In commemoration of the ongoing pride month, here are some ways you can be an ally to the community and its movement towards liberation.
In the spirit of Pride month, it’s super important that we engage ourselves in meaningful conversations to further the gay agenda. I’m kidding. Or am I? But on a serious note, pride month was not just set aside to celebrate queer people. Historically, it was marked as the month to commemorate the Stonewall Uprising of 1969, the tipping point of the Gay Liberation Movement in America. As we know, the demands of this movement in America or similar movements in other countries haven’t been properly met. This is why we must continuously look for ways to fight for change in ways we can.
Nigeria, like many other African countries, has homophobic and transphobic traditions and beliefs that have spun discriminatory laws like the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act of 2013 and the recent Cross-Dressers Bill, casting the queer community aside as minorities. For there to be a chance for any minority group to have a fighting chance at eventual liberation, all hands must be on deck — and not just the members of the community. It is the job of an ally to make sure that in every sphere of society, members of the LGBTQ community are welcomed and supported. So let’s discuss some of the ways one can be an ally to the community and its movement towards liberation.
Listen & Learn
The LGBTQ+ community is made up of various sex and gender identities that a lot of us didn’t grow up knowing or understanding. Each queer identity is unique and comes with its own individual experiences. So don’t ask your bi friend about trans-specific experiences. Read a book, watch a YouTube video, listen to a podcast or watch Tiktoks. There’s a lot of simple and digestible information out there today. As an ally, learning about our diverse experiences helps expel ignorance and actions it can foster. Educating one's self helps one understand why we are who we are and ways one can be more welcoming of us in any regard.
Show Up For Us However You Can
Our agenda must agend! So we need all the help we can get. Get to know your local or even a distant queer community and support them in any way you can. From sharing a post or making donations to even showing up for protests, online or offline. As minorities, we will always need as much amplification as we can get.
Speak Up Against Discrimination
It does not stop at just learning our experiences but also fighting for us. In any circumstance that you witness any form of queer-phobia, speak up against it. Sometimes queer people cannot fight for others or themselves because they risk further endangering their safety. As an ally, you are not burdened with that reality. It is important to understand how to properly use your privilege to amplify the rights and voices of the community. Do not tolerate the use of homophobic rhetoric. Denounce offensive stereotypes when you hear them. Do not stand for verbal or physical harassment. Remember, you cannot do this without constantly listening and learning.
Is Your Space Cozy Enough for The Gays?
We must be intentional about making sure our environment is accessible enough for queer people. If you have authority in your workplaces, own or manage establishments, curate events or are part of any organization, it is important to make such spaces safe for queer people. From the deliberate action of making sure you and others around you are respectful of a person's pronouns and identity, to making sure policies do not have a homophobic bias that doesn’t accommodate queer people. This breeds a welcoming and affirming environment needed to build the society queer people deserve.
The importance of healthy and well-informed allyship cannot be overemphasized. Hetero-normativity will not debunk itself. It cannot be left to only the marginalized to fight for what is right. These steps are important to be taken and should be tailored specifically to the needs of queer people around you. When you understand and are aware of our experiences, it is easier for you to take necessary action. So change your name to Valentina and become the ally we need you to be (Sorry, I had to throw in a Tiktok reference. If you get it, shout out to you!)
Words by Etse Aliu