Pride Month: What It Means to be an Ally
June is Pride Month! What began as a day to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City, a tipping point for the LGBTQ rights movement in the United States, has grown into a month-long celebration of equality, visibility, and diversity. It is a month to reflect on social and political advances, including the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states, but also a time to remind ourselves of the work that still has to be done. As allies, we join our neighbors in the movement towards equality.
Are you an ally?
What does it mean to be an ally?
An ally is someone who is on your side; someone who is ready to help you. An ally is someone who is willing to listen, learn, and speak up.
Most importantly, an ally does the work alongside someone, not for them. An ally is a person who spreads awareness and supports the community they serve.
Abuse in LGBTQ Relationships
Statistically, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 7 men experience domestic violence, and 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men experience sexual assault in their lifetime. However, little is known or discussed about abuse in the LGBTQ community.
- Domestic violence occurs in LGBTQ relationships at similar or higher rates when compared to heterosexual relationships.
- Approximately 50% of the lesbian population has experienced or will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes.
- Gay and bisexual men experience abuse in intimate partner relationships at a rate of 2 in 5, which is comparable to the rates of domestic violence experienced by heterosexual women.
- Domestic violence in LGBTQ relationships is vastly underreported, unacknowledged, and often reported as something other than domestic violence.
- Delaware, Montana and South Carolina explicitly exclude same-sex survivors of domestic violence from protection under criminal laws.
- Approximately 1 in 8 lesbian women and nearly half of bisexual women experience rape in their lifetime.
- Nearly half of bisexual men and 4 in 10 gay men experience sexual violence other than rape in their lifetime.
- 64% of transgender people experience sexual assault in their lifetime.
Barriers to Seeking Services
Abuse in the LGBTQ community is often underreported because additional barriers to seeking services.
- The belief that domestic violence does not occur in LGBTQ relationships and/or is a gender-based issue
- Societal anti-LGBTQ bias (homophobia, biphobia and transphobia)
- Lack of appropriate training regarding interpersonal violence in the LGBTQ community for service providers
- A fear that airing problems among the LGBTQ population will take away from the progress toward equality or fuel anti-LGBTQ bias
- A fear of being “outed” in the process of seeking help or services
- Domestic violence shelters are typically female only, thus transgender people may not be allowed entrance into shelters or emergency facilities due to their gender/legal status
How to Be an Ally to Victims of Abuse
- Acknowledge that they are in a very difficult and scary situation, be supportive and listen. Let them know the abuse is not their fault. Reassure them that they are not alone and that there is help and support out there. What they need most is someone who will believe and listen.
- Be non-judgmental. Respect your friend or family member’s decisions. There are many reasons why victims stay in abusive relationships. They may leave and return to the relationship many times. Do not criticize their decisions or try to guilt them. They will need your support even more during those times.
- Encourage them to talk to people who can provide help and guidance. Call us at 512-396-HELP (4357) to learn about local resources. Offer to go with them. If they have to go to the police, court or lawyer’s office, offer to go along for moral support.
- Remember that you cannot “rescue” them. Although it is difficult to see someone you care about get hurt, ultimately they are the one who has to make the decisions about what they want to do. It is important for you to support them no matter what they decide, and help them find a way to safety and peace.
How You Can Be an Ally to the LGBTQ Community and More
- Listen. The best way to learn about important issues and the personal experiences of a community is to listen to the many people who have firsthand experience. By listening to the voices of underrepresented groups, we all gain a better understanding of different issues.
- Educate yourself. Get online! Read blogs, articles, and stories. Watch videos. Learn history and current events. One of the best ways to grow as an ally is to challenge your own assumptions and continue learning.
- Speak up. Use what you’ve learned! Speak up when you hear offensive or oppressive jokes, comments, and language. Share stories and experiences, but remember to give credit to those who have shared their experiences with you. As allies, we help amplify the voices of the communities support.
PFLAG: “PFLAG is the extended family of the LGBTQ community. We’re made up of LGBTQ individuals, family members and allies. Because together, we’re stronger.”
Human Rights Campaign: “HRC works to improve the lives of LGBTQ people worldwide by advocating for equal rights and benefits in the workplace, ensuring families are treated equally under the law, and increasing public support around the globe.“
GLAAD: “GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBT acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change. GLAAD protects all that has been accomplished and creates a world where everyone can live the life they love.”
Sources: The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: Domestic Violence and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Relationships; The National Domestic Violence Hotline, Human Rights Campaign