Telling the truth about who you are is the single most important way to be an activist. New supporters of LGBT equality often say what convinced them was finding out someone they know and love is gay or transgender.
It’s easy to rail against “the gays,” but it’s much harder to hate your child, neighbor, best friend, cousin or teammate.
Be openly LGBT in your daily life
Coming out is a process you live every day: Put a photo of your partner on your desk. Attend your child’s school activities as a two-mom or two-dad family. Display a sticker on your car or a button on your computer bag.
Post about LGBT rights on social media
Social media posts about LGBT issues can lead to surprisingly honest discussions in comment threads, with the potential to gain future allies — or at least help you winnow down your unwieldy “friends” list.
Register to vote — and then do it
From president of the United States to county school board races, your vote is your voice — on LGBT rights and every other issue that is important to you.
Support LGBT & HIV groups
You don’t have to carry a sign at a rally or march in a parade to be an activist (although that is lots of fun!). There are also quieter ways you can support the organizations fighting for your equality. Donating your money or time — even if the amount is small — can go a long way, especially for small organizations.
Take care of your health
Yes, know your HIV status, but don’t think getting an HIV test is enough. Make sure you get a physical each year to detect other health problems, and if you are woman or transman, be sure it includes a Pap smear.
If you fit the demographics, go a step further by volunteering for an HIV study at the AIDS Research Consortium of Atlanta or Emory University’s Hope Clinic.
Come out to your doctor
Letting your doctors know about your sexual orientation or gender identity helps you and educates them. Coming out gives your doctor the information she or he needs to help you make the best decisions for your health.
Coming out also helps doctors know they have LGBT patients, and can prompt changes in office forms, as well as the questions they ask, to be more inclusive of other LGBT clients.
Don’t laugh at offensive jokes — even if they aren’t about you
If you are LGBT, refusing to laugh at a joke at your community’s expense can pave the way for others to speak out .
But don’t hold your tongue at offensive jokes that don’t specifically target you, either. Don’t be afraid to the be only man who doesn’t laugh at a sexist joke, the only white person who doesn’t laugh at a racist joke, or the only cisgender person not chuckling at a sarcastic comment about transgender people.
You might get accused of being too serious when the joke tellers were “just kidding,” but your challenge will also make them question their assumption that everyone who looks like them also thinks like them.
Learn about someone who is different than you
Get to know someone in another stripe in the rainbow flag, and then look beyond our community to ask yourself, “How am I being an ally to others who face discrimination and inequality?”
Support companies that support you
Your refusal to eat at Chick-fil-A may not convince Truett Cathy to say “I do” to gay marriage, but it empowers you and also offers an opportunity to educate others on the reason for your decision.
Check out the Human Rights Campaign’s Buyer’s Guide to find out how national stores rate on LGBT issues. When possible, support local businesses owned by LGBT people or allies.