Have you ever found yourself making comments like “That’s so gay!” or bragging about having an accurate “gaydar” or ranting about a malfunctioning one?
In my case, I admit to having made assumptions in the past about people’s sexual orientations based on their Facebook profile pictures or Instagram feeds. I feel ashamed of the numerous times I acted like a foolish detective, hastily concluding that someone is gay solely based on gym selfies, poses, or even fashion choices.
While the world has been gradually becoming more accepting of diverse sexual preferences, orientations, and gender identities, there are still many harmful assumptions and biases that hinder us from fully embracing individuals who are part of the LGBT community.
As someone who has had more than ten people come out to me in recent years, I have seen a pattern. A lot of these friends and acquaintances who mustered enough courage to break down their walls, become vulnerable, and share their stories with me in secret worked their way through internal and external struggles. For many of them, personal acceptance of their sexual preference or orientation alone is hard enough and the burden is compounded by society’s and their own families’ expectations and demands that they are so scared not to meet.
As an ally who is grateful for the trust I have been given, I admit that I still have so much to learn. I am still on the journey of gaining a better understanding of the community and the members’ needs. As Pride Month begins, I reflected upon what works in creating a safe and loving space for LGBT friends and would like to share a few I picked up from personal experience:
Be mindful of the language you use and the stereotypes you perpetuate. I learned that we should avoid making assumptions based on stereotypes. Similarly, we should be conscious of the subtle microaggressions that may unknowingly perpetuate discrimination. It is best to reassess commonly used expressions or running jokes to ensure we are taking other people’s feelings into consideration. The ‘Ang Walang Kwentang Podcast’ by directors Antoinette Jadaone and JP Habac has a highly informative episode on LGBT microaggressions with LGBTQIA+ advocate Thysz Estrada on Spotify.
Do not out or attempt to out someone. The choice of coming out and revealing one’s sexual orientation is solely that person’s decision. It doesn’t matter if something is seemingly an unspoken truth or an open secret. A person chooses not to come out of the closet for a reason and we can only respect that.
In reality, what’s in it for us if we put them in an awkward situation or subject them to a court-like interrogation? That is just too mean a method to satisfy our curiosity. Unless there is accountability or responsibility expected from the subject, they do not owe us any explanation.
I learned that intrusive or prying questions about their personal lives can be invasive, disrespectful, and traumatic. While others may say that each of us has an inner Marites, well, another person’s sexuality is still none of our business.
Respect and reaffirm. While we may not necessarily agree with everything that the LGBT community stands or fights for, respect is at the core of creating a safe space. What use does standing by Bible verses on sexuality have if it would mean hurting another being? There is always a way of sharing your thoughts and beliefs without being forceful. Honor and affirm the identities of your LGBT friends.
Respect their journeys and the labels they choose for themselves. Showing them genuine curiosity and asking open-ended questions will allow our friends to share their experiences and personal growth.
Learn to listen. Active listening is an important aspect of creating a safe space. When LGBT friends share their experiences, struggles, or triumphs, it is essential to lend an ear without judgment. We should allow them to express themselves openly, giving them the space to be heard and understood. Let them find comfort in your presence.
Educate yourself. To be a supportive ally, we need to educate ourselves about LGBT experiences, identities, and issues. Understanding their journeys will allow us to understand them better. We need to familiarize ourselves with appropriate terms and respectful language. Education and the right information will also equip us in furthering causes that will potentially benefit them.
Being a safe space for LGBT friends requires compassion, empathy, and a commitment to creating an inclusive environment. We also ask them to be more understanding and patient if supposed allies or other people they interact with suffer from plain ignorance or lack of education on certain issues about the community.
By exerting effort and operating from a place of love from both sides, we can foster a safe and accepting space for everyone. May we embrace diversity, celebrate individuality, and work towards a world where everyone feels valued, loved, and accepted for who they truly are.
As we enter Pride Month this June, this piece is dedicated to all my friends who raise the rainbow flag either as a proud member or a supportive ally.
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