We often associate advocacy with activism: politically-oriented actions we take or events we attend where we campaign for LGBTQ equality. But we can also integrate advocacy into our daily lives by speaking up and modeling behavior. These every day acts of advocacy, even seemingly nuanced ones, can send out ripples of change. They also let us take our advocacy where we live— through our network of family, community, institutions, and commerce.
Here are some tips for daily advocacy, many based on the experience of our long-time members.
- Stay on top of terminology. The lingo of self identification holds particular meaning and power for LGBTQ people. Check online glossaries or politely ask the definition.
- Use people’s preferred pronouns. She, Her, He, Him, They, Them, or whatever else they specify. For some us of this is new, so we’re going to make mistakes, apologize, and do better.
- Use inclusive terms. Choose words and phrases that acknowledge LGBTQ people so they feel less marginalized and together we normalize our community. As we know more LGBTQ people, we often find such inclusivity become second nature. Here are some guidelines.
- Check your assumptions. Sexual orientation and/or how people relate to their gender comes in many varieties. When we wait for people to tell us their identities, rather than assume them, we gave them space to be themselves.
- Share positive stories. The joys and accomplishments of the LGBTQ community are sometimes overshadowed by the fight for equality. So let’s spread good news, both from our own circle (the same sex marriage of friends) and public life (a prominent person comes out).
- Speak up. When people say erroneous comments about LGBTQ people and the policies that impact them, politely counter them. Consult Stunned Silent for when you are a loss of words when encountering people who oppose or do not understand our community.
- Make the political become personal. Telling our own stories and putting a face on an issue is one of the most impactful actions we can take. Studies show that connecting real people to pending legislation that affects the LGBTQ community can effectively open the hearts and minds of voters. For example, we might say: ” I have a transgender child and I want nothing more than a good future for her, so this bathroom initiative really hits home .”
- Interject love. Change the course of an ignorant or offensive conversation with a heartfelt declaration of love for an LGBTQ person. Simply pause the speaker with a gentle gesture and quietly state: “You need to know that I have an LGBTQ child/sibling/parent/friend whom I love very much.”
- Display support. Wear supportive buttons and pins, post Safe Space stickers, and hang rainbow flags. For some of us, rainbow is our favorite color: others of us prefer a more understated look, like a small rainbow heart pin on our lapel. Either way, these displays make a difference. They not only bring attention to equality, but signal that we are an ally—often a big boost for a vulnerable person. They also can spark conversations that lead to important dialogue.
- Leverage your consumer influence. For some of us, purchase power—spending our dollars at businesses and services that support the LGBTQ community—is a priority. But as consumers, we can also encourage other forms of support from our vendors and service people. For example, request that your local book store create an queer book display, ask your dentist to include LGBTQ-friendly in their advertising, and so forth.