By Amber Cantorna
I can’t tell you how many times over the last several years people have told me that they love me like family. They mean well, trying to fill the void of the family I lost when I came out as gay. But unfortunately, I’ve been disappointed too many times to put weight in lip service love.
Some say they wish they would have known what I was going through sooner so that they could have been there for me. Yet the next time the same situation arises, their actions are unchanged and unreflective of the love they proclaim to have.
What you need to understand is that lip service love isn’t just disappointing to LGBTQ people, it’s devastating. So many LGBTQ people (myself included) have lost everything in the face of authenticity. They’ve been kicked out of their families, left without a home for the holidays, and forgotten by those who claimed to love them unconditionally. They’ve been discriminated against in the workplace, denied a safe place to use the restroom, refused the Eucharist by their church, and dehumanized in the most painful of ways. So to give them hope of genuine connection by saying you love them but then not follow through, is the emotional equivalent of them losing their nuclear family all over again.
It is deeply painful and destructive. And it has got to change before more lives are lost to feeling invisible and believing they are unworthy of love and belonging.
That’s why your love must be more than mere words. You love must produce actions that convey to LGBTQ people that they are seen and valued just as they are.
Here are just a few practical ways to make your love loud:
Make your love loud by being a vocal ally on social media. LGBTQ people are always watching and listening for those who truly have their back. Those that mean the most to me are not the people who tell me that they “love me like family” yet are ever absent from my life. Rather, it’s the people who put everything on the line in order to stand up for what is right. It’s the pastors who take a stand for full inclusion of LGBTQ people in their church, even if it costs them their job. It’s the friend who attends a conference with a LGBTQ loved one, just so that they can learn what it’s like to walk in their shoes. It’s the mom who fights fiercely for her LGBTQ child, even when that means being severed from her own biological family. That is a true ally. That is someone who is living out the love they proclaim.
Make your love loud by educating yourself. Read a book. Learn what is like to walk in a LGBTQ person’s shoes. Develop an inclusive theology that knows how to stand on its own two feet. Develop empathy for those who are being ostracized from their family or faith community. And develop an educated response for those who ask you why you support LGBTQ people.
Make your love loud by remembering the LGBTQ people in your life during the holidays. There is nothing more painful or more lonely than spending Thanksgiving by yourself, or being forgotten on Christmas, or never hearing the phone ring on your birthday. It’s easy to forget, yet so simple to remedy. If you have LGBTQ people in your life, write their birthday on your calendar and call them. Pick up the phone and let them hear your voice. Send them snail mail at Christmas. Invite them over for Easter. Remember them.
Make your love loud with your votes. If ever there was a time to register to vote and actually show up at the polls on voting day, it is now. Our country is perhaps more divisive than it has ever been. People are being cast aside like their lives don’t matter. If you want to show someone you love them, vote to protect their rights. I don’t think my wife has ever felt more betrayed than she did after the 2016 election when she found out that every single person in her office voted directly against protecting her basic human rights. As a gay, female, immigrant—it mattered. And it affected her so strongly that she didn’t go to work for an entire week following the election. Your votes and your voice matter. Use them to protect the dignity of those around you.
These are simple yet profound ways that you can make your love loud and prove to LGBTQ people that your love for them is real. They may not believe what they hear, but they will believe what they see. And love that is backed up with actions makes all the difference in the world.
Amber Cantorna is an author, speaker, and leader helping LGBTQ people navigate their coming out process. Her memoir “Refocusing My Family” is providing hope to LGBTQ people of faith world-wide and her upcoming book “Unashamed: A Coming Out Guide for LGBTQ Christians” is now available for pre-order on Amazon. You can follow Amber on social media @AmberNCantorna or learn more about her work at AmberCantorna.com.