Fortunately, many parts of the world have seen enormous strides in the acceptance of different identities, including some very significant moments in recent history. The U.S. legally acknowledged gay marriage in 2015, and in the past two years we've seen huge waves in the mainstream education and the visibility of trans and queer people, as well as their rights. But we still have a long way to go.
As we work for worldwide acceptance of gay rights as human rights, it's important for those of us who don't identify as LGBTQ+ to become strong allies. In addition to providing love and acceptance to our queer friends, widespread support will help lead to necessary shifts in attitudes and legislation supporting those who do identify as LGBTQ+.
Since coming out to his fans on YouTube, Connor Franta has become a major force in the LGBTQ+ community. Since uploading the video just over two years ago, it's been viewed more than 11 million times. Recently, the author and owner of lifestyle brand Common Culture collaborated with Urban Outfitters to create a collection to benefit the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), which works to create a positive experience for LGBTQ+ students in schools.
We caught up with Franta to find out his tips for becoming a strong ally to the LGBTQ+ community.
Tip No. 1: Support Those Who Are Coming Out
Coming out is still an incredibly stressful task for many LGBTQ+ identifying people. The uncertainty of how your friends, family, and society in general will treat you is very real. It's crucial to be extremely supportive, to listen to them, and to get excited! This person just reached a major milestone in the formation of their identity. They found the bravery to talk with you about it, and view you as a trustworthy friend with whom they care about enough to share. This is your pal! Make sure they know it, and always strive to make every interaction a safe and open space for honest conversation.
Tip No. 2: Join a Gay/Straight Alliance
A Gay/Straight Alliance is a club to support each other, talk about issues related to sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and work to end homophobia and transphobia in communities. The point is that you don't have to be LGBTQ+ identifying to join or start one—in fact, it will probably mean the world to others who see a friend and an ally eager to engage in the dialogue.
Tip No. 3: Speak Up, Speak Out
This one's major. You should never stand idle when you see someone being bullied for their sexual orientation or gender identity. Use your voice, find your empathy, and don't stand in silence when someone else is hurting. It's important to remember than no one is born homophobic—it is a learned belief system that you have the power to change with a frank conversation.
Tip No. 4: Listen (and Watch Some YouTube Videos)
The best way to become an enlightened friend to the LGBTQ+ community is to listen to the experiences of others. Let them tell their own stories, while always providing a supporting backbone and encouraging others to listen as well.
Tip No. 5: Watch and Read LGBTQ+ Movies and Books
Every once in awhile, inject an LGBTQ+ storyline into your Netflix queue. Learn as much about gay history as possible to be the best ally you can. Some of the best lessons come from the true stories of others who might not be like yourself.
Start by Watching:
Luna by Julie Anne Peters, $7, amazon.com.
A Work in Progress by Connor Franta, $10, barnesandnoble.com.
Man Enough to be a Woman by Jayne County, $30, amazon.com.
The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man's World by AlanDowns, $12, amazon.com.
Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote, $10, amazon.com.
Redefining Realness by Janet Mock, $14, strandbooks.com.
A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood, $12, amazon.com.
The City and the Pillar by Gore Vidal, $12, amazon.com.