The little boy who decided it was better to die than to endure another day of anti-gay bullying is still on my mind today, so I thought that I would post a list of ten things that you can do to make the world – or, at least, your little corner of it – a little safer.
1. Being an advocate does NOT mean that you have to paint signs and march in parades. Put a tiny little pride flag button on your lapel or purse, or put a “straight but not narrow” sticker on your car. You never know who will see it and know that you, at least, are not a threat.
You can get this sticker – and lots of other equality-related stuff – here.
2. Pay attention. Educate yourself about what’s going on in the community. Sign up for email news alerts – most of the violence that happens in the GLBTQ community never makes it to the mainstream media (would you have heard about Carl if not for me? *I* heard about it because I’m connected to several news-feed sites that keep an eye out for this kind of thing. Go here, here, or here for news updates, and look around those sites for other links). Keep track of the legislation being considered in your state. Let your representatives know that you value equality and fairness. Vote.
3. Don’t make any assumptions about people, and avoid stereotypes. A flamboyant personality doesn’t mean someone’s gay, and pretty shoes and perfect make-up doesn’t mean someone isn’t. Try to use neutral terms – “partner” instead of “husband” or “wife,” for example, until you know for sure which terms apply. Treat all people with dignity and respect.
4. Are there children in your life? Teach them both by example and through purposeful discussion how important acceptance and compassion really are. Answer their questions honestly, and if you don’t know the answer, find out. Be ever mindful of the things you say and do; small people are always looking to us for examples on how to live.
5. Attend gay-friendly events. Several large cities have gay men’s choirs that perform around the holidays (and many of them are exceptionally good). Most large cities also have Pride Days. Mosey on down and be part of that energy; just being there is important (and wear your “straight but not narrow” pin!).
6. Volunteer. Many schools have Gay-Straight Alliances which are looking for adult mentors. Do you have time to be a Big Brother or Big Sister? Talk to the coordinator about being placed with a questioning teen. Do you have a skill that you can offer or a business that can sponsor a gay-friendly event?
7. Don’t stand for hatred and intolerance in your sphere. Scratch out hateful speech you might find written on a bathroom stall (or, at the very least, complain about it to the management). Let people know that you think that jokes that demean people are not funny. Don’t use derogatory terms to refer to anyone, individually or as a group, and let people know that you don’t appreciate their use of those terms around you or your children.
8. Shop in tolerant stores and do business with companies that recognize the equality of ALL their employees.
9. Look at the policies and practices of organizations to which you belong. Is your church open and accepting? Does your health club accommodate transgendered people? Does your workplace discriminate against GLBTQ people? Really? Be a voice for equity wherever you find yourself.
10. Cultivate around yourself an aura of peace and acceptance and compassion. Be open. Listen. Laugh. Radiate love. Be a beacon of kindness in the world, and let people know, in whatever way you can, that everyone is safe with you.