LGBTQ is an acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (or Questioning). Some First Nations people use the term “Two Spirits” to describe their sexual, gender and or spiritual identity when they have both a masculine and feminine spirit. You don’t have to understand the terminology fully to be an advocate and ally. But you should, at the very least, be respectful and open to learning and broadening your understanding.
Why Are Allies Important for LGBTQ Youth?
Youth who identify as somewhere on the spectrum are at a much higher risk in several areas. For instance, most people don’t realize that LGBTQ youth are more than 2 times as likely to have an unplanned pregnancy by age 19 than their peers who identify as ‘straight.’ Other areas where their risk factors are greater than their straight peers include:
- LGB youth are 4X More Likely to attempt suicide; Questioning are 3X more likely
- LGB youth report being forced to have sex 5.5 times more than their straight peers
- 65% report hearing homophobic remarks frequently or often
- 40% of teens who experience homelessness identify as LGBTQ
- LGB youth experience widespread harassment, bullying and discrimination
- LGB youth are 2X more likely to become pregnant by age 19
What Does Inclusivity Mean?
You can demonstrate that you are an ally and promote inclusivity in several ways.
Be aware of your choice of words.
- By using “partner” instead of “girlfriend” or “boyfriend” when you don’t know the person’s identity can demonstrate that you’re not making assumptions about their romantic interests or identity.
- Use gender neutral pronouns if you don’t know their identity. Replace him/her, she/hers with they/them/theirs.
- Once they tell you what pronouns to use, be respectful and use them!
Create safe places
- Start or join a Gay Straight Alliance
- Start or join a PFLAG group (Parents & Family of Lesbian and Gays)
- Speak up when you hear people using offensive language around you
- Don’t let your friends be bullied!
- Use media images that show a wide range of relationships and family dynamics
- Let youth determine gender when they’re modeling role playing
Listen and Provide Support
- Be open minded
- Confront your own prejudices
- Avoid stereotypes and get to know people in the LGBTQ community
- Admit when you’re unsure and/or ask questions to clarify your understanding
- Laugh and admit when you make a mistake!