by Tesla Taliaferro

Here are ten ways to signal to LGBTQIA+ people that you are a safe and supportive person:

  1. Make eye contact, smile, and offer consensual/non-pressuring physical contact when you see someone who may be LGBTQIA+. It is still incredibly common for folks to pointedly avoid those things with us in public spaces.
  1. Put your pronouns in your email signature and on your nametags.
  2. Say “siblings” and “spouse” instead of “brothers and sisters” and “wife/husband.” The more gender-neutral language you can use, the better. God, a sexy car, and the way someone fights or plays sports do not have a gender.
  3. Learn the letters. Saying “gay” or “gay and lesbian” is not the same thing as including the rainbow spectrum. LGBTQ is totally acceptable. LGBTQA is better. LGBTQIA+ is bonus points. Know what each letter stands for because yes, a lot of people still ask.
  4. Put even a small poster or sticker in a visible place outside of your home or business or office saying LGBTQIA+ folks are welcome. Bonus points: Place a trans or other flag next to your rainbow flag or use the Philadelphia pride flag with the black and brown stripe. It shows you have updated your ally marker since 1982.
  5. Don’t shop at places that are super explicit and public about being against LGBTQIA+ folks and let people know why if they ask. #ChikFilA
  6. Support books, articles, films, events, and art made by LGBTQIA+ people. Repost or blog LGBTQIA+ crisis hotlines. Do this in predominantly straight spaces to help normalize the presence of LGBTQIA+ folks in the world. How many preschools have “Mommy and Daddy” books for casual reading but nothing else? Balance is key. Plus, it supports the livelihoods of marginalized people, which is great.
  7. Do not assume someone is straight or cisgender/not trans when you meet them. This may sound silly but being constantly asked if male friends are husbands is not appropriate.
  8. Post images or artwork showing nontraditional families or couples. This is especially important for business or faith communities, etc. Seeing two women in a wedding magazine or two men on a church website often influences people’s buying/supporting choices. It may be one in a whole book or website … LGBTQIA+ people notice.
  9. Respect expressed wishes of LGBTQIA+ folks, remember each individual is different, and when you don’t know, ask! Some prefer the label “queer,” but others find it offensive. Some are very open about being LGBTQIA+, some prefer not to focus on that. Some nonbinary folks use they/them/theirs and some use ze/hir/hirs etc. Just ask; it’s cool. But then … remember.

Tesla Taliaferro, president of York’s Rainbow Rose Center, is a technical writer, a Harrisburg area resident, and proudly trans using he/they pronouns.