Last week, Florida’s House of Representatives passed a controversial bill that would restrict “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity” in the state’s primary schools. It now moves to the Florida State Senate, where it is likely to pass. While it’s officially called the Parental Rights in Education bill, the legislation has been dubbed by critics as the Don’t Say Gay bill. As opponents emphasize, the bill will profoundly stigmatize and hurt LGBTQ+ students and families. Research has shown the harmful effects of laws prohibiting inclusive representation in schools. Specifically, in states where educators are forbidden to discuss LGBTQ+ topics, queer students are more likely to hear homophobic remarks and face harassment and assault based on their sexual orientation and gender expression. They are also generally more likely to display suicide-related behavior.
In light of this bill, it’s imperative that we work together to support and create inclusive environments for queer youth. That’s why we came up with a list of five ways you can be an ally for your LGBTQ+ peers right now.
1. Direct LGBTQ+ folks to helpful and supportive resources
If you know someone who needs support but doesn’t know where to find it, direct them to inclusive, informational websites to make their search easier. Free, online resources can include anything from the Trevor Project’s 24/7 crisis support services to Q Chat Space’s LGBTQ+ online discussion groups to Harvard’s Trans Youth Handbook. You can find more on Lambert House’s LGBTQ Youth Resources page. Whether they decide to use the resources or not, pointing LGBTQ+ folks to useful information and online support can show them you care and want to help. That care within itself can make a huge difference.
2. Write to your elected representatives
Writing letters to politicians can be a great way to communicate your personal stake in regards to specific pieces of legislation. Whether the letters are written in support or opposition, they show elected officials what their constituents prioritize and care about. At the end of the day, the only way politicians will know how to best serve us is if they first know what we want. We recommend you use the letter as an opportunity to share your personal story and explain why the issue specifically matters to you.
If you would like to learn how to best format and structure your letter, there are many useful templates online. Once your letter is ready to send, write the correct address for the politician in your letter. It’s also important to encourage those around you to write letters as well. The more constituents voice their concerns about a given issue, the higher likelihood politicians will hear them out on it.
3. Be an upstander and call out prejudice
Research has shown that LGBTQ+ youth are at an increased risk of being bullied. In fact, 32% of queer students reported having been bullied on school property, compared to 17.1% of their straight cisgender peers. Students who face bullying can feel a sense of hopelessness and isolation, and it’s common for many of the incidents to go unreported. That’s why it’s important to voice your support for queer folks, especially in the face of prejudice and ignorance.
That support can look different depending on the situation. If you hear a friend using homophobic language, gently inform them of the impact of harmful language. If you notice a peer being harassed, tell an adult or give your peer a listening ear if they want to talk. It can be difficult to know what to do if you spot bullying, but there are resources that can help you navigate the situation. Just remember that simply being there for the other person can greatly reduce the social isolation brought upon by bullying.
4. Volunteer for LBGTQ+ organizations
Volunteers make it possible for many LGBTQ+ organizations to achieve their missions — missions that are often life-saving. Volunteers at the Trevor Project, for example, work one-on-one with LGBTQ+ youths and help them in times of crisis via chats, calls, and texts. Other opportunities include volunteering at Pride events, advocacy campaigns, or local organizations. No matter where your skill set lies, there are plenty of ways to volunteer and share love to the community.
5. Join or start an LGBTQ+ club in your community
Many schools have a club dedicated to making schools safer for queer students. Gender & Sexuality Alliances (GSA) is the most popular LGBTQ+ school club, and it has garnered millions of student members. If your school already has GSA or another inclusive club, join it to support and protect your queer peers. If your school doesn’t have one, it’s worth looking into ways you can start one if your school’s guidelines allow. You can find step-by-step guides to getting started, so that you can work to create inclusivity from the ground up.
The bottom line
LGBTQ+ allies are critical in the fight for fair and equal treatment. Queer folks, specifically queer youth, need our support now more than ever. The Don't Say Gay bill is just one example of harmful legislation that tremendously hurts the LGBTQ+ community. As an ally, showing up — whether through advocating for inclusive education or through calling out homophobic language — can be more impactful than you think. Every voice matters in the fight for sexual and gender equality.