but these are the numbers and the issues your LGBT+ friends, both out and closeted, are confronted with each and every day.
If you’ve ever been to a Pride parade, you may have seen a bunch of beautiful, laughing, rainbow-wearing and glitter-speckled people carrying a banner that says something like “Give Us Our Flowers While We’re Still Alive.” This is where we need your allyship, my friends. We aren’t seeking special privileges. We’re seeking respect, support and recognition. We’re looking for friends with big voices and crazy ideas that address issues and not incidents. Our conversations need to be proactive and tailored to the community, rather than reactive to yet another hashtag. We’re looking for allies that acknowledge that being straight and cisgender places you in a dominant group in American society. We’re looking for allies that know this privilege allows for greater impact and change if you amplify LGBT+ voices.
At Trinity specifically, we need allies who show up for more than pizza night. Allyship is not dancing with us at gay clubs and going to drag shows. Come to our open dialogues. Propose and engage with research and participate in the tough conversations. Advertise our community events and bring us fresh ideas. Spend less time joking about our acronym and spend more time with us as people.
LGBT+ lives are not awkward. They are very real and sometimes very complicated. To anyone affronted, offended or uncomfortable with the mere existence of LGBT+ people, I suggest recalling the words we so love to quote while defending certain amendment rights. We are all created equal and we are all entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I’ve been told before that if I don’t like the state of this country, I can leave. The fight for my place in this world has been long and hard, and I’m not done yet. LGBT+ people, like all Americans, deserve to live long lives free of oppression and fear, and we need help and collaboration to make this a long-haul reality.
So here is your call to action.