By Milton Wendland
© 2012 Diversity Rules Magazine.  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.

Dear Inqueeries: I wanna do something for the LGBT movement, especially since June is Pride Month! But I’m shy and just don’t feel comfortable carrying a sign or speaking at a rally and I don’t have lots of money to give. What can I do? Help! Sheila

Everyone has difficult skills, talents, and comfort-levels, so you should choose things that fit you. Probably the most important that you can do is register to vote and then vote – not only at the federal and state level for president, governors, and legislators but right in your own community for city commission and school board. Although it can be hard to know what candidates’ views are, a quick Google search can resolve that problem. Here are a few other very easy, very basic, very important ways you can do your part.

1. CONTACT (via phone, email, or snail-mail) your elected representatives, the officials of your religious group, businesses, community organizations (like libraries or civic groups), etc and let them know your feelings on important issues. Encourage your library to house LGBT-positive books. Encourage school board members to support LGBT-inclusive curricula. Encourage businesses to support LGBT causes (e.g., AIDS walks, etc). Thank your local art gallery for featuring an LGBT artist. Remember, complaints are best lodged in a helpful tone with supporting information (no one wants to receive an angry, hateful letter or email!), and a simple thank you often means a lot.

2. RECYCLE – SORT OF! Instead of tossing your LGBT-themed magazines like the Advocate in the recycling pile, take them with you the next time you have a dentist appointment or oil change and leave them in the waiting rooms. You never know when someone in need may happen upon that magazine and find support.

3.  SPEAK using language that reflects respect and honesty. Simply using words like “transgender” and “same-sex marriage” normalizes those words and encourages others to use them. Even something as simple as taking your new adopted dog for its first vet visit and saying, “Hi, my partner and I need to make an appointment for our dog’s check-up” can be a form of activism.

4.  STICK IT – on your bumper, on your back pack, on your water bottle, on your hat, whether it’s a Lambda Legal decal or a rainbow sticker, this is a great way to show support and possibly change someone’s attitude.

5.  GIVE a little or a lot. Some people think that unless you are giving thousands of dollars it doesn’t count. But it does, especially to local and state groups. By skipping a $3 coffee twice a week, you could be making a $25 donation every month to an LGBT-inclusive after-school program at your church. Those $150 jeans? That could buy office supplies galore for your state’s equality organization. Going out to dinner with a group of friends? Agree to pool your money for that dinner and give it to a local AIDS charity while you grab a loaf of bread and some cheese and enjoy a cheap sandwich in the park.

6.  READ & WATCH LGBT-themed novels, histories, documentaries, and films to learn more about LGBT history and culture. Whatever your interest — bears, bars, lesbian feminism, transgender art, gay bars in the south, bisexuality, rodeos, LGBT college experiences, World War II lesbian and gays – there’s a book or a documentary that explores it in LGBT-depth.

7.  JOIN a group. Whether it’s a church group, a social group, whatever… Get connected to other LGBT people, even if they are different from you. Make new friends. Try a new activity.

“Inqueeries” is an interactive column where readers are encouraged to submit questions for Milton to answer!
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