7 Ways to be a Good Accomplice to the LGBTQ Community

This Wednesday, October 11, is National Coming Out Day. For many of us in the LGBTQ community, this day can represent many things. Some people to choose to come out of the closet this day. Some are reminded of their coming out experiences. Some are reminded of the fact that they are still in the closet. Nonetheless, this day is important.

Many people outside of the LGBTQ community identify themselves as an ally, which is great, but not as great as one thinks. Ally implies that you support something, but you don’t actually do anything about it. It’s like when someone asked if they support same-sex marriage, and they reply yes and that’s the end of it. They don’t go further in their support.

With ally becoming a somewhat meaningless term nowadays, a relatively new term is emerging: accomplice. When you think of the word accomplice, you think of a crime, right? But in this case, it refers to someone that is actively helping a marginalized group, not necessarily the LGBTQ community. They are actually contributing to the community by fighting for us to gain equality, which is way better than normal allyship.

In order to help people become better accomplices to their LGBTQ friends, I asked some members of the LGBTQ community on some ways they can improve (They won’t be named for safety purposes).

1. You’re always an accomplice, even when your LGBTQ friends aren’t there

Just like being queer (yes, I’m using queer, since people in the LGBTQ community, including myself, use it as a form of empowerment despite its negative connotation), being an accomplice never ends once you start. If you’re an accomplice, you have to shut down anything that can be hurtful to the LGBTQ community: any homophobic, transphobic slurs, like someone making fun of gay marriage or that lesbian couple over there. This can happen even when there are no queer people nearby. If you’re selectively an accomplice only at certain times, then you’re not an accomplice: you’re an ally.

2. Don’t go into LGBTQ spaces unless you’re with an LGBTQ person

LGBTQ spaces are meant to be safe spaces for us in the community. That safety is ruined when our spaces are invaded by unwarranted cisgender heterosexual people. If you’re brought in by a LGBTQ person, then that’s totally fine! Just respect the space and don’t complain if anything in there is different than what you’re used to.

A great example is straight people going into a gay club just for fun. No. No. It’s meant to be a safe space for gay people to have fun, not a space that you can use for your own revelry. Again, bring a queer friend.

3. Don’t assume that someone is out to the whole entire world

Sometimes, a queer person is only open to certain groups of people. Sometimes, they use their pronouns or name only with people they trust. You have to make sure that they’re comfortable in the space you are in. DON’T OUT ANYONE. BE CONSIDERATE.

4. Don’t invalidate us

We each have our own experiences. Don’t invalidate them by saying that people have been through worse or that things are better now. We are not trying to play oppression Olympics. Just don’t make us feel worse. We are just trying to share what we have gone through. Also, no matter how many stories you hear, no accomplice can truly know the adversity we have faced. Don’t try to compare stories.

5. Don’t tokenize us

We are not collectibles in your trading card collection of people. We are actual people with personalities and stories. We are not objects. Treat us like people. Don’t be like “my gay friend…”. No, just stop. That’s cringeworthy. Someone is not “the lesbian one.” They have a name.

6. Don’t make assumptions about us

One person I asked said someone thought they were a lesbian because they were seen at pride, but in all reality, they’re a “dude-leaning nonbinary dating a dude.” We are not a single story. We each are unique, and our identities may be different than what you see on the outside. Some people may use different pronouns than what you’re used to. Don’t make assumptions. Be aware of someone’s identities and respect them. If you ask someone, they’d be happy to tell you more about their identities.

7. Realize that we are more than our gender and sexuality

Arielle Gregory, a cisgender bisexual second-year biology and history major here, said that we are not one-dimensional: “We're not just LGBTQ. There's so many other parts of our identity besides our gender and sexuality." We are not defined by our gender and sexuality. Sometimes, people characterize us based on that.

There are many facets to us, just like you. Please realize this.