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So you want to be a straight activist for the LGBTQ community?

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Here at Service Care Solutions, we like to make sure we are an inclusive and caring employer. We like our staff to be open and honest with us, and in return, we try to educate ourselves on things that may be having a big impact on their lives. We wanted to mark Pride Month and opened up the floor to all of our employees and asked if anyone had first-hand experience surrounding LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual, queer / questioning) so that we could learn something from them. Thanks to David Craggs, who shares his story below...

As a straight guy, I’ll be celebrating pride this month. I absolutely love it. It’s one of the most positive celebrations of identity and liberty that I know, and by its very nature is inclusive to all.

Love is Love

When my own brother came out to me, I was more happy than anything. Why? Because he was being honest with himself and he was being honest with me, and if you have siblings you know that’s more important than anything else. Was I bothered about him being gay? No. Should I be applauded and patted on the back for feeling that way? No, I shouldn’t and neither should anyone else, because it’s not difficult to love other people, but it takes a whole other level of energy to hate or actively discriminate against them.

This brings me to the first point about supporting the LBGTQ community or any community for that matter. Whether It’s anti-bigotry, anti-racism or anti-homophobia, we should always remember: It’s Not About You.

We all like to think that we are good people. There is nothing wrong with that. But how does telling other people that about how not homophobic, not racist and how pro-equality you are, actually help? The simple fact is that on the whole, probably not anywhere remotely as much as it may have done in the past when even to say that you were accepting of same sex relationships (for example) was a controversial stance to take. In 2020, those who are still not accepting of the LGBTQ community who are now the outliers, so getting other people to say they also support the cause it probably the best you’re going to get from it from most people.

It’s great that you accept the ideas of equality and diversity, because beliefs inform actions. But if one of your beliefs also happens to be that telling others how you support LGBTQ community is your way of making a contribution, you may as well just sit back and watch others make the changes. I’m not by any means discouraging you from saying what your values are or standing in solidarity with others (please do that as much as you can), I’m just saying that if that’s all you have to offer and that unless you actually act upon those values, things won’t really change. Yes, change does still need to happen in many areas, particularly in the challenges faced by those growing up LGBTQ.

When people see others doing something that they perceive as virtuous, they naturally want to emulate it. Nevertheless, it can also be difficult to make a difference, if they don’t believe other people are also making an effort. If all they can see is other people putting a rainbow filter on their profile picture, that’s all they’ll do too. So if you want change, you need to instigate it.

Start with small things you can do right now

Now I’m not saying you need to go out and be a ground breaking activist, but I’m suggesting that you can do this by being an example and thinking about what actions you can take now which have very tangible and real world consequences. The best place to start is with the people in our society who are in need of most education on the topic, children and young people.

For most adults, it’s much easier to brush off what someone else thinks about you, and it’s much easier to understand how people might react to your use of words etc . However, children and young people are extremely sensitive to this and they can also be very mean to each other as they have not yet developed the emotional intelligence to understand the potential consequences of their actions or words. Giving children and young people the opportunity to understand that there are differences in our society, that there is nothing wrong with those differences and educating them about things like the potential harm of using slurs based on these differences in the playground is a small act in the grand scheme of things. However, it can make a massive impact by ensuring that the generations to come will be more thoughtful with regards to the LGBTQ community and other communities. If you extend this sort of education to other groups.

Don’t go around telling people what they can and can’t say or do. The LGBT+ community have had had people doing that to them for centuries, so It’s just in really poor taste. Policing someone’s actions is not how you educate them, and is nowhere near as powerful as making people understand the effects that this language can have on others. Not only that, but there is a big difference between someone taking the initiative to do something good because they recognise that it is the right thing to do, versus doing good things because that’s what they have been told to do. Which brings me to my next point:

Educate yourself

I’m not saying that you need to go and consume every piece of media on the subject. What I am saying is that it’s a good idea to listen to what the LGBTQ community is saying on different issues. You won’t always find a consensus or a definitive answer, but that’s not the point. It’s about being aware that our perceptions and beliefs and even our own common sense are based on our own experiences and knowledge. Therefore, if someone belongs to the LGBTQ community and you don’t, it’s likely that they have different experiences to you and you can learn something from it. Also, remember that this is a two way thing and they could even learn something from you.

My favourite source to educate myself on how others perceive the world is YouTube. There is commentary from different perspectives on multiple issues, and it’s all user created content meaning that for the most part, people are happy to pour their views out on the platform. I particularly like to look at the views of people who disagree with me or who go against the grain of what is said in the mainstream, mainly because I feel that if you understand what has convinced them to perceive the world in a certain way, you can have a more productive conversation with them with a more positive result. For example, if someone has been persuaded to hold a certain view by an argument that resonates with them emotionally as opposed to an evidence based one, it’s likely that they will need the same sort of reasoning to change their mind. You will find that it doesn’t matter how many facts and figures you present someone with, it just doesn’t have the impact you would expect.

