It's Pride Month. Here are 20 ways to support the LGBTQ people in your life

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In commemoration of the Stonewall riots of June 1969, Pride Month is celebrated every June to recognize the struggles and achievements of LGBTQ - lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer - people around the world and throughout history. Parades, parties, rallies and other demonstrations are held globally in which LGBTQ people and their allies dress in rainbow colors, hold signs and hands and enjoy drinking, dancing and music.

As your LGBTQ friends and family find a chance to proudly express their gender identity or sexuality, Pride Month also presents a chance for you to proudly express your support for them. Being an ally isn't always easy, but your support is vital to making LGBTQ people feel heard and safe in fighting for a more accepting world. Here are just some of the things you can make sure you're doing this month, as well as the rest of the year.

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Educate yourself

Don't expect your loved ones to be the ones to educate you. There are so many resources out there on sexuality and gender identity. Take to the internet or read some books to learn more about LGBTQ history, culture and activism so that you can be a better and more informed ally. You're actually doing this right now!

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Don't assume everyone is straight

You know what they say about assumptions. Not assuming everyone you meet is straight also means normalizing non-heterosexuality, which can encourage your LGBTQ friends and family who haven't yet come out to you to do so.

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Let them come out in their own time

If you suspect that someone you know or love is LGBTQ, don't call them out on it or pressure them to tell you. Coming out is a journey, and everyone deserves to feel that they have control over that journey.

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Don't stereotype

Stereotypes can be harmful to a person individually, as well as to a group as a whole. People who are LGBTQ are extremely diverse; they come from all walks of life and can be from any race, ethnicity, nationality, religion or socioeconomic background. They dress different ways, speak in various manners, and express femininity and masculinity in all sorts of ways that aren't necessarily connected to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

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Never out them to anyone

Coming out is very personal, and it can also be very dangerous. Let your loved one come out at their own discretion-whenever they wish and to whomever they wish. It's not your place, and you certainly don't want to potentially endanger them.

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Don't refer to them as 'my LGBTQ friend'

Although it is a part of their identity and it is nothing they should be ashamed of, there is more to a person than their sexual orientation. Don't let it define them for you. See and love them for who they are.

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Be inclusive

In a world that still isn't as LGBTQ-friendly as it should be, it can get lonely. Make sure to support your LGBTQ friends by including them in plans with other friends, inviting them to meet your family, or just hanging out with them in general. Don't make them feel as if they're something you need to hide or keep away from the rest of your social circle.

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Speak up when you see prejudice

A good friend or family member has your back. If you see someone making a disparaging remark or even a joke with LGBTQ people as the punchline, speak up against it even if it isn't directed at your loved one or they're not even around. Make sure others know that it is not okay. Not only is this crucial in fighting against prejudice as a whole, but it will further help your loved ones to feel supported.

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Have conversations with your less supportive friends and family

Because understanding of sexuality and gender is still largely limited and prejudice prevails, you may have some friends and family who are not as pro-LGBTQ as you would like them to be. Don't just let this slide or avoid the conversation. Change starts at home, and you want to get through to the people you care about.

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Be publicly vocal about your allyship

Don't keep your activism to your dining room or your circle of friends. Speaking out on an issue is important, and anti-LGBTQ sentiment needs to be actively fought against. Don't let your LGBTQ friends or family feel as though you're only going to speak up for them around certain people.

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Embrace who they are completely

It's hard enough to be in the minority when it comes to sexuality or gender identity; one doesn't need further policing in an already hostile society. Don't say things like "I'm fine with your sexuality, just don't parade it in front of me" or "Could you tone it down a little?" Encourage them to be proud, and make sure they don't feel as if you're judging them. If you wouldn't say it to a straight friend, don't say it to an LGBTQ friend.

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Make sure to always use the right pronouns

These days, people are increasingly comfortable expressing gender in less traditional terms in order to better reflect their own identity. When you refuse to use someone's preferred pronouns (he/him/his, she/her/hers, they/them/theirs, etc.), you're refusing to acknowledge who they are. It may seem like it's not a big deal, but using the wrong pronouns for someone can be extremely invalidating and hurtful. Always do your best to call people what they want to be called.

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Don't be heteronormative

Try to think outside the box of heterosexuality. Don't ask questions like "Who's the woman in the relationship?" because it's extremely uncomfortable as well as presumptuous. This can get especially tricky when it comes to weddings or raising children, as many things involved have traditionally been tied to gender roles in heterosexual couples. Just don't make assumptions, and follow your friends' lead.

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Don't question their identity

Another reason you should avoid stereotypes is because they're just incorrect. You will meet LGBTQ people who simply don't line up with common stereotypes at all. If someone tells you their sexual orientation, believe them until they state otherwise. If someone tells you that they're queer or bisexual, don't ask them whether they're sure they're not actually just fully gay or fully straight.

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Remember that sexuality is a spectrum

If your loved one doesn't identify as simply gay or lesbian, don't push them to do so or try to put them in a box for your own convenience. There is a huge spectrum of sexualities among LGBTQ people, and many more labels than just gay, lesbian, bisexual and queer. If a loved one comes to you and tells you that they identify as something different now, don't question it. It may not even be that they're "still figuring it out"; sexuality can be fluid too.

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Don't invalidate their experiences

If you are straight or cisgender (meaning your gender identity matches that of the one you were assigned at birth), you won't know what it is like to be LGBTQ and to deal with the issues that come with it. If an LGBTQ friend or family member tells you about their experiences - whether those experiences pertain to gay culture, romance or incidents of prejudice - believe them. Don't downplay anything they may have been through and shared with you, and definitely don't tell them they're overreacting. Be as supportive and validating as you can be.

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Don't make it about yourself

Far too many straight allies center themselves when showing up for activism or even to Pride celebrations. You shouldn't be at a parade just to take photos of yourself and show the world how great of an ally you are. You should be there to actually support those who need it. Unless an LGBTQ friend invites you, don't encroach on LGBTQ spaces such as bars, clubs or support groups, as they're meant to be safe spaces for the people who need them most. If someone calls you out on problematic behavior, hear them out and don't get defensive. Try to learn what others need and how you can help them get it.

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Take a stand

Words are just one weapon you have against anti-LGBTQ sentiment and actions. You might choose not to support organizations or businesses that donate money to anti-LGBTQ causes or discriminate against LGBTQ people as whole. If an author, actor, writer or other artist also promotes anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, find someone more worthy of your support. Boycotts are one of the most effective ways of getting yourself heard and letting other people know that something is not right.

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Don't ask intrusive questions

As stated before, if you wouldn't say it to a straight friend, don't say to an LGBTQ friend. Personal questions on intimate matters are very uncomfortable and quite rude. If you really have a burning desire to know, use Google.

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Just listen

More than anything, be a good listener. Sometimes it's better to just hear someone out than to talk yourself, especially when it comes to a matter you yourself don't have much experience with. Support your LGBTQ friends and family by listening and paying attention to their grievances, their hopes, their activism and their ideas about what they need from allies. Listening to the actual needs and thoughts of LGBTQ people will not only better help you understand them and support them, but it's also a great step toward being a kinder person overall.

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