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Health Team

How to be an ally to your LGBT friends, relatives and co-workers

Posted June 12, 2018 9:25 a.m. EDT

— Pride Month offers numerous events where members of the LGBT community can celebrate who they are.

But June also is a good time for straight people to show support for their LGBT friends, relatives and co-workers.

Here are 8 suggestions on how to be an ally.

1. Learn about the range of sexualities on the LGBT spectrum

Sexual identity in 2018 can be complicated and fluid, and new terms are entering the vocabulary. It's normal to be confused. Here's a closer look at some terms to help you understand them better.

2. Make a small gesture or two

Little things, such as accompanying a loved one to their first Pride parade or hanging up a rainbow flag, carry more weight than you may realize. Actions speak louder than words.

3. Use appropriate pronouns

But words still matter. Coming out as LGBT can be a long, hard journey. You can show respect and sensitivity to your friends by asking how they identify and then using those identifiers.

4. If someone comes out to you, it's not your place to share their story

Those on the LGBT spectrum may well have been persecuted by strangers, governments and even loved ones. It took courage for them to come out. Don't assume because they confided in you that they want you to share it with other people. It's their story to tell.

5. Listen

Try to be understanding, even if it's sometimes hard to relate. Members of the LGBT community face struggles that straight people may not have experienced. Show some empathy.

6. Speak up against prejudice

If you hear someone make an anti-gay joke or a crude comment, let them know you don't appreciate it. Don't support businesses with discriminatory policies or politicians who voice intolerance.

7. Don't make Pride all about you

Don't stare or sneak pictures of LGBT people like they're exotic creatures. Don't try to guess aloud how someone identifies or babble on about what a great ally you are (let your actions speak for themselves). Observe, listen and take part -- but know that as an outsider, you have certain boundaries.

8. And please, PLEASE do not ask why there's no Straight Pride month

This should be self-explanatory. As your mom probably told you, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it.