Great Ways to Be a Heterosexual Ally with the LGBT Community
As the national debate on gay marriage and equal rights for those that are LGBT comes to the forefront, many who are not gay but who support equal rights for all want to know how they can help the cause. Polls are showing that 51% to 53% of Americans now support gay marriage.
With the defeat of “Don’t Ask ;Don’t Tell” and the Supreme Court due with a ruling on Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, now is a great time to show your support.
The Civil Rights Movement of the Twenty-First Century
Equal rights and treatment for LGBT citizens has been touted as the Civil Rights movement of our times. Public sentiment has shifted. Historically prominent leaders of the cause for an end to homophobic treatment such as Harvey Milk have been brought back into the public spotlight through recent films and documentaries.
Hate crimes spurred by intolerance towards gays such as Matthew Shepard’s death and other recent ones in the news have increased public sympathy.
The portrayal of gays as regular friends, neighbors and family members in modern media (TV, Film, Novels) has also helped to make the general population more tolerant and more accepting and more aware of the changes that are needed.
This public sentiment, though, has shifted at a faster pace than expected. One of the reasons it has shifted and one of the best ways to get involved as a straight ally is social media.
Facebook, love it or hate it, has been the face of social change over the past decade and has really helped to move social causes such as LGBT rights, forward.
Prominent social figures such as George Takei (of Star Trek) have helped to change the face of the gay movement, making it less threatening and helping many to understand that it’s okay to be gay, and it’s also okay to be a straight ally.
George Takei has 3.7 million followers (and it’s still growing). His posts and calls-to-action spur an immediate reaction within the Facebook community. His influence is visible, tangible and can be seen even beyond the confines of social media.
On Facebook there are many LGBT Groups, causes and Gay-Straight Alliances. Newer groups such as The Equality Mantra, Enough is Enough, Wipe Out Homophobia, Adam & Steve and even the tongue-in-cheek I Bet This Turkey Can Get More Fans Than NOM all keep their members aware of LGBT causes that are in the news, of legislation and other issues.
There is a constant appreciation expressed among the members and moderators for their straight allies.
During the recent Supreme Court hearings on Proposition 8 and DOMA, the evidence of social media influence was very evident. Many, including straight allies, changed their profile pictures to a specially created red and pink equal signs that is a variation of the Human Rights Campaign's regular equal sign of yellow with a blue background.
While some scoffed at the social media show of support for gay rights, others felt that the overwhelming visible support helped send a message about the change in public sentiment and beliefs.
Other prominent gay media icons such as Rachel Maddow also maintain a strong social media presence even outside of their main media platform. Though Maddow doesn’t just focus on LGBT issues, her presence and success speak volumes about public acceptance.
With the lightning fast speed of information transmittal, all social media platforms, including Twitter and Google +, can quickly change information into a short viral meme with a call to action. Followers can quickly respond to changes with phone calls to their representatives, reposts of vital information or donations through text messaging.
High School and College
There are many ways that high school and college students can get involved in the movement. In high school you can form a Gay-Straight Alliance. Be aware that in some parts of the United States, especially in the South, these clubs may be met with controversy. Also, many clubs specifically designed for LGBT students will often admit and welcome straight members. You can contact the organization and let them know you are interested.
The same types of organizations can easily be started in college as well. In order to be recognized as an official club, most universities have a procedure for establishing the club and running it. As public sentiment is shifting, there shouldn’t be too much problem.
When I was in college in the early nineties, I remember that the first LGBT club was started on campus. The club was controversial and the founders received anonymous threats. Meetings were not advertised and you had to know someone or hear by word-of-mouth in order to attend.
The environment and tolerance for this kind of club has changed greatly in the last few years and most have little problem establishing and running one.
Support LGBT Friendly Legislation and Causes
Many of the groups listed in this article are also non-profits who accept donations that are then directed toward LGBT causes.
If you go to the official websites, such as the website of the Human Rights Campaign you will see information about how to donate and how the donation money is used.
You can often donate and receive promotional items in return such as t-shirts or bumper stickers.
Most of these groups will allow you to be a member whether you are able to donate or not. For most it’s about showing the mass support for their cause.
With the election of President Obama, many saw hope for change and acceptance on other civil rights fronts. Just fifty years ago, the election of a black president in the United States would have been unachievable.
President Obama continued to make history by publicly announcing his support of gay rights and marriage, including this stance in his second inaugural address and even featuring an openly gay Inaugural poet, Richard Blanco, among other guests.
Just as there is always room for growth, acceptance and change within race relations, the fight for equal rights for LGBT will also be ongoing. We strive for perfection even though we may never reach it.
Since it is not necessary or even desired for LGBT people to remain “in the closet” anymore, many straight allies join the cause because someone close to them is a member of the gay community.
As intolerance of the intolerant becomes a growing cause, more allies will be joining. There are so many ways to get started and become a part of the movement. In this day and time, it really is becoming easier to imagine a world that will one day love and accept all.