By Brandon Smith
With Pride Month now over, it is important to remember that the LGBTQ+ community does not fade away like a dandelion wish flower scattering seeds to the wind. All year-round, this diverse community is fighting to be accepted, which means that support cannot be limited to just one month.
Corporations will be removing the rainbows from their logos and regular Skittles will be returning to store shelves, but that doesn’t mean that everyday people can’t make a difference. Anyone who wants to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community can still do so, but it is important to know how to show support. The Collegiate visited the Grand Rapids Pride Festival to learn different ways that somebody outside the community can support it.
“I see a lot of stuff about people trying to understand LGBTQ+, and it’s like, you don’t really have to,” Kai H. said, a 20-year-old who visited Grand Rapids from Indiana. I’m not expecting you to see everything from my point of view, but it’d be nice to respect that I exist.”
Aris H., who attended with Kai, agreed and added, “Even if you don’t agree with it, don’t continue to try to spread hate about it to the people that are in the community.”
Dan Ziegenfelder, a 27-year-old from Detroit, said one can be a good ally by “(supporting) the community, whether it is by showing up somewhere, donating, or spreading awareness.”
Ben, a 27-year-old from Grand Rapids, who didn’t disclose a last name said, “Someone can be a good ally by not making a huge deal out of it. We gotta normalize it. You don’t just support a cause that you care about just one month or one day out of the year.”
Ben suggested being aware of gendered language and how it can make people feel. For example, they prefer to use the term “partner” to describe their significant other.
Ben’s partner Cassidy Miskowiez agreed, adding that “I think by actually meeting these people and getting to know them will help. Being a good ally means educating yourself.”
Miskowiez continued, “I think all the root cause of hate for the LGBTQ community is fear. So I think education (helps), making yourself educated on what the different parts of it mean and getting to know people who are LGBTQIA.”
It is important to get to know members of the LGBTQ+ community, and even more important to understand their struggles. Even within the community, there are people struggling to feel like a part of something bigger.
“As a transgender woman, it’s been hard trying to exist outside the house even with friends and family,” said Miskowiez. “Just as I started to feel better about myself, other states began putting out anti-trans laws. We also have a lot of social media presence with ‘LGB minus the T’ and I feel like this trans fear has taken hold. We have a fear of progress.”
For some in the community, they can even feel like their own community is against them. Drag performers have been controversial lately with some states taking action to outlaw the art form, but they are also a difficult topic within the LGBTQ+ community.
“When you think of Pride Fest, you think of groups of people dancing and having a good time, but when it comes to main stage performances, you think drag queens,” said Ben, who formerly performed as a drag king. They said they were excited to see more representation onstage at GR Pride Fest. “You think big sparkly drag queens… which is fine, but you don’t (usually) see representation from drag kings.”
However, Miskowiez disagrees. For her, drag is an uncomfortable thing to watch.
“Even in my own community, I can’t tell who’s okay to be around… drag has something to do with that. They see men dressing up as women for public entertainment and that’s what they think transgender is, and it makes me sick to my core because that’s not who I am,” Miskowiez said. “Like with every community, there is a loud minority, and for every boisterous proud-to-be-who-they-are queer person, there is someone who just sits alone and hates who they are until finally something makes them feel okay with who they are. I don’t even identify well with the queer community because of that. I am a very subdued person.”
In the end, being a good ally is not about knowing which words to use or claiming to support the right causes. Support is half of the battle. Being a good ally means, above all, understanding the community for all that it is. It means getting to know people, to hear their stories and their struggles, and to promise to support them no matter what.