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    How To Be an LGBT+ Ally

    LGBTQ Ally


    If you’ve been on the internet lately, you might have noticed that June is LGBT+ Pride month. It’s a time of empowerment for queer people and a time to shed light on issues within the  LGBT+ community. If you’re straight, you may feel like you have no place talking about these issues. However, this is definitely not the case. Straight and cisgender people have a place in the LGBT+ community as allies.

    What is an ally?

    According to Wikipedia an ally is “a heterosexual or cisgender person who supports equal civil rights, gender equality, LGBT social movements, and challenges homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.”

    How can I be an ally?

    1. Educate Yourself

    LGBT+ communities differ from straight communities in a lot of ways and, as an ally, it’s your job to be aware of these differences. For example, in LGBT+ communities, it’s probably more appropriate to use non-gendered language and ask for a person’s pronouns before assuming their gender identity. In addition to educating yourself on how to navigate LGBT+ social interactions, you should also make an effort to learn about current issues surrounding LGBT+ rights. Without knowing policies to fight against, it’s impossible to be an effective ally. Another very important thing to educate yourself on is the history of queer people in America (or whatever country you live in). Learning the history behind the issues that queer people deal with today will not only deepen your knowledge of the issues themselves, but enrich your understanding of LGBT+ people and their struggles.

    2. Stand up

    Allies should always be willing to stand up in defense LGBT+ rights. This doesn’t mean that every ally needs to be an activist. Standing up could be as simple as calling out a friend who makes a transphobic joke or choosing not to support businesses owned by people who are homophobic. If you see someone being bullied for their sexual orientation, don’t be afraid to intervene. You should always be outspoken in your support of LGBT+ rights.

    3. Listen

    Remember that you don’t know everything. Even the best ally makes mistakes or says the wrong thing sometimes. The difference between a good ally and a bad ally is the ability to listen. When someone criticizes you or calls you out for something, be open and ready to change. Don’t be proud and stubborn. A good ally also realizes their place. Even if you are a great ally, you can never truly understand the experience of a queer person. Always listen to what they have to say and make sure not to silence them. Allies should understand that it’s important for LGBT+ voices to be heard. There is a time for allies to speak up and there is a time for allies to listen. Be aware of this and stay mindful of how much space you’re taking up.

    The steps to being a good ally are straightforward but not easy. It takes a lot of effort to become an ally; it’s not just something that you can do for a month. Being an ally is something that you have to do 24/7. LGBT+ rights are human rights, and it’s important for everyone to do their part in defending them.

  • Articles, Dating, Mental Health, Relationships, Sexual Health, Tough Questions

    Nightmares for Memories

    CONTENT WARNING: This article contains information about sexual assault, which may be triggering. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. 

    Nightmares for Memories

    An Ugly Truth

    Some things are just engraved in your mind. No matter how hard you try to forget, you never will. Everyone has memories they can’t diminish. These memories feel more like nightmares. For some, the word “rape” and “sexual assault” are just sad things that happen if you’re not careful. They know it happens but don’t pay much attention to it – it’s one of those things you think will never happen to you.

    Hopefully, it won’t, but if it does, it will change your perspective on everything. At that moment it was like I had lost all control of my limbs, my entire body completely shut down. I went from saying stop and yelling no at the top of my lungs to just staring dead off into space. You can’t do anything, you just are helpless to the situation.

    After, you see everything in a different light.

    You question everything you did – from what you said, to what you were wearing. You feel as if it was your fault. It is not. But for me, the worst part was the way I felt after. I felt used and powerless. You jump anytime someone touches you and cry if someone hugs you. You can’t breathe when you hear their name and have a panic attack if you’re in the same room as them. To put it bluntly, it sucks.

    Although it was one of the worst experiences of my life, it taught me a lot of things.

    One, it is not okay for me to let people take advantage of me. Not all guys have good intentions, do not choose to see only good in people and be blind to the bad. Take both into account when choosing who you let into your life.

    Two, pick and choose your “friends” wisely. I was sexually assaulted by one of the people closest to me.

    Three, know how to say stop. Don’t let people overpower you just because you don’t want to be rude. If you’re uncomfortable with someone hugging you – tell them. Because a hug can quickly turn into something worse.

    Four, don’t be afraid to talk about it, it helps. They won’t think you are overreacting. In fact, they’ll most likely tell you the opposite. They’ll help.

    Five, it gets easier, time helps. In the end, you’ll be a stronger person than you were before. Like the song says “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

    If you feel you’ve been a victim of sexual assault, please visit one of the following organizations for help. 

    Visit online.rainn.org to chat one-on-one with a trained RAINN support specialist, any time 24/7 or call 1-800-656-HOPE

    National Sexual Assault Hotline, 1-800-656-4673

    Crisis Center Birmingham, Alabama, https://crisiscenterbham.org/sexual-assault-services/sexual-assault-services.htm

    24-HOUR HOTLINE: 205-323-7273

  • College, Confidence, GirlSpring.com, Goals, Mental Health, Puberty, School, Stress, Tips, Tough Questions

    Uncertainty is Actually A Positive Thing

    Uncertainty is Actually A Positive Thing

    By Maggie Thompson

     

    Being uncertain is a feeling with which we are all familiar.

    A looming pressure to know exactly what we want in life is placed on us as early as middle school – if not before. This question of what we want our lives to be is actually ridiculous. How could one possibly know what they truly want if they have yet to decide what they do not?

    Uncertainty is how we learn.

    When we acknowledge our uncertainty, we open the door for more opportunities. This is because knowledge is not obtained without first admitting its absence.

    Experiences shape our beliefs – on everything.

