I’ve struggled with the silence I feel from family, friends and coworkers since coming out in June 2022. Sometimes that silence seems overwhelming. Occasionally it may be intentional, but, more often than not, I’m guessing people just don’t know what to say or how to engage.
I’ve wanted to write about what it means to be an LGBTQ ally for months. Strangely, every time I’d try to write about it, the words just fell flat. Then, a few days ago, all the pieces began to come together after I experienced a beautiful moment of allyship.
A Defining Moment
Early this week I was depressed and angry. The bigotry and hatred I’ve experienced and witnessed this month weighed heavily on my soul. To help process what I was feeling, I wrote about it. A cherished friend read my post and sent me a private message that wonderfully demonstrates what it means to be an ally. Here’s what I read when I opened the message.
Good morning, my dear friend… I just wanted you to know that I’m especially carrying you in my heart after reading your post yesterday. Without attempting to appropriate your experience or perspectives, I want to reaffirm that there are so SO many who hear, understand, and align, who care and love.
. . . I don’t say this with any degree of false cheeriness… the air is thin on Sunshine Mountain and you know that’s not my way. But I do want you to know I’m lifting you up in this moment of discouragement and have absolute faith in your conviction and resolve. Love you so much, my dear … courage for this day. ❤️
Merriam-Webster defines the verb use of ally as “to unite or form a connection or relation between.” An ally, then, is “one that is associated with another as a helper: a person or group that provides assistance and support in an ongoing effort, activity, or struggle.”
When my friend reached out, they provided support and deepened our existing connection. Their simple act of acknowledgment in that moment helped me feel seen and cared for. In my moment of sorrow and struggle they came along and offered support.
Five Practical Things
Do you want to be a better friend and ally to your LGBTQ family and friends? Here are five practical things you can do to be a better ally.
Educate yourself. The more you know about the LGBTQ community, the better equipped you will be to support us. Learn about queer history, the different terms we use to describe ourselves, and the challenges we face.
Listen to LGBTQ people. When you hear someone share their experiences, listen with an open mind and heart. Just be there to listen and support us without offering advice or solutions.
Speak out against discrimination. If you see someone being discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, speak up. Let the person know that you support them and that their experiences are valid.
Support queer-friendly businesses and organizations. When you have the opportunity, support businesses and organizations that are supportive of the LGBTQ community. This could mean shopping at queer-owned businesses, donating to queer-friendly organizations or volunteering your time.
Be a role model. If you are a parent, teacher, or other authority figure, be a role model for queer youth. Show them you support them and let them know they are not alone.
Some of my most vivid and meaningful memories in my personal journey are those moments where allies showed up for me. Being an ally is an ongoing process. There will be times when you make mistakes. But the important thing is to learn from your mistakes and to keep trying your best.
I’m reminded of the saying attributed to Maya Angelou, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.”
Jay Wintermeyer is a communication professional, filmmaker, and photographer. Previously, he served as communication director and Gleaner editor for the North Pacific Union Conference. He lives with his husband, Craig, in southwest Washington.
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