When David Cato walked into Banana Republic last month, he was struck by the Pride Month merchandise on display: Shirts, socks, umbrellas and more adorned with “rainbows everywhere.”
“I’ve been so excited this year to see Pride everywhere,” he told USA TODAY. “And I feel like this is one of the first times I’ve seen it as a big as it has been. … While that may take a backseat (in July), I don’t think that allies should ever take a backseat. And I don’t think that Pride should ever stop.”
Cato, a Clinical Director and certified Transgender Care Therapist at Arizona mental health facility Sierra Tucson, recalled going shopping with his partner a few weeks ago, when he contemplated what it would be like if stores kept up their Pride displays and merchandise all year – not just in June.
“Just (keep) the Pride section year ’round to show that there’s still that support, instead of it just being a marketing ploy,” he says.
Though Wednesday ushers in July, marking the end of Pride Month in 2021, that doesn’t mean support for the LGBTQ community should cease. Here are some ways to continue being an ally, no matter what month it is.
Where to donate, how to volunteer and organize
Amit Paley, CEO of The Trevor Project, says there isn’t “any one right way to show support” for the LGBTQ community. Donating, volunteering and pushing lawmakers to protect those in the community are a few ways to help make a difference.
Donate: Organizations such as GLAAD, The Trevor Project, The Center for Black Equity, Trans Lifeline, The Marsha P. Johnson Institute and PFLAG help to assist members of the LGBTQ community and educate others.
Volunteer your time: Many of the aforementioned organizations enlist volunteers to staff phone, text and chat lines. Paley got his start at The Trevor Project as a volunteer and looks back on the experience as “the most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life.”
Speak up in the community, get involved in government: Paley noted that more than 80 bills over the past year have specifically targeted transgender and non-binary young people. Contacting lawmakers, writing op-eds in local newspapers and submitting testimony are all powerful ways to use your voice, he says.
Cato grew up in the small town of Paris, Texas, where he didn’t know any out LGBTQ people as he was discovering his own sexuality. Cultures without much exposure are “less likely to have an understanding or want to seek out their own understanding,” he says.
“It’s really important that people take the time themselves to learn about LGBTQ identities,” Paley adds. “There are LGBTQ people who are happy to answer questions of people who are in their lives and our loved ones, but putting that burden on LGBTQ people can be a lot for some to take when they’re dealing with a lot of other things in their life. So one way that you can really support LGBTQ people in your life is taking the time yourself to learn that rather than putting the burden on on LGBTQ people.”
Some resources experts recommend to start or further your education:
Using social media to show support
Social media has made it easier than ever to showcase support, whether it’s Instagram adding a feature to include pronouns in bios, Apple’s Pride flag emoji, or online infographics that make spreading guides on how to help as simple as hitting “share.”
The internet can still be a difficult place for LGBTQ people, particularly youth. A 2021 survey by The Trevor Project on national youth mental health found that a majority of LGBTQ youth said social media had both a positive and a negative impact on their mental health. Paley cites hatred, discrimination and misinformation as key issues still in need of addressing, but is encouraged by those who stand up to fight back.
“People who are coming into online spaces … are posting messages of love and support and affirmation,” he said. “They are standing up in general for people, LGBTQ people, but they also might be standing up specifically and saying about a friend or a neighbor or family member: ‘This is a person in my life, and I love them, and I’m so proud of them for being who they are.’ That has can have enormous positive benefits.”
Urge companies, businesses to show support ‘365 days a year’
A myriad of major companies showed support toward LGBTQ people this Pride Month. But, as Paley notes, “Pride Month is one out of 12 months.”
“We need and expect for companies and organizations to be supporting LGBTQ people 365 days a year,” he adds. “The challenges that LGBTQ young people face are not limited to the month of June.”
A few ways businesses can do that, according to Paley:
Create “safe and affirming spaces” for their employees: Make sure health care plans include coverage of gender-affirming surgery, include all-gender restrooms in the office, encourage co-workers to use pronouns in email signatures, support employee resource groups and highlight leadership “stating that they support LGBTQ people and proactively working to create spaces where that’s the case.”
Cater to a diverse, complex customer base: “Make sure that you are not doing things that are assuming that everyone is straight or everyone is cisgender,” Paley says. “And creating an experience for LGBTQ people that sees them and respects them for who they are.”
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‘Treat people with love’
Ultimately, experts say, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to being an ally. The key is leading with love, attention and respect.
Cato urges others to ask people “how they want to be seen” – questions like “what are your pronouns?” and “What can I do that will help you feel more comfortable?” can go a long way. So can providing a safe space of listening without judgment.
“If someone in your life comes out to you, or is LGBTQ, and you just make clear: ‘I love you for who you are. I am so glad that you share that with me. And I want you to know that you have my love and support. And I believe in you and I and I want to support you.’ That in of itself can go a long way,” says Paley.