    Hesitating to wear a certain color, deciding to study before a test, and avoiding certain types of people are all decisions made due to past experience. We believe the color yellow is not flattering for our skin tone because we read it in a magazine, we study before a test to avoid a failing grade, and we choose not to befriend dishonest people so that we don’t get hurt. Regardless of how big or small the belief – it is formed by past experience. However, some of these beliefs will alter as we learn and grow. This is a good thing. Being open to new challenges provides a chance for a new perspective.

    As a result, being uncertain is the best way to unlock change and growth.

    Do not be afraid to admit uncertainty or lack of knowledge, for this is how truth is uncovered – through exploration. So when you are feeling down about not knowing exactly which direction to go, accept that some of the steps you have taken thus far have been incorrect. Although this feeling is initially terrifying, it begins to dissolve as soon as you take the first step into the unknown. Because before you know it, you will find yourself happier and more engaged with life.

  • Tough Questions

    Finding Confidence as a Young Female Driver

    Finding Confidence As A Young Female Driver

    Although only 3.8% of drivers are female teenagers, driving can be a fun and engaging way to gain confidence as a young woman. Even with the risks that drivers face, you can still enjoy your time on the road, once you’ve learned about your vehicle and how to operate it safely on the road.

     Risks of the Road

    A driver at any age will come across dangers while driving, such as a deer leaping in front of your vehicle or a driver looking at their phone and drifting into your lane. There are also environmental factors, such as rain or snow, that affect all drivers. As a teenager, it is crucial that you learn how to react to these dangers, so that you avoid putting yourself and others at risk. If a deer jumps in front of your vehicle, do not swerve to avoid it. Instead, slowly press your brakes, slightly angling your vehicle towards the shoulder. When it is snowing or raining, drive slowly with your headlights on, and stay at least five seconds behind the car in front of you.

     Driving a Vehicle That Suits You

    While it is important to know the most dangerous hazards of driving, it is vital to your safety that you understand the vehicle you are driving, and making sure that you are comfortable driving it. If you intend to drive a truck, be sure to have researched the types of trucks available, and understand the specific features of the large vehicle you’re driving. Likewise, if you intend to drive a small sedan, be sure to understand the implications of driving in the vicinity of larger cars. Most importantly, learn the safety features and how to properly operate your vehicle, so as to reduce the risk of putting yourself and others in danger.

     Helpful Tips

    Being a young woman behind the wheel does not mean that you cannot be confident, it simply means that it is more important to understand safe driving techniques and which types of vehicle suit your individual needs. By researching the type of car you intend to drive, you can practice better anticipate the cautions you will need to take when driving on the road. Above all else, stay alert when you are behind the wheel, and keep your eyes on the road.

    You are a part of the newest generation of drivers, and it is your duty to ensure the safety of yourself and other drivers you encounter on the road. Safe travels!

  • Articles, Tough Questions

    FeMENism: What Feminism Can Do for Men

    September 2016 Writing Contest Winner

    If you’re reading this, you probably know what it is. You’ve heard about it on the news, in Beyoncé songs, in viral videos, and on this site. Throughout its meteoric rise in the past century, feminism has been a hot-button topic for much longer than we’ve even been alive. Now more than ever, there is a push for equality and more girls, women, and men are getting involved than ever. But…unsurprisingly, the discussion of feminism – much like the discussion of any social equality movement – tends to inadvertently dredge up a trove of people who are simply uninformed at best and willfully ignorant at worst. The question on the lips of many men in particular is, “Why should I be a feminist if feminism hurts men?”

    To be frank, this question comes from an incorrect understanding of what feminism is. Put simply, feminism is the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. That’s all it is. Many ask, “But isn’t feminism about hating men?” No, it’s about equality, not bashing or oppressing one group or the other. It’s about raising everyone to an equal playing field. Sadly, a quick scroll through any comment section on a feminist social media post will show that there still exists a great deal of ignorance on the topic. I need not repeat the insults and threatening language which often pervade these vitriolic comments about how “feminism is evil and seeks to hurt men”.

    It’s true that people who have never experienced oppression will find equality to be a burden. A lot (but not all) of upper/middle-class white men probably have never experienced oppression, so I understand how it can be hard for men to see why women want change. But I believe that if men would look at what equality would really mean for them, they would all want to be feminists too.

    One big way in which feminism can help men is in the area of gender roles. Many feminists advocate for the flexibility of gender roles. As part of feminism’s message of equality, strict, traditional gender roles are seen as being generally toxic and detrimental to society. Just as women live under the pressure of being feminine, delicate, traditionally attractive, mothering, and sexy all at once, men live under the pressure of being masculine, strong, capable of providing, emotionally resolute, and physically perfect. For both sexes, the weight of these expectations is enormous. For many feminists, flexible gender roles mean that women do not always have to be perfectly feminine (i.e. they can be providers, be physically strong, and present themselves as more masculine than feminine, among other things). With regard to men, flexible gender roles mean that they don’t have to be perfectly masculine (i.e. they don’t have to be the sole provider, they can be emotionally open, and not face pressures to be physically perfect, among other things).

    When we seek to open a positive dialogue on gender roles, feminists actively work towards making the world a more comfortable and freeing place for both men and women. For some men, this is a big selling point of feminism. Without the constant pressure to provide, to be constantly masculine and strong, and to be the model of a perfect man, men can relax and share their burdens with everyone else – including women. From a male standpoint, this is only one of feminism’s many benefits. But as previously stated, so many men are still in the dark about this exact topic.

    So next time a man tells you that feminists are all out to attack him and every other man on earth, tell him that men benefit from feminism too. I believe that the future of feminism is bright, but we still have a long way to go and we have to continue to educate the ignorant if we want equality to be a reality in our lifetime.