Many parents of LGBTQ children feel an overwhelming sense of fear for their kids’ safety. Fear of the challenges they face at school, in the workplace, and in the community. While that fear is completely understandable, your child is counting on you to help make their world less scary. We know the thought of taking action can be intimidating. That’s why today’s blog is all about how to speak up for the LGBTQ people in your life.
Discrimination and bullying can take different forms, whether it’s name-calling, “innocent” jokes, being denied access to resources or services, or even physical violence (2). A 2019 study found that nearly twice as many LGBTQ high school students report having been bullied in comparison to their straight peers (1). Another study shows that “LGBTQ people are 10 times more likely to experience discrimination based on sexual orientation than heterosexual people.”
The statistics are hard to read, but they’re important. If we want our kids to be safe, we have to speak up. The idea of doing that might make you really uncomfortable, and that’s okay. But when you’re tempted to do nothing, think of your beloved child and how they would feel if someone said those things to them.
Here are some ways to speak up for LGBTQ people:
- Don’t tolerate hurtful speech or shaming comments
Even seemingly casual comments, such as “that’s so gay”, jokes, or name-calling, can be devastating to LGBTQ people (3). They create an environment of intolerance and perpetuate harmful stereotypes.
If you don’t say anything, you’re giving your silent approval to that kind of speech. Words are powerful, and if you have the courage to speak out, others around you may too. You might be surprised at how people respond. In fact, it’s very important not to assume you understand people’s intentions behind their words. Instead of attacking someone for their comment, make your statement calmly and ask questions. Try to use it as a teaching opportunity. Here is a great line you can use when you hear harmful or disrespectful speech:
“As someone who is a straight ally, I’m making an effort to talk to people when they say something that doesn’t seem right. And I feel like the joke you made is insulting to people who are LGBTQ.”
If you approach it the right way and don’t assume the worst about the person, this could lead to a great conversation. Some people might not be willing to engage, and that’s okay too. Others will hear you, and your actions will have a ripple effect.
- Bring up LGBTQ issues and people in positive ways.
Speaking up for LGBTQ people isn’t just about reacting to negative comments from others. You can also spread positive messages that encourage those around you to think differently.
Talk about LGBTQ people you know and what you admire about them. Bring up TV shows you like with LGBTQ characters or talk about actors or other famous people who have recently come out.
Here are some examples:
- My daughter’s gay friends just got married and she said the wedding was a blast. They really love each other.
- Did you hear the football player Carl Nassib just came out of the closet? It’s so great he had the courage to do that.
- I loved the show Schitt’s Creek because it showed that LGBTQ people are just like everyone else. Have you seen it? It’s hilarious.
It’s okay if this doesn’t come naturally at first. It may feel awkward and you might be worried that people will argue with you, or that they’ll think you’re gay. Again, it’s okay to feel this way, you’re not alone in your experience. However, at the end of the day what’s more important: What your neighbors think of you, or supporting your child?
Strength in numbers
You may be surprised to know that in a 2020 survey, 70% of Americans said they approved of same-sex marriage. People all over the country are becoming increasingly accepting of LGBTQ people, but the messages we hear the most are about anti-LGBTQ laws and protests. That perceived hostility and hate makes it scary to speak out, but try to remember that many people actually agree with you. If you live in a more conservative community that might not feel true, but if you never speak up you won’t know for sure.
If you’re worried about saying the wrong thing, don’t let that stop you from speaking up. Being an ally to your LGBTQ child is a lifelong learning process. We teach our children to always do what’s right, so let us continue to be good examples for them, even if we don’t feel fully prepared for this new reality. You’ll never be perfect, but if you lead with love the rest will follow.
For more information, we recommend Speaking Up: Independent Actions on our website for a guide on how to be a straight ally. If you’re looking for something more in-depth, you can also check out this publication from our partner organization PFLAG, called Guide to Being a Straight Ally.