Don’t preach to the choir. Educate and try to help change minds

Like I said before: it’s not difficult to love other people, but it takes a whole other level of energy to hate people. You are not born hating other people because of their differences, and you’re not born with prejudices against them. It’s something you are taught to do and it requires maintenance. If you want to be an activist, your job is to educate and change minds.

You might know people who support the LGBTQ community or might even be part of it. While these people are worth asking to join the cause, they don’t need to hear your rebuttals against homophobic nonsense. They don’t need convincing, as they already agree with you.

That time would be better spent educating the people who don’t know, who are on the fence or who have positioned themselves completely in the way of progress. When my brother came out he certainly got a mixed response from the family. Some were very accepting and happy for him. Others were confused, some were worried, and some even annoyed at what they believed were “the causes” in society. It was these people that I knew had to be the focus of most of my attention. Calling them stupid or looking down on them does nothing but alienate them and push them past the point of no return.

How do I help change minds?

Well, this is really up to you. As a straight guy, I want a make a difference by focusing on other straight people who are having difficulty accepting the LGBTQ community. I don’t need to go and find these people as they usually make themselves known,. That tends to be the case with many people who have never really put a lot of thought into why they carry certain opinions with them. So that’s what I consider my “activism”.
Here’s some of the most common things people tend to be very confused about when it comes to accepting that any (enthusiastically consenting) adults should be free to love each other. What you tend to find is that when you start applying their reasoning consistently to other topics or scenarios, it falls apart very quickly. If done in an engaging enough way, it can actually get them to think about it a bit more. When people are given the opportunity to do this, they’re more likely to reach these new conclusions themselves.

“It’s not natural”

 Are you 100% sure about that? There are countless examples of homosexuality (for example) occurring in the wild that have been documented and still are. If you paid attention to Jurassic park, you’d also know that some frogs can change even sex in order to mate with individuals of the same sex. Did you also know that some male cuttlefish adopt some of behaviours and physiology of females to gain a competitive advantage against rival males who can’t tell the difference? Is that a “freak of nature”, or is that just something that happens in the wild? It may not be the most common way that sex occurs in nature, but that doesn’t mean it’s not meant to happen, and doesn’t mean that it isn’t natural.

Even if it were unnatural, so what? Is it natural to speak to people you can’t get to on a phone or video call? Is it natural to get the bus or drive a car to work? Is this justification enough to discourage it, or does it give us the right you say that people who use phones can’t get married?

“You can’t rationally justify it”

Can you rationally justify why you love your partner? Probably not. Should you have to have a rational justification in order to love them? Of course not. So why should it be different for anyone else?

“It’s a lifestyle choice”

Was it a choice for you when you felt attracted to someone or fell in love with them? No. Then what is the justification for saying that it’s somehow different for other people?

“But People aren’t born that way”

 The evidence says that this is wholly incorrect. The thing is, people saying this sort of thing aren’t going to be swayed by evidence, are they? After all, that’s not what convinced them in the first place. So let’s imagine it were true for the sake of argument. People aren’t generally born to be attracted to specific personality traits, quirks or accents, are they? Is this therefore justification to discriminate against this?

“Same sex relationships don’t produce children”

If you overlook the fact people can adopt etc you can always ask: should we also stop people who don’t want/can’t have children from having relationships or getting married? If the answer you get is yes, it’s likely this person hasn’t actually thought about what this means. Try to put them in the shoes of someone who could be in that situation and explore the ethical minefield and terrifying implications this could have.

“It’s just a phase”

It’s odd that some people are initially more accepting of someone coming out when they believe it’s only temporary. It’s possible that, while obviously misinformed, this comes more from a place of wishful thinking. It’s better to explore how this person would feel if it turns out not to be a phase for the individual they are talking about. If it’s not a phase, is that a reason to view or treat this person I differently?

Does this actually work?

Yes. I’ve seen people make complete U-turns on their stance towards LGBTQ issues when they’ve been given the opportunity to think about them properly. It’s likely that some of you may have had this happen to you in the past. The simple fact is that most of the people who say these things probably aren’t coming from a place of deep seated hatred, but a lack of understanding instead. If you can acknowledge that, and listen to what they have to say you can actually have a conversation with them and help them understand. This is far more powerful a tool than calling them names or dismissing them using insulting terms. Not only that, you can stop some people from one generation from spreading ideas of prejudice to the next.

The message of the LGBTQ movement is one of love and inclusion, so spreading hatred is the last thing you want to do in its name.

Supporting a community is not an annual event

The LGBT+ community (or any group which has been marginalised at some point for that matter) always needs our support from their straight allies. Celebrating pride is a great way to show your support, but it can’t stop there. Whether it’s a relative, close friend or the people in your community, they will at some point face difficulties and injustices caused by the lack of understanding from others. So the best way you can make the biggest difference is by changing minds and ensuring that the world that we leave behind for future generations of LGBTQ is the most accepting and inclusive yet.

I work in the mental health team at Service Care Solutions and am currently recruiting for roles such as Registered Mental Health Nurses and Support Workers. If you are looking for a job or are looking to recruit, please contact me here.
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