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Following this list of methods to support the LGBTQ community is necessary to spread knowledge and inclusion, and therefore, encourages a better environment for future generations.

By: Elizabeth Rivera

1. Attend or volunteer at pride events to show your support.

Pride originates from a turning point in history on June 28th, 1969: The Stonewall Riots. That night officers raided The Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in NYC. This was a common occurrence. A black, transgender activist named Marsha Johnson was tired of the oppression and decided to lead the fight against these police officers, encouraging other LGBTQ patrons to join the fight. Stonewall riots were the turning point for the LGBTQ movement due to media coverage showing firsthand the struggle the community faces. Pride is now celebrated every June to celebrate the history of the community and the growing support and freedoms over time. Check out this link to search for pride events happening in Maryland this year. Due to COVID, there won’t be many parades, however, there will still be celebrations across the world. It is important to not only continue these celebrations, but also to show support year-round, even if you are just an ally.

2. Become educated on LGBTQ identities and flags.

People in the LGBTQ community use specific identities to help navigate their understanding of their experiences, feelings, and find people they can share those experiences with. Each identity also has a corresponding flag to represent their specific community. Identities such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgener, and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) are the most well-known identities, but did you know that there are many more? Oftentimes, other common identities are overshadowed by these more well-known identities, increasing ignorance and general understanding of others who also belong in the LGBTQ community. Gender identity and sexual orientation is a spectrum, and people are learning more information as time goes on and more research is done. For a list of terms and definitions, this article is a great resource, especially for people who are outside the LGBTQ community. Learning about these identities decreases ignorance and encourages awareness and education in the community.

3. Show support for LGBTQ-owned businesses, nonprofits, or fundraisers.

Volunteering is a great way to show support for LGBTQ-owned businesses, whether you are a member of the community or not. There are plenty of businesses that request support, such as The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ-run business that offers resources, education, and assistance to the community through a myriad of different platforms. They are extremely well known for their suicide hotline/chat-line (866) 488-7386 which operates 24/7. Donating to a good cause such as this one that benefits the lives of the LGBTQ community, especially those at-risk, would be an incredible way to show support this month. One way to donate to your favorite LGBTQ company is to buy their products – such as bumper stickers and apparel – which would help spread awareness about their name. Follow them on social media and share their content as a free and easy way to spread awareness and show support to the LGBTQ community. To see a list of LGBTQ-owned businesses near you, check out this article and search for businesses in Maryland.

4.Think beyond stereotypes – Avoid putting people in boxes.

Although sometimes it may feel inclusive to use labels to describe a common experience or identity, a label can also be used in a negative way as well. People don’t fit into boxes, and to use a label to create limitations on others is harmful. LGBTQ identities have a purpose – to encourage an inclusive atmosphere and to create an environment of love, family, and belonging. To share similar experiences in a way that helps people understand and feel “normal.” To prove that they are not the only one’s potentially struggling to understand themselves, is absolutely necessary for the mental health of LGBTQ individuals. An example of some common and extremely harmful and incorrect stereotypes that the community faces includes: all gay men are feminine, all lesbian women are masculine, there needs to be a masculine and feminine identity in a relationship for it to succeed, genderqueer individuals are all androgonous, and people choose their gender identity and sexual orientations.

These stereotypes spread misinformation that prevent people from accepting knowledge, causing ignorance and fear. Hate crimes against the LGBTQ community are a serious threat across the globe, and discrimination is incredibly commonplace. The suicide rate is alarmingly higher for LGBTQ individuals than heterosexual individuals (For a list of statistics, please visit this article). Everyone’s identity and experience is unique and valid – people are not labels and can not fit into a box. We don’t want to cause harm to people just because they are misunderstood. Educating yourself on these stereotypes and spreading awareness is the best way to change how people think about the LGBTQ community, which gradually decreases the risk of harm to individuals who identify with the community.

5.What you don’t know, you can learn.

There are plenty of resources online that can educate people about the LGBTQ experience. Website for resources. If you know anybody in the community, take some time to ask respectful questions to learn more about their experiences – asking questions shows that you are interested in learning more about them as individuals, spreads awareness, prevents ignorance, and generally makes people feel more comfortable talking about themselves. The Trevor Project offers training on the LGBTQ community for classrooms and teachers, which has lots of potential to provide comfort and safety to youth in the community. Check out more information on their website. If you’d like access to more resources regarding the LGBTQ community, The Trevor Project has plenty of information regarding well-being, safety, statistics, and more.

Remember, pride only lasts one month out of the entire year, but LGBTQ individuals face constant prejudice and discrimintation everyday in our society. Continue to support the community year-round by sharing your acceptance, education, and advocacy for the community. Following this list of methods to support the LGBTQ community is necessary to spread knowledge and inclusion, and therefore, encourages a better environment for future generations.