This year LGBTQ Pride Month marks 50 years since the first Pride march and celebration took place. In June 1969, the Stonewall Riots at that eponymous establishment in New York City catalyzed what became the modern gay (later LGBTQ) rights movement.
Make no mistake – they were indeed riots. In reality, there is no sugarcoating – nor should there be – that the events at the Stonewall Inn were physical and verbal protests. It was an “Uprising” to those who prefer a more palatable term, one catalyzed by black and brown transgender (or trans) and queer people. This was not a one-night thing either. Far from it, as LGBTQ folx are not known for going “gentle into that good night.” Stonewall made for six days of action. LGBTQ people – lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer – had had enough. They could not take it anymore? (If that rings familiar in 2020, it should.)
In this season of vibrant celebrations in most years, we turn to virtual self-education and crucial opportunities to reflect in 2020. Layers of crises affect America, with the COVID-19 pandemic and racial equity and justice concerns owning the media headlines, as they should.
Inroads have been made, including this month’s U.S. Supreme Court 6-3 decision that LGBTQ people cannot be fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity in this country, now truly 50 United States in terms of that topic. Previously, in 28 states, that could still take place. With this in mind, here, in true David Letterman fashion, are my Top 10 Ways You Can Become a Better Ally, for those who ID as straight and cisgender. These are simple and practical, good in Pride Month and good always.
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1. Film Will Feed Information to You
You hardly have to work for it! Watch movies about LGBTQ identities, cultures and relationships. For starters, I recommend the Oscar-nominated Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Weekend and, of course, the heralded Oscar winner Moonlight. Now that’s infotainment.
2. Chase Those Films with Documentaries
My suggestions are Paris Is Burning about the 1980s queer-trans-drag underground (and vernacular) in New York, and The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson, a tragically beautiful tale about a statuesque figure in Stonewall-and-beyond lore, readily available to most viewers via Netflix.
3. Read LGBTQ Writers, Authors and Voices of Various Kinds
I recommend anything from gay black author James Baldwin’s oeuvre, including Another Country and Giovanni’s Room. I’m also partial to tweets from Meredith Talusan, who has a new book, Fairest, in which she speaks to being a trans woman from the Philippines who has albinism.
4. Study up on LGBTQ Terminology
Pronouns (mine are he/his) and inclusive ways in which you can talk to LGBTQ neighbors, classmates, colleagues and loved ones. Here’s a helpful primer, via Human Rights Campaign.
5. Follow Black Queer Voices on Social Media
You can start with Ashley Ford on Twitter, Ball State’s 2018 winter commencement speaker. She’s got a vivacious voice on that platform, and the writer-presenter bona fides to back it up.
6. Discern Ways You Can Give — Your Time, Talent and Treasure — in Your Own Community
For me in Indianapolis, that’s spread across organizations such as The Damien Center, Indiana Youth Group, BU Wellness and GenderNexus, among many other mighty fine orgs doing amazing work to make life better for LGBTQ youth and people of all ages.
7. Consider the Plight of Black LGBTQ Youth
And respond accordingly. Before COVID-19 overtook most of the world, and before the racial unrest consumed U.S. conversation, 150 to 400 years later than it should have, these kids already had it unspeakably tough. They’re vulnerable in these times of societal discourse and charged, even flagrant public expression of all kinds. They need our help. Learn about the need and how you can support The Trevor Project and other organizations.
8. Ask Questions
Be content to do some self-study on all the above, and then sit with the questions and thoughts you have about the topics. And then: ask. Don’t be afraid to say the so-called “wrong” thing. Everyone in the LGBTQ community has walked back something they’ve said or asked even within their own community. It’s diverse, and it has diversity of thought. We embrace that. You can do so, too – and you’ll find yourself embraced as well.
9. Seek to Help Others
If you hear someone asking a legitimately abrasive or disrespectful question of a LGBTQ person, take them aside after that meeting or have a hallway (or online) conversation about how that phrasing or tone might be received by the LGBTQ peer. Doing so graciously and in private, at least on the first attempt, can be affirming to the person to shift their future ways of thinking and operating.
There’s a reason we celebrate Pride Month in June, as shared above, and it may be a “miles underfoot, with many miles to go” mentality on our planet still, but it is right and good and healthy for us to let loose and enjoy the fabulous fashions, cultures and expressions in the LGBTQ community – local, national and global. Because a pandemic and a glaring equality issue, in 2020, have revealed just how disconnected and yet connected we truly are. All things glocal.
Jonathan Scott is digital strategy manager in corporate communications at Eli Lilly and Company, based in Indianapolis. He has been at Lilly for 5-plus years, previously working in the media world – magazines, books and digital, oh my! Jon serves as chair of the Lilly Pride employee resource group, which has thousands of LGBTQ+Allies members. He also serves on the board of directors for The Damien Center, the Indianapolis Press Club Foundation, and EntouRaj for Kids. Jon is an at-large member of the Ball State Alumni Council. He graduated from Ball State University’s journalism school in 2005, and is just glad to be able to say he’s young enough to have taken j-classes in AJ. He lives in Indy’s Butler Tarkington with his spouse and three pups, who don’t care that they have their own Instagram account. If you read this far and aren’t yet terrifically bored, consider following Jon on Twitter.