While you probably believe that all people, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation, should be treated with dignity and respect, you may not be aware of the most practical ways you can defend your LGBTQIA+ friends against discrimination.

We spoke to Michael Deppeler, VUSU Queer Collective Officer and president of VU Queer Collective, about the best approaches to becoming an ally to the queer community.

Wear purple on Friday 30 August and show your support for the LGBTQIA+ community.

1. Inform yourself about diversity

Understand the diversity of pronouns and sexual orientations, and the importance of these preferences for each individual.

Think about what it means to be ‘he’, ‘she’ or ‘they’. Do some research and learn what a CIS male and female is, as well as the meaning of non-binary, asexual, pansexual, polyamorous, bisexual and so on.

If you’re a VU student, the Queer Collective is always available to offer insight into the full spectrum of queer identities.

Educate yourself on the diversity of preferred pronouns and sexual identities.

2. Listen with empathy

Keep your heart, ears and eyes open to the experiences of the LGBTQIA+ community – those in your life as well as those working to create awareness through media, the arts, research and activism.

Queer youth often struggle to find someone to just listen to them, and making them feel heard could save their life. You don't need to be trained or specialise in psychology or youth work – listening with a compassionate, open and supportive attitude is often all that’s required.

Sometimes listening is the best and most helpful way of offering support.

3. Stand up for what’s right

The risk of being a victim of violence is three times higher for queer youth. Physical attacks, verbal abuse, e-bullying, and even anti-LGBTQIA+ jokes and jests can all have a negative effect.

As an ally, you can focus on making spaces as physically and psychologically safe as possible for the queer community by speaking out to those using offensive slurs, or exhibiting bullying and other antisocial behaviours.

You can help create a safe and welcoming environment for all.

4. Know what support is available

Familiarise yourself with what resources are out there for the LGBTQIA+ community. For example, Victoria police have a queer collective within their ranks who are trained specifically to help those suffering discrimination and there are officers at most police stations who deal solely with this. And at each VU campus, there is a Pride Room where members of the queer community can relax and feel safe.

There is always support available on-campus from the VUSU Queer Collective.

5. Wear it Purple and attend VU Queernival

Show your support by wearing purple on Wear it Purple Day, Friday 30 August 2019. Wear it Purple Day was founded in response to the number of young people who take their own lives following bullying and harassment due to their sexuality or gender identity. By wearing purple, you can show you are an ally and join a movement that has the potential to save thousands of lives.

To coincide with Wear it Purple Day, VU Queer Collective is welcoming all to the first Victorian Queernival on Thursday 29 August 2019. This is a day of celebrating what makes the queer community special and educating LGBTQIA+ youth and allies about the full range of support available.

Don’t miss the inaugural Victorian Queernival.