BY SARA ANN MASON
You may have been surprised to read a recent letter discouraging parents from enrolling their LGBTQ+ teens in a creative writing class taught by a reputable local teacher. This letter trots out disgusting homophobic tropes that aren’t worthy of dignifying with a response. However, it’s a great opportunity to reflect upon how we can contribute to a respectful and welcoming community environment.
There are probably Los Alamosans who aren’t LGBTQ+ but felt uncomfortable reading this letter, yet aren’t sure what (if anything) to do. Even if you’re not LGBTQ+, there are simple ways you can show support for this community, especially in the weeks leading up to the annual Pride celebration. Local businesses will have a chance to display a supportive sign in their front windows, just like last year. Friends of Los Alamos Pride will be selling t-shirts that you can buy, if you don’t have one already. Then, there’s the Pride celebration itself on June 17, which will be a fun-filled, family friendly affair. By showing up and enjoying the fun, you’ll demonstrate a welcoming attitude to LGBTQ+ Los Alamosans that won’t go unnoticed or unappreciated.
Outside of the Pride season, and any time of year, it’s great to practice active bystander principles when you hear insensitive and hurtful speech: don’t accept it in your family, your friend circle, or other places you hear it. You never know who may be listening! Even if you think you don’t know an LGBTQ+ person who could be affected, not all LGBTQ+ people are out. And our youth are especially at risk when they hear hurtful speech: LGBTQ+ youth are roughly four times as likely to attempt suicide. You may feel like you’re not knowledgeable enough about LGBTQ+ issues to help, but you’re wrong. We’re only a small percentage of the population. We don’t need you to be perfect, we just need you to help.
Finally, to keep learning, I suggest getting started with this guide to LGBTQ+ allyship by the Human Rights Campaign. Because LGBTQ+ youth are particularly vulnerable, I’ll also suggest resources at the Family Acceptance Project. Their posters show families concrete actions they can take to demonstrate acceptance and support of young LGBTQ+ family members, which leads to a significant reduction in negative health outcomes.