For the straight ally, navigating LGBTQ issues can sometimes feel like you're drowning in alphabet soup. That's okay.
You aren’t expected to completely understand every LGBTQ concern. Just like I can't be expected to know what it's like to be male, or be a person of color, or be adopted. What you and I can do is this:
Stop and think.
Listen and try to understand where LGBTQ teens are coming from.
Stop and think…about what pronouns you use. Realize it's easy to make little assumptions when talking to others. If a new friend mentions she's dating someone, don't ask “What's his name?” Instead, ask “Who?” Otherwise, you assume that every girl likes boys. It seems like a harmless assumption, but it can be frustrating for LGBTQ teens. It can feel as if they’re expected to be straight. It can make them feel not normal for not being straight. You won't mean to exclude someone, but sneaky, presumptive pronouns can do that for you.
Listen and try to understand where LGBTQ teens are coming from... Understand that you have some privileges that LGBTQ teens don't have. You will be able to legally marry whomever you decide to marry. You won’t risk getting kicked out of your house for your sexuality. You won’t have to think about which public restroom to use. You won’t be twice as likely to be bullied at school. You can feel comfortable holding your significant other’s hand in public. You won’t risk losing your friends based on your sexuality. This is just a small portion of a very long list. LGBTQ teens face a lot of barriers that you won’t face. Keep that in mind and it will help you be more supportive. Seattle may seem like a gay-friendly city to you, but it’s hard to be LGBTQ anywhere.
Be Kind...LGBTQ teens do face exclusion and barriers, but you can support them. Be there for them like you would be for any friend. Be a listener. Stand up for them. When you hear someone say “That’s so gay,” you can tell them it’s not okay to make gay a synonym for stupid/annoying/bad. Above all, see the person behind the LGBTQ label. You don’t have “gay friends” and “lesbian friends” and “trans friends” and “straight friends;” you just have “friends.”
If you would like to learn more about how to support your friends or yourself. Teen Link is open every night from 6-10pm. Just in case you needed a reminder, Teen Link is a help line for teens and answered by teens. We are here to support you wherever you are at and however you are feeling. We are anonymous, confidential and Most importantly, non-judgmental. And, we are teenagers too… we get it. So, give us a call.
1866-TEENLINK (833-6546) or visit our chat service at http://www.866teenlink.org/