EVEN as the world celebrates Pride Month, the global struggle towards LGBTQ equality has been long and arduous. In India, the recognition of transgender people as citizens with all fundamental rights granted under the Constitution of India in the NALSA vs Union of India case in 2014, and the decriminalization of adult consensual same-sex relationships in September 2018, mark a victorious and long-awaited moment for the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. 

India is no longer the country it was for the queer and trans community as it was fifty years ago. Acceptance of homosexuality and queer identities seems to be a more widely discussed and accepted topic now than ever before, and LGBT activism has taken social media by storm. Celebration of Pride Month with greater freedom than ever before is one sign in that direction. 

Still, despite this progress, homophobia and discrimination unarguably assert a firm grip on large sections of society. In rural India, honour killings, prescribed family-sanctioned corrective rapes, and other forms of violent physical abuse and conversion therapy still take place. Suicide in LGBTQ+ youth remains a pertinent issue even among the educated in urban areas. There is an urgent need for a comprehensive anti-discrimination code.

But overall, reconfiguring society into a safe environment for the LGBTQ requires a shift in the mindset of people and we can achieve this by adopting simple practices.

As we celebrate Pride Month, here is a list of five things that one can do to become an ally:

1. Be inclusive

Inclusivity is a vital constituent of equality, and ideally, it should go without saying. Still, in a country that isn’t as kind and inclusive as it should be, constant reminders are necessary. An individual’s sexual identity should not stunt them socially or in their career. Inviting an LGBTQ friend and their partner in events and activities just as one would any other spouse or significant other can help reduce the isolation that they often feel. 

2. Stay informed

Attempting to educate oneself about the different aspects of the LGBTQ spectrum through books, articles, blog posts and social media not only allows one to become an informed ally but also negates the need for an LGBT person to explain what their sexual orientation and gender expression means. Not having to do so reinforces the fact that their identity isn’t abnormal or foreign to society. One can also take part in events like Pride Month and get to know more about the community, make friends and better understand the issues faced by the LGBTQ persons‌.

3. Educate friends and family

Homophobic slurs, discriminatory comments, and transphobic jokes should never be shrugged off or disregarded for the sake of social courtesy. It’s absolutely necessary that such discrimination is recognised and condemned immediately, however thorny the conversation may seem.

In a society in which the LGBTQ community has been shunned and a topic of taboo for nearly 200 years, information and awareness of gender and sexuality are limited. It’s entirely possible that the person making the joke or comment is unaware of the offensive nature of what they said or did. Regardless, engaging in such active discussions promotes awareness about the LGBTQ community and‌ creates a platform that shuns prejudice and nurtures inclusivity. One can also study the history of the LGBTQ movement around the world, the fight for their rights and the importance of Pride Month to educate friends and family.

4. Don’t make assumptions 

It is important to understand that gender and sexuality are a journey, and often people aren’t comfortable labelling themselves with a term that they don’t entirely identify with. We should avoid associating or categorising an individual into a description that they themselves haven’t identified with.

Sexual identity can evolve in a way that society simply doesn’t account for. If, say, a person comes out as transgender despite having already come out as gay in the past, don’t question or push back against their identity: accept and adjust to it by using the right pronouns, introducing them correctly, and being ‌aware of what the term they identify with means.

5. Support equality everywhere

Support policies at school, work, or other places that protect LGBT people from discrimination. For example, one can advocate for gender-neutral uniforms in schools that allow students to wear skirts or pants regardless of their biological identity. Supporting organizations that empower LGBT people and establishing group support groups in school or at work are also important ways in which we can promote equality.

This Pride Month, the LGBTQ community can look back and celebrate the distance it has travelled in its fight. But is also a reminder of how much more lies ahead to fight for until everyone is treated equally.

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