How Youth Workers and Organizations Can be Real Allies to LGBT Youth

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Emily BrownI came to work at Georgia Equality Monday, knowing that my LGBT colleagues and friends would be in a state of shock and grief after the mass murder that took place last weekend at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida. As a straight, cisgender (that’s non-transgender) woman and an organizer with and for Georgia’s LGBT community, moments like this define my job as an ally.

This week, in honor of those killed and injured in the violent attacks, and in recognition that the world we live in is often unsafe for LGBT people, it’s my job to speak to other non-LGBT folks about the seriousness and gravity of genuine allyship.

As facilitator of the Atlanta Coalition for LGBTQ youth (ACFLY), an alliance of youth service providers working to make service more sensitive to the needs of LGBT youth, I’d like to share some ideas about what allyship might look like for youth service providers this week and beyond.

Here are some practical ways you can show support for your local LGBT communities in the wake of this tragedy.

Make resources available for those in your organization who might be grieving.

Give people time, space and a listening ear if they want to talk, but don’t force it. Be mindful of how you speak about this incident. Using violent or graphic language, showing or sharing graphic or violent stories or images may be triggering to those close to the incident or those who have experienced related trauma. Seek out local community healing services in your area and look for grief support groups that specifically serve LGBT communities. Share what you find with colleagues and clients.

Join your local LGBT community in solidarity this week.

Make a point to be visible in your support by showing up at vigils held by LGBT organizations in your community. Check out GLAAD’s online guide to vigils this week honoring those lost in Orlando to find one in your region.

[Related: Atlanta Vigil Held for Orlando Massacre]

Make a public statement.

On behalf of your organization, release a statement expressing grief and condolences. In your response, communicate like a strong ally by expressing explicit support for the LGBT community as opposed to generalized, broad support for “those affected.” Erasure of identity is another form of violence often experienced by LGBT communities, and allies should be careful to name the real issue when we see it.

Donate to the victims of the Orlando tragedy through this page administered by Equality Florida.

The human cost of this tragedy will be enormous, and while the lives of those injured and the families of the lost will never be the same, it helps to know that final and medical expenses will be offset by the generosity of concerned and loving community members all over the world.

Make your organization a safer space for LGBTQ youth.

The ACFLY’s activities are driven by LGBTQ youth feedback about how they want the organizations that serve them to operate. Ask yourself: Does my organization have LGBT literature in common areas? Do we have gender-neutral bathrooms? Do our intake forms allow for nonbinary genders? Do we have a directory of referral services on hand for LGBT clients? Do we offer staff LGBT cultural competency trainings annually? Does our nondiscrimination policy include sexual orientation and gender identity?

This online guide from Advocates for Youth will get you started, but this is a journey. Partner with local LGBT organizations to transform your organization into a place that is safe and affirming for all youth. Or, start a coalition of your own!

Attend and support LGBTQ Pride activities.

June is Pride Month, but most large cities have LGBT pride events year round, and they are as diverse as the LGBT communities themselves. Wikipedia has a pretty darn good list of pride events taking place all over the world, so you’ll certainly find something near you.

Service organizations that aspire to be allies to the LGBT community should consider tabling at these events, volunteering or marching in the parade. It’s likely LGBT Pride events will experience increased security this year, but attending and enjoying yourself will demonstrate that we will not be silenced by the threat of hateful violence.

Emily Halden Brown is an organizer at Georgia Equality and facilitates the Atlanta Coalition for LGBTQ Youth.  

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