How to Support LGBTQ Youth
The word "ally" is a powerful one. It means someone who has your back and is on your side, because they know it's the right thing to do. In the LGBTQ movement, an "ally" describes someone who may not be LGBTQ themselves, but who are committed to equality and who speak out against discrimination.
Allies can be anyone:
- a straight classmate who sticks by a friend questioning his gender identity;
- a teacher who serves as an advisor for a gay-straight alliance (GSA);
- parents who find ways to promote respect for diversity in their child’s school;
- a counselor who is committed to making sure that LGBTQ issues are heard.
By taking steps to visibly support LGBTQ youth and their rights, allies can play a critical role in stopping and even preventing harassment and discrimination against LGBTQ youth, ensuring that schools and out-of-home care settings are safe for everybody.
While it is sometimes safer for straight allies to take a stand for LGBT rights, being an ally does not come without its own challenges. Allies too can experience harassment or discrimination.
Here's what you can do to be an ally to LGBTQ youth:
- Don't make assumptions about people’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Speak out against homophobia, transphobia and anti-LGBTQ harassment and discrimination.
- Speak out against the use of antigay slurs.
- Be supportive of anyone who chooses to come out.
- Attend LGBTQ events.
- Read, learn about and discuss LGBTQ issues and the rights of LGBTQ students.
- Wear or display LGBTQ-friendly buttons, stickers or posters.
- If you witness anti-LGBTQ harassment or discrimination, report it in writing to the school principal.
- Stand up for your LGBTQ friends, and voice your support for their being treated with respect and acceptance.
- Help form a GSA.
- Support friends in their decision to bring a same-sex date to the prom or other social events.
- Advocate for my school to adopt and enforce a nondiscrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Request books by LGBTQ authors and about LGBTQ people and issues for the school library.
Faculty and Staff
- Make your classroom a safe space where antigay language is not tolerated.
- Advocate for your school to adopt and enforce a nondiscrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Request books by LGBT authors and about LGBT people and issues for the school library.
- Consider being an advisor for a GSA.
- Ensure school events include everyone.
- Create an inclusive curriculum that highlights the contributions of LGBT individuals.
- Create displays and/or lesson plans about LGBT History Month.
Parents and Family Members
- Support your children and their friends who question their sexuality or identify as LGBTQ.
- Be available to meet with school faculty or staff about these issues.
- Help your children or their friends file complaints about discrimination or harassment.
- Help organize events like celebrations for LGBTQ History Month.
- Hold your child’s school accountable for violating the school district’s nondiscrimination policy or state laws. To learn about antibullying laws in your state, click here.
If you’ve done any of these things, then you’re already an ally—keep up the good work! If you haven’t, now is a great time to start.