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LGBTQ+ Allyship Beyond Pride Month Matters

Anti-LGBTQ+ activity harms LGBTQ+ health and safety year-round.

Key points

  • Millions will participate in Pride Marches across the U.S. as LGBTQ+ rights are under attack.
  • Anti-LGBTQ+ actions, including online hate speech, contribute to LGBTQ+ individuals' declining mental health.
  • Media expert Robert Conner shares tips to improve words and actions for stronger allyship.

This month is LGBTQ+ Pride Month. While June is usually a time for celebration with rainbow-filled parades, recent headlines paint an alarming picture of LGBTQ+ rights. Anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and LGBTQ youth suicides are on the rise. Meanwhile, far-right extremists are loudly rallying against the sale of Pride merchandise.

Samantha Stein
Samantha Stein

Words and Actions Have Meaning

Words and actions carry meaning. The wrong ones harm LGBTQ+ people.

Pride month and its events aim to counter the deeply rooted shame that society casts against the LGBTQ+ community. Shame is debilitating and can lead to mental illness, addiction, isolation, and death. And there is scientific consensus that words can cause real pain, equal to that of physical pain. Pride month and its events and parades, therefore, are crucial to alleviate this shame and celebrate the progress of basic human rights for the LGBTQ+ community.

In spite of LGBTQ+ rights progress in the past couple of decades, current anti-LGBTQ+ words and actions of business leaders and politicians are creating a tough climate for LGBTQ+ people, especially youth, to be able to feel safe, included, and accepted.

For instance, just as Pride month was starting, Target succumbed to right-wing extremism and removed some Pride merchandise. In spite of their explanation that they were acting to protect their employees from violence, corporate actions such as this can communicate to LGBTQ+ youth that anti-LGBTQ+ hatred can prevail. Simply put, the bully won, again. In taking down clothes that had conveyed belonging and hope, Target’s words and actions caused harm.

In 2023, a record-high 75 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were signed into law. The Trevor Project reports that about two in three LGBTQ+ youth say that hearing about anti-LGBTQ+ legislation “made their mental health a lot worse.” And 41 percent of LGBTQ+ youth “seriously considered” attempting suicide in the past year.

Countering Anti-LGBTQ+ Words and Actions: How Individuals Can Help Fix the Problem

Fixing the damage created by anti-LGBTQ+ words and actions must begin among individuals at the grassroots level—both online and through face-to-face interactions—according to experts.

“In everyday speech, non-LGBTQ people must use inclusive language. Introduce yourself with pronouns; always proactively ask others for theirs,” said Robert Conner, an expert in LGBTQ+ communications. “Allyship begins by communicating like an ally. In group settings, object to misgendering, deadnaming, and slurs like 'faggot.'”

Anti-LGBTQ+ hate speech is also rampant on social media, particularly against transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people. Last week, GLAAD released its annual Social Media Safety Index & Platform Scorecard, which found that all major social media platforms “fail” LGBTQ+ people. The first key finding reads: “Anti-LGBTQ rhetoric on social media translates to real-world offline harms.”

Jenni Olson, GLAAD’s Senior Director of Social Media Safety said in a statement, “The status quo in which anti-LGBTQ hate, harassment, and malicious disinformation continue to flow freely on their platforms compounds an already-dangerous reality for LGBTQ+, and especially trans and nonbinary, people online and offline.”

According to Conner, given that hate speech abounds online and offline, “Allies should use the public tools of social media, such as Instagram comments, to call out harassment. And use private direct messaging to check in with LGBTQ people. Ask them if they feel safe.”

How Organizations and Companies Can Step Up and Do Better with Their Words and Actions

“Being an LGBTQ+ ally this Pride means moving beyond the seasonal rainbow logo to taking meaningful action—speaking out against hate-filled legislation, providing relocation benefits for workers who have to flee their states, and standing by the community when the water gets hot,” explained Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), in her USA Today op-ed.

Conner is concerned by the lack of communication from companies in the aftermath of the HRC’s June 6 declaration of a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people. “Companies should not bow down to extremists and take down Pride merchandise. Organizational allyship should include publicly communicating action plans to protect employees and customers in the face of growing anti-LGBTQ laws,” Conner said.

As organizations have been sharing Pride month content, Conner urged, “Don’t issue shallow, one-time statements for Pride. Instead, continuously track legislative updates. And amplify the voices of LGBTQ staff.” He added, “Adopt company-wide policies such as displaying pronouns in Zoom profiles.”

How Meaningful LGBTQ+ Allyship Can Be Practiced Year-Round

As Conner explained, allyship can’t just start and stop. “If individuals, schools, companies, governments, and the media only show that they care about the LGBTQ community in June, then LGBTQ people will notice and feel unwelcomed,” he warned.

GLAAD publishes an LGBTQ Community Calendar highlighting observances throughout the year, many of which are overlooked by the public: Lesbian Visibility Day (April 26), LGBTQ History Month (October), National Coming Out Day (October 11), Transgender Day of Remembrance (November 20), and several others.

Allyship through words and actions takes learning and practice. Individuals who integrate allyship into their daily lives—and companies that incorporate allyship into organizational policies—help create change. It’s one of many ways to move the needle on LGBTQ+ progress—and it sends the right message to LGBTQ+ youth.

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