How to Support Our LGBTQ+ Brothers & Sisters

by Rick Broniec

My Brothers & Sisters,

As a straight man, and MKP-USA’s Multicultural/Intercultural Rep, I am writing this as an ally to my GBTQ Brothers and to my straight Brothers. [Between a minor surgery (I’m just fine, thanks!) and other responsibilities, I have not been able to respond until now.]

First, to my GBTQ Brothers:

David, Robert, Walt, Dennis N., Frank, Jeff, Greg- and so many others- I love you.  I am so sorry this happened to your community.  My heart hurts for you.  I want to hear what you are feeling- in all its rawness. All of you is welcome here. If you’d prefer to hear from me off line or by phone, please, please let me know. I am at a loss to know exactly what you might need right now, so please tell me…or tell me to STF up!

To my Straight Bothers:

Like many of you, I struggle with HOW to be an effective Ally.  Like many,  I have this great desire to support my deeply hurting brothers, and I want to do it in a good way.  Since I can’t really know what its like to be Gay or Bi or Trans or even questioning, I am at risk to respond in a way that is harmful, if I’m not careful- especially when I am triggered and hurting myself!  (Which I am!)

I cannot know what it feels like to have my tribe attacked in such a senseless and vicious manner.

I cannot know what it means to have one of my safe places so deeply violated.

I cannot know what it means to feel the weight of oppression thrown in my face yet again.

I cannot know what it feels like to repeatedly hear in the news cycle that the attack occurred in a Gay bar. (Have you EVER heard the news report a murder in a “straight bar”??)

And there’s so much more I can’t even begin to imagine.

What I’ve learned (the hard way!) that is NOT helpful:

  1. Telling any GBTQ man that “you know how he feels because…”
  2. ‘Reminding’ them how much progress has been made previously in Gay rights.
  3. Telling them not to feel something…. or to feel something else.
  4. Dissembling or hijacking the conversation by making this incident about:
  5. Radical Islamic Terrorists.
  6. Gun Laws.
  7. Self-hating closeted gay men acting out.
  8. Soft targets
  9. Any political or religious point.
  10. Or anything else we want to say that takes the spotlight away from the fact that these 49 people were mostly young GLBTQ men and women who were massacred.
  11. Projecting MY hurt and MY pain on my GBTQ Brothers….that’s MY work!
  12. Defending our words or actions when we cause an “Ouch”.  (The “Ouch Process” teaches that I can simply say, “I hear my impacts. Tell me more, if you’d like.  I am sorry my words/actions landed on you that way.  It was not my intention to hurt or dismiss you or your pain.”  That’s all!)

If these are your thoughts, great!- take em to your I-Group to process. They are valid, just not helpful to our grieving GBTQ Brothers right now, I’m told.  Or I’ll hear them- call me.

So, what CAN I do that might be helpful?  I am no expert and have screwed it up plenty of times, but I have read a lot and asked my GBTQ Brothers often how I can support them.  Universally, I have been asked to simply listen to them and accept whatever comes forth.  So, I called many of my GBTQ brothers directly this week to ask how they were doing.  I let them know what actions I was taking in support (Like attending vigils, joining the HRC, etc.).  And I listened- just listened.

If you’re interested in the Ally Wisdom of some researchers in the field, here a list of behaviors that are ‘functional helping’. (These are from “Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A Sourcebook“, by Adam, Griffin and Bell.)  (Note: They work well for interacting with any target group, of course.)  Feel free to add any behaviors you know work.

Effective Ally Behaviors

  1. Listen openly and respectfully to people different from you.
  1. Actively pursue a process of self-education to learn about the history and culture of target groups.  Read, attend meetings, watch movies and talk to individuals representing target groups.
  1. Acknowledge and take responsibility for his/her own socialization, prejudices and privileges without shame or blame, as we all learned these behaviors from our culture.
  1. Respectfully ask members of a target group what support would look like for them as an individual.  This lessens the chances of a ‘dysfunctional rescue’ from happening.
  1. Seek out and enlist others to be allies; be the first to make a move!
  1. Be willing to examine and relinquish privileges.  This requires support and time.
  1. Learn about and take pride in your own identities.  Work on celebrating your own differences and the qualities you have gained as a result of having that difference.
  1. Establish friendships with people who represent Target groups you do not identify with.  Reach out respectfully and make contact!
  1. Know resources about and for Target groups and utilize them to educate yourself and others.  Form coalitions and support circles.
  1. Take a public stand against discrimination and prejudice.  Start small and work into more risky actions as you grow more confident.
  1. Interrupt prejudice and take action against oppression even when people from Target groups are not present.
  1. Risk discomfort- discomfort is guaranteed when doing this work!
  1. Try not to be self-righteous with others- it only pushes them away from doing their own work.  Also, try not to label others as “racist”, “sexist”, “homophobic”, “classist”, etc.
  1. Gently and respectfully challenge the internalized oppression of people in Target groups.
  1. Support the value of separate meetings, events and activities for members of Target groups. Targets need a safe place to do their Internalized Oppressions work, while Non-Targets need a safe place to do their “Isms” work.  This makes it safer and cleaner to do our work together
  1. Promote the leadership of people in groups that traditionally are not found in leadership positions due to their Target status(es).  This may mean giving up your own leadership in these organizations.
  1. Work to change system-wide problems that may be the root causes of inequality and oppression.  This might include issues at the institutional or cultural levels, as well as the personal and interpersonal levels.
  1. Develop alliances among groups.  This would be a strong institutional level action.
  1. Have a vision of and celebrate a healthy, vibrant multicultural society.  Isn’t that why we’re all doing this work in the first place?
  1. Also, look to ways to be an ally within your own cultural groups. (For example, a straight man supporting other straight men to work on their straight privileges.)

In Service and Deep Sadness & Reflection,

Rick

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