BY EVAN PARENTE
As anyone who is a part of or knows of the LGBTQ community knows, June is pride month. What is the purpose of pride month? What is the object of things like Pride Month and the Trevor Project? For these questions, these are some of the two most common answers:
To help members of the LGBTQ community find support.
To help members of the LGBTQ community find acceptance.
Whether or not you realize this, these two answers mean two different things. Though neither one of these two answers is inherently bad or horrible, the terminology and meaning of these answers is important.
These two separate answers mean an entirely different thing when discussing a person or group’s feelings towards the LGBTQ community.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE ACCEPTING OF LGBTQ INDIVIDUALS:
Acceptance and support have two separate definitions. The merriam webster defines the word ‘accept’ like this:
: to receive (something offered) willingly
accept a gift
: to be able or designed to take or hold (something applied or added)
a surface that will not accept ink
: to give admittance or approval to
accept her as one of the group
: to endure without protest or reaction
accept poor living conditions
: to regard as proper, normal, or inevitable
an idea that is widely accepted
: to recognize as true : BELIEVE
refused to accept the explanation
Though these definitions are not inherently bad things, these definitions demonstrate what it means to accept, to tolerate. Let’s look into why:
When you are willingly receiving news that someone is gay, or bisexual, that is all you are doing. You are not denying it by telling them they aren’t, you aren’t forcing yourself to tolerate them, but that is all you are doing.
When you give someone who is LGBTQ admittance or approval into something, you are simply giving them an opportunity. You aren’t denying them of something, you aren’t disapproving of their part in something.
When you endure that admitted person’s presence without complaining or protesting about their presence, you are doing just that. Tolerating it.
By doing these things, you are not hurting anyone. But are you helping anyone? Are you making LGBTQ individuals feel safe? Are you making them feel happy? Are you making them feel like they are valid and like they are not wrong for being who they are? No. You aren’t.
As said by therapist Megan Bruneau in an MBG article about acceptance: accepting does not mean liking, wanting, choosing, or supporting. Acceptance nearly means that you are allowing it to happen and exist in that moment in time. You will not break any barriers by simply just allowing something or by saying something is fine.
Accepting LGBTQ individuals is visually comparable to the idea of a girl wearing a bisexual flag pin on her shirt joining a club and the club leader saying she can join or put her name down. Is the club leader being cruel by denying her or telling her she is a sodomite who will go to hell, no. But is the club leader doing anything to make her feel more included or like she is valid. Not just by allowing her name to be put on their email list, No.
People who are accepting of LGBTQ individuals are not so much supportive, but rather, tolerant. They tolerate LGBTQ expression and activity. They have no problem with it, but have no problem with those who condemn it either. Though the condemnation of such is not necessarily encouraged by these people, they clearly do not care enough to do anything about it.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE SUPPORTIVE OF LGBTQ INDIVIDUALS?
As was previously, to accept and to support are two very different things. Now that we know the definition of accept as defined by Merriam Webster, let's look at the definition of “support” as defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary.
1: to endure bravely or quietly : BEAR
(1): to promote the interests or cause of
(2): to uphold or defend as valid or right : ADVOCATE
supports fair play
(3): to argue or vote for
supported the motion to lower taxes
bombers supported the ground troops
(2): to act with (a star actor)
(3): to bid in bridge so as to show support for
c: to provide with substantiation : CORROBORATE
support an alibi
a: to pay the costs of : MAINTAIN
support a family
b: to provide a basis for the existence or subsistence of
the island could probably support three
— A. B. C. Whipple
support a habit
a: to hold up or serve as a foundation or prop for
b: to maintain (a price) at a desired level by purchases or loans
also : to maintain the price of by purchases or loans
5: to keep from fainting, yielding, or losing courage : COMFORT
6: to keep (something) going
Though the Merriam Webster lists some similar definitions to its definition of Support as it does for Accept, other than the first definition, they are very different.
When you promote the interests of someone or something, you are doing more than just accepting or tolerating someone. Support helps make someone feel safe, valid, welcome. Support makes them feel like they matter.
An example would be encouraging LGBTQ members of a sports team to wear their flags on their sports gear and outfits. Telling them that it is not just okay for them to do so, but that it is encouraged that they do. You are doing more than just letting the girl use her rainbow towel embroidered with I am gay on it. An act like this makes them feel safe, valid and embraced in the environment they are in.
These are things that you just couldn’t feel when someone just “accepts” you from a distance.
HOW YOU CAN PROVIDE SUPPORT TO LGBTQ INDIVIDUALS AROUND YOU
There are many ways that you can provide support to the LGBTQ community without needing to spend a dollar.
Listen. While acting may be key to change, listening always comes first. Listen to the concerns of LGBTQ individuals in your community and take them into account when planning activities and events. One of my favorite quotes from one of the My Little Pony Equestria Girls movies is “Everyone matters, no matter how invisible or insignificant they may feel.” Many LGBTQ youth
Speak up. Many members of the LGBTQ community, whether by mandate or choice, don’t always feel empowered to make their voice heard. They often experience so much failure and betrayal in life that they more often than not, just decide to give up. You can help these people by speaking up for those who are afraid, speaking up for those who can't speak up for themselves.
Teach. Teaching has a way of working wonders in ways many people can not fathom. Advocate for teaching that is LGBTQ inclusive and that is taught in ways that LGBTQ youth can learn about themselves. Things like LGBTQ inclusive sex ed, teaching with materials that things LGBTQ characters, storylines and concepts. Things that have much more importance to youth of the LGBTQ community than one may realize, and that we must therefore, continue advocating for.
HOW DIFFERENTLY DIFFERENT SEEKS TO PROVIDE SUPPORT TO LGBTQ INDIVIDUALS
Here at Differently Different, we understand the big difference between providing acceptance and providing support, and we want to provide support.
We want to provide LGBTQ youth with good resources to learn about LGBTQ representation and a safe way for them to learn more about themselves and others.
We also seek to help provide resources for allies or interested parties to learn about the LGBTQ community and ways that they can help them.
We make sure that our content encourages both confirmed and questioning LGBTQ youth to learn about their community and where they fit into it.
We make sure our content does more than just tell LGBTQ youth that there are other non-heterosexuals out there in this world and that being not being heterosexual is a birth trait.
We make sure our content encourages them to learn more about themselves beyond their genetic sexual orientation and them being one of a percentage of the worlds population.
We believe that by giving LGBTQ youth with resources that provide enough support and guidance, we can create an environment that not only helps LGBTQ youth learn who they are, but love who they are. We hope that this article, as well as all the content we post in the future fulfills these goals and we hope that you–whether an ally or a member of the LGBTQ community–have learned something from this.