Most of us don’t need a reason — like Pride Month or other LGBTQ+ awareness days — to support the LGBTQ+ community. Put simply, LGBTQ+ people are human beings who deserve equal rights, autonomy, and love — just like everyone.
Social acceptance is a huge factor in maintaining the mental health of LGBTQ+ folks; the Trevor Project reports, for instance, that LGBTQ+ youth who felt social support from their family reported attempting suicide at less than half the rate of those who felt low or moderate social support.
Unfortunately, this year especially, LGBTQ+ folks (transgender folks and LGBTQ+ youth in particular) have been subjected to discriminatory legislation, violence, and persecution that no person ever deserves.
Now more than ever, queer folks need unconditional support — and courageous advocacy.
For loving allies (or other LGBTQ+ folks with different experiences), it can feel a little too ambitious fighting it all head-on, trying to figure out how to stand in solidarity and take action all at once. There are over 460 anti-LGBTQ+ in state legislatures around the country this year, for crying out loud!
But, as much as our systems must be changed, our people must be held closer and loved harder.
As much as we need to vote for candidates who prioritize the safety of LGBTQ+ folks, we need to keep our current elected officials from causing more harm.
As much as there are millions of injustices to be confronted, there are millions of people who need help getting through the day as their authentic selves.
If you’re sorting through the heartbreak and rage, trying to find ways to make a meaningful impact on the lives of LGBTQ+ folks, you’ve come to the right place.
We’ve created this guide to help you — and most importantly, the LGBTQ+ folks in your life — inch closer to a better, safer, more liberated future, one action at a time.
By the way, some of the links in this article (like books!) are affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you!
Ways To Be An Ally To LGBTQ+ People
Deconstruct your preconceived notions about gender and sexuality.
The first thing you need to do when working to actively and intentionally support LGBTQ+ folks is understand and question your preconceived ideas about gender and sexuality.
Many of us have been taught deeply binary beliefs about gender identity, and some of us probably hold a number of stereotypes and biases about different groups within the LGBTQ+ community. To be a dedicated and productive ally, you must also be a humble and curious learner.
Here are a handful of resources to get you started on your journey of unpacking all those big ideas about gender and sexuality:
- “LGBTQ Glossary” from John Hopkins University
- “Understanding Gender Identities,” a resource from The Trevor Project
- “Gender and Sexuality 101,” a resource from the Jed Foundation
- “Gender Magic: Live Shamelessly, Reclaim Your Joy, & Step Into Your Most Authentic Self” by Rae McDaniel (Bookshop) (Amazon)
- “Life Isn’t Binary: On Being Both, Beyond, and In-Between” by Meg-John Barker and Alex Iantaffi (Bookshop) (Amazon)
- “Beyond The Gender Binary” By Alok Vaid-Menon (Bookshop) (Amazon)
Make their lives easier.
When the world is a little too keen on making the lives of LGBTQ+ people more difficult, everything you can do to mitigate that has an impact. Here is a (definitely non-comprehensive) list of ideas that can spur some action:
- Offer free child or pet care
- Help with some chores around the house or yard
- Provide meals and comfort food (could you supply a week’s worth of groceries? That would be rad!)
- Just come along on errands to body-double or make the world a little less intimidating
- Offer rides to medical appointments (or anywhere, really!)
- Help someone raise funds for out-of-state care or relocation
- Help someone move (start the engines on those Subarus and pick-up trucks!)
- Help fill out paperwork for name or ID changes (Heck, even just printing off a form can be helpful.)
- Provide post-surgery or medical care support
- Offer pro-bono medical or legal services
- Use your area of expertise to provide free services to LGBTQ+ folks in need (i.e.: Social media consultation for their small business, family photos, grant-writing, etc.)
No matter what you do, your unique skills and support can make a world of difference for someone who feels especially isolated and vulnerable.
Be a safe and affirming person in their lives.
Being a safe and affirming person that your queer friends and loved ones (or even strangers) can trust is vital.
This might look like opening your home to folks who need a place to crash after a protest; providing a safe and welcoming place to recover from gender-affirming procedures; or simply holding space for all the experiences that come with a queer identity (like, not just the fun, clubbing-on-a-Saturday-night experiences).
This sort of affirmation does not just happen overnight; you must build trust and connection with the LGBTQ+ folks in your community by repeatedly showing up and advocating for their safety.
In this current social and political climate, LGBTQ+ lives are at risk — and criminalized — making your solidarity more important than ever.
A word many queer people are used to hearing is “acceptance.” While, of course, the deeper connotation of belonging and inclusion is an end-goal of queer liberation, LGBTQ+ people deserve more than tolerance.
They deserve boisterous celebration and appreciation. They deserve joy and praise when they reveal to the world who they truly are. They deserve unequivocal and equal protection under the law. They deserve more than mere permission to exist.
When someone comes out to you, meet them with enthusiasm and delight. If you can’t do that, spend some time unpacking and unlearning why it is difficult for you to whole-heartedly embrace someone’s identity — without making your insecurities their responsibility.
Not only should you respect someone’s pronouns; you should correct others if and when they use the incorrect ones.
When Pride comes around, look to your LGBTQ+ community members to celebrate intentionally.
Think of it like this: If your dearest friend was perpetually prosecuted because of some uncontrollable aspect of their identity — like, say, wearing glasses — you would want to do everything in your power to make sure they feel loved and embraced. How would you throw that “we love you and your glasses so much” party?
To quote a tweet from author Terence Lester, Ph.D.: “‘Everyone is welcome here’ is drastically different from ‘We built this with you in mind.’ People don’t want to go where they are merely tolerated, they want to go where they are included.”
Participate in community care and mutual aid.
Community care and mutual aid are long-standing practices of activism built by queer and BIPOC communities to take care of one another in the face of oppressive systems.
Mutual aid invites us to redistribute wealth and provide direct financial support to members of our communities. Whether it’s a GoFundMe page, a direct Venmo or CashApp transaction, or even the donation of items like binders, gender-affirming clothing, or necessities like food and furniture, use what you can to provide grassroots, direct aid to those in your own neighborhood.
Community care taps into networks of support and connection that bring care work to the forefront of social justice. Meals, post-operative care, or peer-led mental health support, are all examples of this work in action.
Practice actionable allyship.
As we saw through the ripple effects of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, allyship has long passed as a performative, inactive relationship to groups of marginalized people. (Perhaps you’re in on the “Talk Valentina, Ally!” meme on TikTok.)
But true allyship — or solidarity — requires ongoing action and holistic community-building. Go beyond just displaying a Pride flag. As you align yourself in connection with queer communities, keep in mind what your role is as an ally, and how it can expand and shift to facilitate justice.
Diversity and inclusion expert A.C. Fowlkes has developed a robust proposal about what it means to be an ally (and we’d consider it required reading).
Within the LGBTQ+ community, there are infinite intersecting identities and experiences to be held, accommodated, and celebrated.
From race and class to gender and disability, consider, respect, and honor the overlapping and nuanced experiences of those you love and serve.