Life

LGBT Allies: Small Gestures Make a Big Difference

Rainbow FlagWhenever I meet someone new, whether I’m walking into a job interview, chatting with a checker at a grocery store, or introducing myself to a parent at my kids’ school, a quiet question looms in the back of my mind. The phrasing takes different forms: How does this person feel about LGBT people? How will this person react when I come out? But the underlying theme is the same: Am I safe?

In introductory situations, small gestures can make a big impact for LGBT people.

For example, the first time my sons’ mama and I bought insurance together, the agent had a framed photo of her brother, his partner and their dogs, prominently displayed on her desk. A small rainbow sticker, placed anywhere in a store or office, never fails to put me at ease. When I saw that our local children’s bookstore included board books featuring two-mom families in their Mothers’ Day display, I felt instantly at home. When the story featured in my local library’s “Who Dunnit?” skit included queer characters—not as a joke, not as a plot point, but just because—I nearly cried.

Small gestures make a big difference in more personal interactions as well.

The day my family moved into our home, our neighbor Shelly and her two kids showed up at the door with cookies to welcome us to the neighborhood. Soon another neighbor, Karla, followed up with a special Salvadoran dessert her mother had made. Months later, when our second child was born, Pat across the street knitted a blanket for him, and she knitted one for his two-year-old brother, too, so he wouldn’t feel left out.

Of course, anyone would feel grateful for such kind gestures, but as a lesbian, I felt something beyond gratitude: I felt safe.

VillageQ Associate Editor Clare Masson agrees, “A new neighbor very casually brought up politics and talked about his sister and her partner. I am sure he had seen the rainbow flag (tiny) in my flowerbed. And it was a relief to not wonder where my new neighbor stands in terms of acceptance.”

It can be awkward, sometimes, for allies to identify themselves. I mean, what do you say? “Hey, I saw that rainbow sticker on your car, and I’m totally down with your people?”

But opportunities to fly your ally flag abound, as Masson shares, “A straight friend posted on Facebook that she overheard someone say something homophobic and she chose to respond. She called on other allies not to stay silent. It is so nice not to always be the one who has to speak up for myself.”

In truth, being an ally can be as simple as sharing an LGBT-related article on Facebook. Or asking a co-worker, “What’s it like for you to work here?” Or asking a queer parent at your kids’ school, “What would make this campus more LGBT friendly?”

Bonus points if you follow up with, “Let’s work on that together.”

PHOTO CREDIT: FREEIMAGES.COM

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