Allied members of larger society are a crucial tool to further advance equality for the LGBTQIA+ community.
While annual Pride Month celebrations held nationally during June help draw attention to the cause, local advocates say the fight to change hearts and minds continues throughout the year.
PFLAG Broomfield Community Outreach Coordinator Sasha Davis said education is a crucial element to break unconscious biases ingrained during youth.
“You can’t just say, ‘Well, of course I support gay rights,’” she said. “If you don’t fully know what that is then you don’t know if you’re being as supportive as you need to be.”
PFLAG Broomfield, which was launched in 2019, is one of over 400 chapters that total 200,000 members nationwide. PFLAG is a national organization started in 1973 and is the largest family and ally group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals in the U.S.
“The most important part of being an ally is not reinforcing the status quo,” she said.
Davis said many people struggle with reacting when confronted by inconsiderate comments caged as humor.
“We all encounter situations like that (and) just sort of nervously laugh,” she noted.
The quandary for LGBTQIA+ members dealing with hurtful stereotyping is whether or not to make waves with friends of colleagues, Davis said.
“As I've gotten older, if I don’t feel safe speaking up, at the very least, I resist the urge to do that nervous laughter,” she said. “It can be as simple as not laughing.”
Taking on bigotry can often be a less daunting task for non-LGTBQ individuals.
“As a queer women I’m especially careful around men who are making sexist jokes,” she said. “I’m not feeling safe enough to speak out but another man in the room could say something.”
Youth Seen Executive Director Tara Jae said the outreach for supportive allies has been ongoing during decades of conversations over achieving equality.
“We often ask for people to join us in how we are moving forward,” they said. “We do need to be diving deeper into equity and what that means for our LGBTQIA community.”
To that end, Davis noted the national PFLAG website has a wealth of reading materials available about the history of the LGTBQA+ community.
“It’s a good starting point for people,” she said. “PFLAG is about allyship, (as) the foundation of the organization is parents supporting their queer children.”
PFLAG has also developed the “Straight for Equality” program to offer guidance for would-be supporters who are unsure how to assist.
“It’s similar to the difference between not being racist and being anti-racist,” she said. “It’s about learning (and) doing the work.”
Davis said the focus should be unpacking unconscious biases regarding homophobia, transphobia or even racism.
“It’s the same thing when you’re approaching being anti-racist,” she said.“We grow up soaked in these concepts and ideas that society teaches us that we don’t even necessarily realize.”
According to national PFLAG surveys, in 2007 about 40% of respondents knew lesbian, gay, or bisexual individuals, with that figure doubling by 2020.
“That’s why we are seeing growth in the number of people who consider themselves allies,” she said. “This understanding that you have to keep learning is spreading.”
Despite the progress, Davis acknowledged the overarching goal of moving beyond sexual orientation having relevancy is a far ways off.
“We are still dealing with horrific amounts of racism, homophobia and transphobia in our society, but it is getting better,” she said.
National PFLAG statistics show that roughly half of LGBTQ members are currently not forthcoming with co-workers and have experienced discrimination in their personal lives. Additionally, about 60% of LGBTQ youths fell unsafe in school due to their sexual orientation.
Jae said fostering a sense of community is a vital key to inclusiveness.
“If you have family, friends or co-workers who identify as LGBTQIA, check on them,” they said. “Ask if there is anything they need.”
Ultimately, Davis noted it boils down to one core fact.
“People are attracted where they’re attracted,” she said. “If you just let people be people and love where they love, then that’s all that we’re asking.”