While my main passion in life is animal activism, I find that this relates to all social justice issues that affect our society today. As a vegan, I try to live my life causing as little harm as possible, and this includes how I interact with other people and how I address different issues within society. Just as I want every animal to be treated with compassion, fairness and equality, I also wish that for human on our planet. No group of people should feel ashamed about who they are, who they love, or for what they believe in. I strive to advocate and to be an ally for all groups in society, and while I as a heterosexual white female may not be able to understand and relate to many of the issues other people face, I will always listen to their stories and advocate for the much needed changes.
I also believe that love is love: So far as I am concerned – provided it does not involve animals or minors and all adults involved are fully consenting – all love is worthy love. If you love men, women, both or neither, you do you. Again, while I may never understand what it feels like to feel as though you are in the wrong body, or that your gender does not fully represent you, I fully support people being allowed to discover this. I do not believe (nor adhere to for the most part) stereotypical gender roles – anyone can wear a skirt and anyone can wear make up. I believe that people should be allowed to love who they love without judgement and that there should be no limits on who people should be allowed to love. I also believe that sexual orientation is on a spectrum: I don’t believe that people are 100% fully straight or 100% fully gay, nor do I believe that your sexual orientation is set in stone as soon as you reach puberty. I believe that everyone should be allowed to explore their own sexuality and their own identity with support and understanding, and that this is also something that you continue to discover as you grow and experience new things. In today’s society, gender identity has become such a huge part of life that there are now so many different genders and so many different sexual orientations that I do not think it is possible to be just one for your whole life. I also believe that at the end of the day, a person’s gender or sexual orientation doesn’t harm anyone – it doesn’t disrupt my life to call someone I used to refer to as ‘she’ to instead refer to them as a ‘he’ or ‘they’. But to those that are part of the LGBTQ+ community, even this tiny little change in language can mean the entire world to them and allows them to live their most authentic life.
So why am I writing about this now?
June is Pride Month, in honour of the Stonewall Riots which took place in 1969 in New York and is considered the most important historical moment for the pride movement. Pride Month is therefore an opportunity to promote and celebrate the pride movement, and to encourage members of the LGBTQ+ communities and society as a whole to do away with outdated and homophobic behaviours that still persist today. In 2022, there are still 69 countries which still criminalise homosexuality, with the death penalty or long prison sentences being given to those who are prosecuted for homosexuality. It was not until 2015 that all 50 US states allowed same-sex marriages, however there are still ongoing issues with some smaller, more conservative or religious counties within the US that refuse to recognise a same-sex marriage license. There are also still issues with homophobic views and comments about LGBTQ+ communities and these can be spotted in everyday conversations. If something slightly annoying has happened or if something hasn’t gone as well as thought, it is common to say ‘that’s so gay’ or ‘how gay is that’, as though being gay is still a bad thing. Ironically, ‘gay’ used to be a term used to express extreme joy and happiness, so it is interesting to see how language has changed.
How can you be an ally?
Attend Pride events
Not only are Pride events wonderful opportunities to meet with members of the LGBTQ+ community, to hear their stories and to show your support for their campaigns, they are always a wonderfully fun day out. I have been to two official Pride events and it is always the loveliest atmosphere. Everyone is so welcoming and accepting and supportive that just radiates from the entire event. It is so lovely to see people being unapologetically themselves and to see everyone there celebrating and supporting one another regardless of their background or where they are in their own journey of discovery. The music, the fashion, the general culture of the LGBTQ+ community is also next level and I am always amazed at the creativity and the excitement that they all pour into their art. It is also amazing to see how their art makes a statement and helps to encourage even more acceptance in wider society.
The majority of events happen in June, however in the UK there are a number of Pride events that happen throughout the year. There are also some cities – Brighton, London and Manchester come to mind – where the LGBTQ+ community are very prominent and therefore have their own special events almost on a weekly basis, be it gay only night clubs or extravagant drag shows.
