Last month marked the launch of lesbian, gay, bi and trans equality charity Stonewall's Come Out For LGBT campaign, which calls on individuals from all walks of life to be active allies to the LGBT community.
Yesterday, as the organisation launched its Stonewall Season, it's time for proud straight allies everywhere to speak out about how we can all help improve the lives of lesbian, gay, bi and trans people everywhere.
To be an LGBT ally is easy. If you agree in equality and fair treatment in society of people who identify as LGBT then already you are an ally. As you sit and read this you can bask in the warm glow and sense of self-satisfaction that you are a force for good in the world. Well done.
But really, as nice and as comfortable as it may be for you to sit at home and wish and will the world to be a better, fairer more inclusive place, there is much more you can do than simply lend your passive support to LGBT causes. If you're going to transform yourself from an armchair supporter to an engaged and active LGBT ally it's going to need some effort, and here's a list of some great ways to get started.
1 - Familiarise yourself with the language
You could begin with doing something as easy as reading a glossary of terms and teaching yourself the right language to use when talking with LGBT+ people. It's a tiny but crucial step you can take to educate yourself and make sure you are using the terminology to be respectful to everyone around you, and help yourself to feel more confident when discussing LGBT+ issues.
2 - Educate yourself on the history of LGBT activism
While you're already on Google getting to grips with every letter of the LGBT+ alphabet you can explore the history of the LGBT movement. Getting to know the history of LGBT activism is an empowering act in becoming an LGBT ally. As well as honouring the effort and sacrifices of those that have come before, it's important to appreciate how far we have come in the struggle for equality to fully understand how far we have left to go.
3 - Discover the challenges facing the LGBT community today
Once you know the history you can help to shape the future. Do some research into the specific battles that are being fought now, and find out the obstacles that the LGBT community is facing. Discover specific campaigns that resonate with you so you can get active and focus your support to help really make a difference.
4 - Get involved in the community and show your support
Sitting at home on the internet is the tip of the ally iceberg. If you really want to get involved in the cause it's important to get out there and active in your community. With Stonewall season approaching it's easy to find LGBT events near you that welcome allies. Let the LGBT community know that you stand with them because your presence at events is a significant show of solidarity and support. Joining the conversation and listening to the experiences of the people you meet will undoubtedly broaden your understanding of what is means to be an ally and better your awareness of how to help to achieve equality for all.
5 - Stand up for what you believe in
It's easy to imagine that when you come across discrimination or hateful language you will whir into action, righting wrongs and effortlessly challenging the behaviour and views of people speaking and acting in a hurtful manner. The reality can be very different and truthfully, sometimes standing up against discrimination can be an intimidating experience. The important thing is to let your voice be heard and although it's not always easy, these are situations where being an ally really counts. It's important to let those with bigoted views know that they are not in a world where they can marginalise or bully those that need our support - and this is really the essence of what being an ally is all about.