It’s pride month! For many identifying as 2SLGBTQ+ (two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, and the many diverse variations on these identities), pride is a time to celebrate identity- an identity that for many has led to experiences of bullying, family conflict and self-doubt. The statistics tell us that 2SLGBTQ+ people are significantly more likely to experience anxiety, depression, substance misuse, homelessness and suicidal ideation than their hetero and cis gendered* counterparts (cis gender refers to when people’s gender identity matches what sex they were assigned at birth. Ex. A person who identifies as a woman and was assigned female at birth is a cis gender woman).
However, this doesn’t mean that there is a natural connection between sexual or gender identity and mental health. These same studies also show that 2SLGBTQ+ people who have accepting families, go to schools where there are GSAs (gay straight alliance groups), work in environments where they are protected from workplace bullying and harassment and have safe access to gender affirming health care, both physical and mental, have fewer challenges with their mental health.
That means that regardless of your own gender and sexual identities, you can make a big difference in the lives of 2SLGBTQ+ people. Maybe they’re in your family, we know they’re in your workplace ;), they could be the person who makes your coffee in the morning, delivers your mail—2SLGBTQ+ people are everywhere, and we need allies!
10 steps to being a 2SLGBTQ+ ally:
1. GET EDUCATED: Read about the experiences of 2SLGBTQ+ people and their histories in Canada.
2. SPEAK UP: If you hear homophobic or transphobic comments, kindly intervene and offer another opinion.
3. INVEST: There are many charities and crowd funds that directly provide funds to 2SLGBTQ+ people and direct services. A little bit goes a long way. Our MOBYSS Bus is Ontario’s first and only mobile health clinic for youth age 12 to 25 and provides support to youth in the 2SLGBTQ+ community. You can donate here.
4. USE APPROPRIATE PRONOUNS: Avoid assuming how people identify. Always ask what pronouns that individual identifies as (he/she/they, etc.).
5. ACCOMPANY: Go with your 2SLGBTQ+ friend or family member to a Pride event or display a rainbow flag or symbol in your home/office/car, etc. A small gesture can go a long way towards making someone feel accepted for who they are.
6. LISTEN: Often people in the 2SLGBTQ+ community have experienced bullying or some type of injustice based on their sexual or gender identity. Avoid giving advice or telling them what to do. Show empathy and listen to their story.
7. REFLECT: Being an ally is all about reflecting on assumptions or biases you or others around you may have and challenging yourself to be more open.
8. OBSERVE: There is no “rule book” on how to be a good ally. Observing how other allies support the 2SLGBTQ+ community may help you become a better ally.
9. LANGUAGE: Avoid using gendered language. This way, even if you are unaware of how an individual identifies, you are being inclusive. For example, use the term “partner” instead of asking someone if they have a boyfriend/girlfriend, etc.
10. BE KIND: Remember to be kind to members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community and to yourself! Being an ally is a verb, meaning that we are open and willing to actively support those of the 2SLGBTQ+ community. So remember that your journey in becoming an ally may take some time, so we invite you to be gentle on yourself in this process! Your openness to learn is an amazing place to start!