By Milton Wendland
© 2013 Diversity Rules Magazine and Milton Wendland.  All Rights Reserved.

Wendland PhotoMilton Wendland is a licensed attorney and a professor of Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies at the University of Kansas, where he teaches courses in LGBT cultures, sexuality and law, and queer theory.

It’s that time of year again when we all make resolutions to exercise more, save money, or otherwise improve our lives. Well, I have a challenge for you. How about resolving to improve the lives of others? As LGBT people living in a homophobic society, it is essential that we practice self- and other-care within our community. Here are a few ideas:

1.  Mentor LGBT youth. Even in the age of the internet, too many young people feel alone and unsure. Mentoring can take the form of volunteering in after-school programs, sitting on panels about bullying and self-esteem, hiring a high school intern in your office, or just being open and proud in ways that young people can see.

2.  Practice other-care. Imagine if we accepted other LGBT folks, no matter their body size, their gender expression, their age, their education levels? Imagine leaving the homophobia, transphobia, queerphobia to the haters. Next time you catch yourself commenting on someone’s body size, age, effeminacy or butchness, clothing… Check yourself. Remember, if we can’t love each other, how can we expect the world to love us?

3.  Increase the diversity of your friendship circle. Look at your friends. Are they all similar, from the same educational background? Wear the same clothes? Have the same ethnicity? Reach out, make a friend who comes from a different background. Allow yourself to be challenged, enriched, and educated. While we never want to make friends just so that we can play the “I have gay friends” or the “I know trans people” cards, it is never wrong to reflect on the people who surround us.

4.  Think beyond same-sex marriage. While marriage rights are important, focusing too heavily on same-sex marriage as “the” LGBT issues ignores a lot of other important issues like bullying, poverty, sex-negativity, elder abuse, youth in need, and other issues that can affect anyone but that are particularly pernicious in the LGBT community.

5.  Read books and watch documentaries outside of your own experience. Are you a gay man? Then go read Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle, a lesbian coming-of-age novel. Are you cisgender? Then check out “No Dumb Questions,” a short documentary about how three children of different ages deal with learning that Uncle Bill is now Aunt Barbara.

6.  Pledge to do one pro-LGBT thing each day. Maybe it means leaving your already-read copy of The Advocate in the waiting room at the dentist’s office. Maybe it’s gently correcting the sales-clerk who assumes you are heterosexual. Maybe it’s making a small donation to your local LGBT organization. Maybe it’s donating LGBT-themed books to your local library. Whatever it is, pledge to do something each and every day of 2013.

7.  Be as out and proud as you can. Whatever it means to you in your life, own your soulful dignity and live as fully as you can. Not only will it increase your own happiness but it will shine as a beacon for others.

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