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. Like all languages, it evolved and changes over time. It’s okay to find it overwhelming! What’s important is to know it matters and do your best to understand it via online glossaries or through our monthly meetings.
Pay Attention to Pronouns
We can’t assume someone’s gender by looking at them, so we can’t assume their pronouns, either. Using someone’s preferred pronouns is easy to do and yet a powerful sign of respect and validation. If you are unsure, you can politely ask: “Can you please share with me your preferred pronouns?” There are a range of possible responses, including: She, Her, He, Him, as well as They, Them for non-binary people.
For some us of this is new and even feels awkward, so we’re going to make mistakes. It’s okay! We apologize and try to do better.
Use Language to Model Inclusivity
In every day conversation, make an attempt to use inclusive terms. That is, choose words and phrases that acknowledge LGBTQ people so they feel less marginalized and together we normalize our community. For example, if we say “your parents can also attend” instead of “your dads and moms can also attend”, we’re including LGBTQ families in the conversation. As we know more LGBTQ people, we often find such inclusivity become second nature.
We can’t always assume who people are attracted to, or their gender, just by looking at them. 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
Far too often, the joys and accomplishments of the LGBTQ community can be overshadowed our 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).
When people say erroneous comments about LGBTQ people and the policies that impact them, we can politely counter them. For some of us, it’s challenging and scary. But remember, you can choose the words that match your personal style and comfort zone. And kindness and patience go a long way in opening hearts and minds. 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 More Personal
PFLAG believes in the power of our stories. Sharing the truth of our lives 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 .”
We can counter opposition to our community by expressing our most profound emotion: our love for the most precious people in our lives. In fact, many of us PFLAGers have seen firsthand that we can stop an ignorant or offensive conversation in its tracks 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.” So many of us disagree on a range of issues, but most of us can agree on the power of love.
When we show visible support to our LGBTQ community, we bring attention to equality and signal that we are an ally—often a big boost for a vulnerable person. We can also spark conversations that lead to important dialogue. It’s a simple as wearing a supportive buttons and pins, posting Safe Space stickers, and hanging Pride flags. For some of us, rainbow is our favorite color: others prefer a more understated look, like a small supportive pin on our lapel. All our displays make a difference.
Leverage Your Consumer Influence
For some of us, purchase/wallet power—spending our dollars at businesses and services that support the LGBTQ community—is a priority, a way to financially encourage change. (We might to choose to create that change on a larger scale by supporting or joining the GSBA, Washington State’s LGBTQ and allied chamber of commerce.) But as consumers and patrons, our words also have power. We can use our voices to
- Acknowledge postive change When we see a Pride display or gender neutral bathrooms at a business or place of service, we can express our approval to the management, directly or via email, and and let them know it encourages our loyalty.
- Request positive change We can politely request that businesses that we patron acknowledge our community. For example, ask bookstores to create a queer book display or suggest to health practitioners that they post “LGBTQ-friendly” signs in their facilities.