This June, we celebrate Pride Month. Across the globe, Pride Month is a time where we celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ+) rights and uplift LGBTQ+ individuals. While it started as a movement in America, it has spread across countries and we have our own celebrations and festivities in Singapore too, notably Pink Dot.
However, while there has been greater acceptance of same-sex relationships and the LGBTQ+ community in Singapore within recent years, the road ahead to equality is still a long, long one. Even if you don’t personally identify as part of the LGBQT+ community, there is still much you can do to show your support and be a good ally for friends and loved ones in the community.
What is an ally
An ally is someone who stands together with and stands up for a cause; in this context, being an ally means supporting and advocating for the LGBTQ+ community.
Typically, allies are individuals who do not identify as LGBTQ+ and more importantly, who want to ensure that society is made better for those who do identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community.
Why being an ally is important
Despite shifting societal norms, there is still prevailing discrimination faced by the LGBTQ+ community in Singapore. This includes both social stigma as well as legal and structural challenges that need to be overcome before we can say that there’s equality in society.
While there was the historic repeal of Section 377A (the law that criminalises sex between men) last year, the fight in Singapore for equality is far from over. For example, same-sex couples are still unable to get legally married in Singapore — of which, there are many negative repercussions, such as denying couples a chance at more affordable Build-To-Order (BTO) flats — nor are they able to adopt children — which deprives couples of the opportunity to start a family.
Allyship is thus still important because it demonstrates that LGBTQ+ issues are important to the wider community, and not just individuals who identify as LGBTQ+. As allies, we can help to create more visibility around the concerns shared above.
Lending our support to amplify the conversation is a method of advocacy and can help towards creating a more inclusive and accepting society. In fact, advocacy can be something as big as writing a letter to your MPs but also as small as showing up for Pride events, such as the annual Pink Dot.
How to be a good ally
The burden of education shouldn’t fall on your friends in the LGBTQ+ community. Rather, the first step towards being a good ally is to read up on your own. Take the initiative to read and understand terminology and history of the community, as well as common concerns and issues.
There are many online resources available that can help you, including local Instagram accounts that provide bite-sized information that’s easy to understand. A few accounts you could look at include: @heckin.uncorn, @theheartweavers, and @rainbowfamilies.sg.
You can also find organisations that are dedicated to supporting the LGBTQ+ community (such as Oogachaga, Pink Dot SG, and the T Project), and take a look at the resources they offer in terms of education as well.
In addition to reading, it’s also important for us to reflect on our own ways of thinking. Given that we’re raised in a society where heterosexuality is presumed to be the norm, it’s inevitable that we may also hold our own personal biases that can be untrue. Only by reflecting and acknowledging these biases, can we take the steps towards correcting them within ourselves as well.
Provide safe spaces
As an ally, we can help to create safe spaces where our friends and loved ones feel listened to, supported, respected and able to voice their own feelings and opinions. Be accepting of what your friends have to say, and keep an open heart if they share the struggles that they’re facing.
Being a good ally means being there for your friends, if they need someone to depend on. While we can never fully understand the challenges that individuals in the LGBTQ+ community face (and it’s important to be aware of the privilege that we have), it doesn’t mean that we can’t still show support. Empathetic listening goes a long way in creating a safe and accepting space.
Remember your everyday actions
When it comes to advocacy, the first thing you may think of could be big demonstrative actions. However, being an ally can be demonstrated in smaller, everyday actions instead – and this can also have a huge ripple impact in creating an open and accepting community for all.
For example, a small action you can take would be to use inclusive language in conversation, whether you’re chatting with your colleagues over lunch or meeting someone new at an event. Should the topic of one’s relationship status come up, you can use the gender neutral term ‘partner’ instead of ‘boyfriend’ or ‘girlfriend’. This creates a more comfortable and welcoming environment – one in which you neither assume the sexuality of the person you’re speaking to (instead of presuming that heterosexuality is the norm) nor do you require them to ‘out’ themselves, if they don’t want to.
Most importantly, being an ally is a commitment and shouldn’t just be a one-off action.
After all, it is only through continuous action (no matter how small that action may be) that societal change and movement can happen. While Pride Month may only be commemorated in June, it doesn’t mean that our supportive actions should end once the month is over.
At A Space Between, we strongly stand for an inclusive society that is accepting of anyone, no matter their gender or sexuality. Should you know of any loved ones who may need extra support, we have LGBTQ+-friendly counsellors who may be able to provide them the professional advice they need.
An experienced health & wellness writer, I am a story-teller at heart. For me, writing is a way of weaving together the little details that make our existence meaningful and significant into a beautiful, larger story.