While being LGBTQ+ is accepted now more than ever, it still comes with plenty of hardships. On both a societal and personal level, there are still many ways in which people can be discriminated against for their sexuality. And while everyone should show support for their friends who identify as LGBTQ+, as part of the historically oppressed population themselves, this is especially true for women. If you’re a girl who has a friend of a different sexual orientation, there are some simple yet meaningful ways in which you can show your support.
1. Show You’re An Ally
It’s often still unsafe for queer people to advocate for themselves in public. There are a few reasons why that is – sometimes it’s due to the broader political climate where they live, and other times it’s about their personal lives and the people they know. That’s why it’s so important for cisgender and heterosexual people (aka “allies”) to show their support. A small yet effective way to show your support is to sport a pride flag of your choosing. It can be the traditional rainbow-colored one, or something more specific if you feel a certain subgroup of the LGBTQ+ population is especially underrepresented or discriminated against. For example, if you feel like bisexual people are often being discriminated against both by straight and queer people, you could look into a bi flag design to incorporate into your wardrobe. Speaking up against discrimination when they can’t – and supporting their stance when your friend does speak up is another way to show your allyship.
2. Never Out Them To Other People
Sometimes allies can get carried away in their excitement about supporting their friends and accidentally out them to other people without their consent. This can have serious consequences for your friend, ranging from social ostracism to being disowned by family members. So it’s important that you never out your friend to anyone else without their explicit permission first. Unless they tell you otherwise, never mention anything that could imply their sexuality or gender identity to anyone else – even the people closest to you. Some queer people have to hide their identity due to safety reasons, which is why they sometimes have to act not only as if they’re cis or straight, but also as if they’re somewhat against LGBTQ+ as a whole. If this is something your friend has to deal with – never put them in a position where they have to out themselves to save face, and never judge them if they choose not to come out to anyone else. Instead, try to be a voice of support for queer people in general, whenever they are unable to speak up themselves.
3. Avoid Heteronormative Assumptions
If you’re used to thinking and talking about people in terms of heterosexuality, it can be easy to slip into making heteronormative assumptions about your friend as well. For example, instead of asking them who their “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” is, try asking them who their “partner” is instead. This small change shows that you’re aware of the fact that not everyone identifies as heterosexual, and that you’re open to the idea of them being in a non-traditional relationship. It also shows that you’re willing to use language that is more inclusive and less binary. Another way to avoid making heteronormative assumptions is to never assume things about your friend’s body, or sexuality, or gender roles for that matter. Even if your friend does fit into a certain stereotype, you shouldn’t assume that they’re a feminine man because they’re gay, or a masculine woman because they’re a lesbian.
4. Don’t Make It All About You
When it comes to being an ally, one of the most important things to remember is that it’s not all about you. It can be really tempting to want to talk about how “woke” and open-minded you are when it comes to LGBTQ+ issues, but this isn’t always helpful or appreciated by your queer friends. In fact, it can sometimes make them feel like you’re more interested in patting yourself on the back than you are in actually supporting them. So try to avoid making it all about you, and instead focus on listening to your friend and what they have to say. Allow them to be the expert on their own experiences, and be there for them when they need to talk.
5. Be There For Them Emotionally
It can be really tough to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community, especially if you’re not out or don’t have many openly queer friends. This is why it’s so important for allies to be there for their friends emotionally, offering support when they need it. This might mean listening to them when they’re upset about something that’s happened, or offering advice if they’re struggling to come to terms with their sexuality or gender identity. It might also mean being there for them during the good times, and celebrating with them when they come out or find a partner that they’re happy with. Whatever it is, just be there for your friend, and let them know that you’re always available to talk.
The LGBTQ+ community faces a lot of challenges, both on a societal and on a personal level. As an ally, it’s important to be there for your friends when they need you and to show your support in whatever way you can. Remember to avoid making heteronormative assumptions, to use language that is inclusive and less binary, and to never make it all about you. Most importantly, be there for your friend emotionally, and let them know that you’re always available to talk.