How to be a good ally to the LGBTQ+ community

In this blog post, Aalto University’s LGBTQ+ association GAYY delves into the essence of Pride, explores the role of being a good ally, and sheds light on the current progress for LGBTQ+ rights in Finland and the world.
People sitting in front of a bar named The Stonewall Inn, decorated with rainbows

As the vibrant colours of the rainbow fill the streets and hearts around the world, LGBTQ+ Pride celebrations serve as a powerful reminder of the importance of inclusivity and acceptance. At GAYY we recognize the significance of LGBTQ+ Pride and the ongoing struggle for equal rights.

The origins of pride date back to the sixties, a time where most LGBTQ+ activity was criminalised. One night in New York, 1969, police arrived at the Stonewall Inn to harass the queer community that sought haven in this gay bar. Tired from the constant targeting, the bar patrons rioted against the police, putting LGBTQ+ struggles in the centre of the public eye. Organisations such as the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) started growing, organising pride marches, and creating the first LGBTQ+ community centre. Nowadays, Pride continues to exist as a platform to challenge oppression, to assert and celebrate diversity, and to bring together LGBTQ+ individuals (and allies) in a collective demonstration of solidarity and support.

If you want to support the LGBTQ+ community and foster inclusivity, we encourage you to be an ally. To be a good ally, it is essential to educate oneself about LGBTQ+ history, identities, and challenges to better empathise and advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. Active listening and validating the experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals create a safe and supportive environment. Using inclusive language and respecting pronouns shows respect for diverse identities. Challenging discrimination and promoting inclusivity means speaking out against biased remarks or discriminatory practices in personal and social settings. Furthermore, supporting LGBTQ+ organizations and initiatives through attendance, donations, or volunteering helps amplify their voices and contribute to positive change. By embodying these principles, allies can make a meaningful difference, standing in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community and actively working towards a more inclusive society.

Finland decriminalised homosexuality in 1971, and declassified it as an illness in 1981, following a similar timeframe to other European countries. Only in 2017 did Finland legalise same-sex marriage and adoption. For transgender individuals, the historical situation has been even more dire: only in 2023 did Finland amend trans law, that previously required for trans people to be sterilised in order to reassign their legal gender. This inhumane practice was even condemned by the Council of Europe and the United Nations Human Rights Council as a violation of human rights. While progress has been made, there is still much to do and we should never forget to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, loudly and proudly.

On a global scale, progress varies from country to country. Some nations have made substantial advancements in LGBTQ+ rights, while others still have a long way to go. It is essential to acknowledge the accomplishments made while remaining vigilant and supportive of countries where LGBTQ+ individuals face discrimination, persecution, or legal barriers.

LGBTQ+ Pride celebrations serve as a poignant reminder of the ongoing struggle for equality and the power of acceptance. As members of AYY, we have the opportunity to contribute to a more inclusive and understanding society by being good allies to the LGBTQ+ community. By educating ourselves, listening, using inclusive language, and supporting LGBTQ+ organizations, we can collectively work towards a future where all individuals are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Together, let us celebrate diversity and continue striving for a world that is truly equal for all.

Luísa Cardoso

GAYY, Aalto University’s LGBTQ+ association

Photo: Stonewall, New York 2022

Sources used:

https://en.seta.fi/lgbti-rights-in-finland-seta/materials/

https://www.equaldex.com/region/finland

https://reports.hrc.org/being-an-lgbtq-ally

https://www.gendergp.com/finland-plans-to-change-its-outdated-trans-law/

https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2019/06/harvard-scholars-reflect-on-the-history-and-legacy-of-the-stonewall-riots/

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