Earlier this month, thousands of people gathered in downtown Cleveland for Pride in the CLE™. Donning colorful apparel and waving rainbow flags, members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies marched through the streets to celebrate Pride Month—and to commemorate those who have marched over the past 50 years demanding the fair and equal treatment of the LGBTQ+ community.
That celebratory atmosphere is customary for Pride marches and parades, which tend to serve as a reminder of the progress that’s been made since the 1969 Stonewall Riots. However, this year’s events also call attention to progress that’s being threatened.
In 2022 alone, there have been more than 240 bills proposed in states across the country that, if passed, would limit the rights of LGBTQ+ Americans. The bills predominately target transgender and gender nonbinary people.
“It’s just a solution in search of a problem,” explained Harry Hawkins, director of Case Western Reserve University’s LGBT Center. “That’s what I would tell folks and allies here. We’ve done a lot of the work … creating a welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ folks on our campus, but now comes the hard work. This is when the rubber meets the road.”
As LGBTQ+ rights face new threats, Hawkins said now is the time for allies and advocates to step up and voice support.
Read on to learn from Hawkins how you can be an effective ally for the LGBTQ+ community—during Pride Month and beyond.
- Be aware of what’s going on in your community and in your state. In Ohio, there are three prominent anti-LGBTQ+ bills under consideration as of this writing: House Bill 454, which would ban gender-affirming care for minors; House Bill 616, which would ban both instruction and materials about sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through third grade in all public and most private schools; and House Bill 151, which is a bill regarding teacher certification accreditations that contains an amendment aiming to root out “suspected” transgender female athletes by way of a genital inspection.
- Contact your legislator. While the legislature is in recess until the fall, you can still find and contact your legislator to express how you’re feeling. If they’re against these bills, you can call them and thank them because they don’t hear that enough. If they’re in favor of these bills, you can express your frustration to them—let them know why you’re against these bills and how it affects you—and put it in your own words. You don’t have to be LGBTQ+, you don’t have to have someone LGBTQ+ in your life; this is more about common decency and saying, “Why are we targeting a certain population that is already marginalized as it is?”
- Support local LGBTQ+ organizations. There are many organizations around Ohio and Cleveland that support the LGBTQ+ community, such as the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland, Equality Ohio and Camp Lilac, a summer camp for trans and gender nonbinary youth right in our backyard.
- Get involved at CWRU. The university’s LGBT Center regularly hosts events and training for the Case Western Reserve community. And, we have a new assistant director who just started, so we’re planning on expanding our training. Allies are welcome to attend most of our events, however there are some community-specific events (but that will be noted in the event information). Join us for our next event at 6 p.m. on Sept. 1 for our Rainbow Reception in the student activities event space at Tinkham Veale University Center—it’s a welcome back celebration that’s open to the campus community!
- Keep the energy going after Pride Month. It’s going to take a lot of effort and work. There are going to be some hard times, but love wins at the end of the day—I just can’t tell you when it’s going to happen. This month is a time to be happy and visible, because what is happening is pushing us to be invisible. The joy and excitement that people feel during Pride celebrations—clutch that dear. That, one, will get you through the hard times, but then two, we have to remember these feelings and know why we do this and why we march and why we do advocacy work.
To partner with the LGBT Center at CWRU, get in touch with Hawkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.