Written by 8:00 pm Opinion

Allyship in a Layered Homophobic Environment

“I support them.”

What does it take to be worthy of being called an ally? Right. The month of June is dedicated to the people who cried their pleas, loud enough to be glanced at, and to the ones who are sufficient to hide themselves — not risking to be deemed as other, hoping to be free from the preconceived looks from society.

Oh, sweet June, the month of celebrating the love that steps back from judgment — a love shared among people who are viewed as misfits and other hurtful words by our very society that claims to be loving

In 1999, June was formally declared Pride Month by former United States President Bill Clinton, referring to it as “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.” In 2009, then-US President Barack Obama declared it “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month,” widening its scope and making it more inclusive to the community. Pride Month commemorates the Stonewall Riots, a six-day riot that urged the fight for the gay movement and rights, which stays relevant more than ever as hate crimes subjugating the members of the LGBT+ community still occur.

A 2022 study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law found that LGBTQ+ people are nine times more likely to be victims than non-LGBTQ+ of violent hate crimes. This only solidifies how, even in today’s era, social discrimination toward the LGBTQ+ community remains a harsh reality.

I engaged in a discussion with Sky (not her real name) on her experiences as a closeted bisexual woman. “Hearing homophobic remarks, unnecessary jokes, and offensive actions from the people around me scare me a lot, and I am mostly hurt by it when it comes from my family.” She shared how remarks like these, often heard anywhere, retract her steps from coming out. According to her, the more she encounters these things, the less she has the motivation to express her true self. 

Unbeknownst to others, homophobia does not simply end in apparent hate crimes, the common frightening physical violence, or malicious insinuations targeting any member of the community. Homophobia goes beyond the obvious — it can be such covert remarks that have always been overlooked in our society. Homophobia in the guise of microaggressions is often unnoticed due to its subtlety, and it becomes unreasonable for the recipient to speak up because if they do, they either end up as snowflakes for being too sensitive or a killjoy for not taking a good joke. Common phrases you can hear that embody microaggressions are “that’s so gay” when referring to a negative thing and saying “it’s just a phase” upon learning someone is a member of the community.

Kween (not their real name), another interviewee, spoke on their microaggression experience as a queer non-binary. “One of my relatives made a seemingly innocent remark about my sexual orientation. They said, “It is okay to be gay as long as you study well and do not become like other gay people.” The experience of Kween shed light on how microaggressions are in real life, where remarks, although not explicitly hostile, implied that their identity would only be supported if they conformed to certain expectations.

Sky and Kween are only two of the many LGBTQ+ people who may have gone through similar experiences — a shared reality among people who are viewed as different. With all these, the question is then: how can we express our utmost allyship in a layered homophobic environment?

Sky answered what an ideal ally she has in mind as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. “I need someone who treats me like they normally treat any other people out there who would never change the way they treat me, even when they are fully aware of who I am.”. Meanwhile, Kween stated, “Being a real ally in the LGBTQIA+ should be educated. They should continuously learn about both issues and experiences of the LGBTQIA+ community.” They further explained that to be an ally is to be an amplifier of the voice of the community and challenge existing homophobia.

With their answer in mind, we definitely can provide our support by showing that we care, and we can express this by educating ourselves on matters that are relevant to the cause of the community, using inclusive language to create a safer space, actively listening to how they want to be treated right, ceasing enabling homophobic microaggressions and advocating for LGBTQ+ rights. This way, not only can we express our utmost support for the community, but we are also shying away from evoking microaggressions commonly left unnoticed within our society.

As you claim, publicly or not, that you are one with the community, let us not be one of those who show support performatively. To empower the community is to acknowledge that certain actions are harmful and that the level of sensitivity must be taken note of, more so why we have to listen to the sentiments of the community on how they want to be treated justly.  Let your genuine support be felt — one that does not deter the community and its cause at all. 

At the end of the day, LGBTQ+ people deserve a life that is far from the constant struggles of proving they are worthy of being respected. Pride Month or not, we should constantly remind ourselves to be kinder to people, and this includes LGBTQ+ members.

And you know what? Perpetuating homophobia, in any way, does not make you look good.

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