We're kicking off our series of LGBT History Month blog posts with a guide on how to be an ally to your LGBTQ+ friends, family and coursemates.
First of all, it's important we talk about what being an ally means and how to be a good one. An ally is somebody who will lift up the queer community however they can, an ally is not just somebody who wants to help but someone who actively helps members of the community by raising awareness and calling out injustices. Being an ally helps those in the community to feel less isolated, especially if being targeted or oppressed, and empowers everyone involved.
So, where can you start?
Well, why not start by updating your Facebook profile picture to include our LGBT History Month frame? Nath Stark, Vice-President for Higher Education and LGBTQ+ Society Co-Lead, created a frame for you to show your support for LGBT History Month and signify that you're part of the LGBTQ+ community, even if you're just an ally. It might seem like a simple action that wouldn't make a difference, but even just seeing you using the frame will help your peers identify that you accept and support them for who they are. Here it is below modelled by Rodger the cat, who is often found in the reception of The Old Dairy.
Next up is helping to normalise non-gender specific terminology, such as using "partner" instead of boyfriend or girlfriend. Simple changes such as these can help to normalise this language for people who may not want to out themselves by using gendered terms.
Similar to the previous point, try including your pronouns in your social media bios, and anywhere else you feel it is relevant, if you feel comfortable doing so. This is another small action that can help make trans and other members of the LGBTQ+ community feel valid. Including your pronouns helps to normalise it for those who identify differently, and helps avoid any awkwardness if you're unsure how somebody would like to be referred. If you're not quite sure how to do it, I've included an example of my Instagram profile below!
One of the best and most important things you can do as an ally is educate yourself. That includes confronting any bias or stereotypes you might have currently and being ready to apologise if you accidentally mess up along the way. You can only be a good ally if you understand the community and where it's evolved from; we're not saying you need to know the whole history and every single details, but it's good to know some context. Take it upon yourself to learn about LGBTQ+ history, terminology, and the struggles that the community is currently facing. Feel free to ask your LGBTQ+ friends if you're unsure of something and can't find the answer online, but don't rely on them to tell you everything! Start by having a look at national and international resources online such as Stonewall, The Trevor Project and GLAAD.
Lastly, why not join the LGBTQ+ Society? It is currently ran by Nath and Cameron Long, your Equality and Diversity Lead (HE), and anybody is welcome to join! As an ally, you can join and get to know members of the LGBTQ+ community here at Plymouth College of Art, and find out how you can support them too.
We hope this blog post was helpful, do look out for the others we'll be publishing each week of LGBT History Month!
Best, Harriet Moore
Student Union President
with thanks to Nath Stark, Vice-President for Higher Education and LGBTQ+ Society Co-Lead