Pride Month is officially over and even though corporations rainbow logos have been taken down and the girls who bullied you for being gay in high school are no longer sharing pride-themed infographics, I’m still a raging lesbian and the LGBTQIA+ community still faces discrimination.
So what can you do now that pride month is over to help the queer community, whether you are an ally or a member of the community yourself?
I can often feel like a queer encyclopedia when I am in groups of straight people, always being asked to explain definitions or how the word “they” can be used. While I like that people are trying to learn, they seem to not realise that I only know these things through educating myself.
It’s as if they think as soon as you come out as queer your brain downloads all the rules for understanding the nuances of gender identity and sexual orientation.
I am still learning and making mistakes myself, which is why the onus shouldn’t only be on queer people to understand and educate on queer issues.
But perhaps most important is to educate yourself on the very real struggles that LGBTQIA people still face.
To a large degree, these struggles are hard to quantify because there has been a historical lack of research into LGBTQIA+ health and wellbeing.
In addition to this a lot of people are unable to come out, as they fear they will be disowned by their family or discriminated against, so estimating how many gender and sexually diverse people there are in Australia is difficult.
However, studies support that LGBTQIA+ people in Australia are more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to experience:
Different groups of the community face disproportionate levels of harm, bisexual & transgender people face poorer health and wellbeing outcomes due to discrimination.
Members of the LGBTQIA community who are first nations people, people of colour, women or people with disabilities also experience greater discrimination and stigma.
Here are some additional resources to grow your knowledge:
No matter how you identify we have all been taught heteronormative ideas that can delegitimize our sense of self.
One of the most harmful ideas is that heterosexuality is the “normal” or “default” orientation, this is referred to as heteronormativity.
In reality, sexuality exists on a spectrum, which means you might change from one position to another or move about the spectrum. Large-scale studies have demonstrated that people often have sexual orientation ranges rather than fixed orientations.
The idea that heterosexuality is the norm, not only stops people from being able to express any desire for the same sex or different genders without being categorised as queer, but it also leads to internalised shame for LGBTQIA+ people, who may feel like their sexual preferences are by contrast abnormal or wrong.
Another harmful idea is that we all exist within the gender binary. That we are all male or female, feminine or masculine. This excludes intersex people who are born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not fit the typical definitions of female or male, as well as trans and non-binary people whose gender identity may not correspond with their assigned sex at birth.
When we are able to see that gender can exist outside the binary of male or female, our images of masculine and feminine become more expansive. Allowing more room for freedom and creativity, and reducing the violence and discrimination non-binary, trans and gender-non-confirming people face.
One of the most harmful manifestations of the gender binary is the idea that clothing is gendered. If you can remember clothes are an expression of who we are rather than our gender, you can help create a more inclusive and stylish planet.
If you hear someone saying something homophobic, transphobic or just generally bigoted and you feel safe to do so, speak up. I think the best way to disarm bigots is to ask them to explain what they said.
For example, say you overhear someone using a homophobic slur, you can respond “Why did you choose to use that word?”
A lot of the time people will then pretend that “It was just a joke” to which you can say “Explain to me why that’s a funny joke?”
Often they cannot justify their position and will get embarrassed, and move the conversation along.
You should also share that infographic about gay rights and issues queer people face on social media after pride month.
As well as showing your support, standing up for and listening to those around you who are queer all year round.
Sharing your pronouns is a great way to avoid assuming someone's pronouns based on factors like clothing or body hair. By sharing your own pronouns routinely, you encourage others to do the same and normalise the process.
It’s important to not just share your pronouns with people who are queer or dressed outside conventional gender stereotypes, but with everyone.
I have had experiences where cisgendered men have come up to me at a table full of people and asked for only my pronouns. This had the opposite effect on affirming my identity as it made it fairly clear that my androgynous presentation was confusing to them. While their intention was likely good, the whole idea is to normalize vast gender expression, not single out gender-non-conforming people.
That’s why I believe it’s best to get into the habit of sharing your pronouns with anyone and everyone. This is particularly true if you are cisgendered, as you might make it feel less daunting for someone who is gender diverse to share theirs without any potential risk to your safety.
If I was to share my pronouns it might look something like this:
“My name is Edwina, my pronouns are they/them, what are your pronouns if you are comfortable answering?”
It should be noted that people with they/them pronouns aren’t always non-binary and by the same token people with the pronouns, he/him or she/her aren’t always cisgender. Asking for pronouns shouldn’t be motivated by our need to categorise people or fit them into a box. It should be motivated by ensuring you refer to others in a way that makes them feel affirmed. How people identify or what genitals they have is quite frankly, none of your business.
Finally, if you do misgender someone, don’t make a big deal out of it. Simply apologise, correct yourself and move the conversation along. I still misgender people sometimes even though I go by they/them pronouns. Unlearning language conventions you’ve used for most of your life is a process, dust yourself off and try to be better next time.
A great way to support the LGTBQIA+ all year round is to put your money where your mouth is and support local Queer Businesses & Artists.
Here are our suggestions for some local queer run businesses & artists you can support.
Queer Move is a queer run removalist service located in Coburg that promises its customers can be free from discrimination, judgement or ignorance. They also pride themselves on being a workplace, where anyone can work and feel respected no matter their identity. So next time you have to do the dreaded move, support a queer small business and be sure to meet some respectful removalists with a focus on customer service in the process.
Pink Ember Studio
Pink Ember Studio is a queer-run co-operative, for artists to make and sell work and feel like they are part of a community. They are a not-for-profit that has a retail shop that sells affordable art as well as hosting art classes and workshops.
Located in Coburg, Pink Ember Studio is run by 4 queer artists whose Instagrams you can find below:
Also, check out this excellent Junkee Article- Just A Bunch Of Amazing Queer Black And Indigenous Artists To Support.
With your help, I believe we can live in a world where LGBTQIA+ people are seen as a fundamental, integrated, beautiful part of society. Where we are not just tolerated but celebrated, every month of the year.
Image by: Jakayla Toney