Speak up about issues
I work in quite an old-school industry, so while the majority of people I work with are all very lovely individuals, they can have some outdated views on what LGBTQ+ really means. A big topic of conversation lately in the office has been the debate as to whether or not we should include our pronouns in our email signatures. Some people thought it was unnecessary – your gender is based on your genitals and they cannot understand why someone would not feel that way, because they have never had to question their own gender themselves. But it is important to note that while pronouns can be very personal to someone who genuinely has struggled with their own identity, it is also just a really logically solution for everyone. I have a gender neutral name and am called Mr and Sir on a daily basis, especially over email or in letters where people have never spoken to me on the phone or seen a picture of me. Now for me, I don’t really care what people call me but I would also hate to mis-gender someone who does really care about this. I therefore raised this fact with my colleagues and they then started to think of it from a different point of view – no more uncertainty about whether to address an email as Sir or Madam, or Mr and Miss (sometimes there is even a debate around Mrs, Miss or Ms!) because emails would have that information right there for us to use. It would also remove that awkward embarrassment when someone who has been calling you a Mr for the past three weeks finally speaks to you on the phone and is then very surprised and apologetic to find you are in fact a Miss.
Read and learn from LGBTQ+ creators
Now I have no where to start with this because the resources out there are INFINITE. If you wanted a good place to start with books to read, Penguin Publishing have this very helpful list. It includes a mix of fiction, non-fiction and biographies that provide a range of views and experiences surrounding gender and sexuality. One of my favourite books was ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ by Bernadine Evaristo, which not only included stories surrounding love and gender, it also tells all stories from the point of view of black women which is also very eye-opening and informative. Now some of these books can be quite heavy – gender and sexual exploration and discovery is rarely easy or conflict free – so if you want to read stories that are more light-hearted then gay romance novels are always a winner. Of course these can also range between super duper cheesy rom-com to heart breaking tragedies, but you will be spoilt for choice. If you wanted an obscenely well written book to get you started, I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Song of Achilles’ by Madeline Miller: It is based on the Greek mythology/history that tells a gripping retelling of the Achilles’ story while also weaving in the love story between Achilles and his lover Patroclus.
There are also countless creators on Instagram, Tik Tok and other social media platforms that can provide you with a new insight into their life as part of the LGBTQ+ community. There are also a number of shows that can also be turned to for further information: One of my personal favourites is Ru Paul’s Drag Race. It is entertaining and funny and every single queen brings to light their own struggles that they have experienced in both the LGBTQ+ community and the drag show circuit. Definitely a good place to start if you want to experience something completely different to your usual shows.
Consider fundraising and raising awareness at work
If your work does not already have a fundraising department (or at least a few fundraising initiatives throughout the year) make one for Pride and to support LGBTQ+ initiatives. You can get as creative as you like: Bake sale, fun runs, Step Challenges, design competitions (t-shirts, mugs, stickers etc) or fancy dress days. You could include leaflets and additional information around your initiative and all money raised would be donated directly to your charity of choice.
Here is a small list of charities that help the LGBTQ+ community, however there are hundreds out there that specialise in different issues too, such as youth and children charities or AIDs and HIV awareness. These are all UK charities, however no doubt there will be country specific charities where you live.
Stonewall – main charity for all LGBTQ+ issues and campaigns
Mind Out – mental health charity for members of the LGBTQ+ community
Bi Pride – for bisexual support
Hidayah – a charity for LGBTQ+ Muslims within the UK
London Gaymers – a gaming community open to all members of the LGBTQ+ community
Elton John’s AIDs foundation – a charity created by Sir Elton John to help stop the stigma and hate surrounding those with AIDs, as well as fund research into how to stop the AIDs epidemic and improve medical treatment
I also want to take this opportunity to say that this little blog will always be a safe space for everyone in society. You are welcome here, regardless of your gender or sexual orientation, and I will always want to hear your stories. That also goes for everyone else – regardless of your religion, your culture, your race or your age, you will always be welcome here and I am so happy that you have found this tiny little bit of the internet.
I am also still learning. As I said at the beginning, while I may never be able to relate to the struggles or understand the internal conflicts around gender, sexuality, race or religion, I will always strive to learn as much as I can about other people’s experiences and to do my best to advocate for their rights to a happy, free and authentic life. If anyone has some other useful resources, or has any recommendations for books/films/articles/movies/creators then please do leave these below in the comments or send me a private email and I will make sure to look into them all!