the voice and vision of a new generation
Image credit: Alex Schmider

Moving beyond marches: 4 ways you can become an activist in your community

April 7, 2018

If you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of young people who showed up at the March For Our Lives, Women’s March, or other protest events across the country, you may be wondering, now what? What can I do next? Am I an activist?

One thing you may want to think about is what makes an activist an activist? This is a question that I have been asking myself. One of the reasons I applied to be a GLAAD Campus Ambassador is so that I can learn how to be a better activist. Showing up to major protests is participation but I wanted to do more. The truth is that what makes an activist may change from person to person and from movement to movement.

In the case of the LGBTQ community, that could include marching for equal protection for trans people, or protesting against laws and ordinances that limit the equal rights of LGBTQ people. Showing up in the streets is powerful and important, activists have much more to take care of when we head home after a march.

If you are looking to move beyond marches, try and learn more about what you can do in your own community to make a difference as an activist:

1. Provide a safe space.

What is a safe space? Usually, this is a place where those in vulnerable communities don’t have to contend with the various axes of oppression that they deal with on a daily basis. A safe space does not always have to look like a traditional kind of safe space, like an LGBTQ+ community center or an LGBTQ+ office at your school. A safe space can be as simple as a coffee shop, home, or office. Make an effort to educate those who enter or occupy your spaces about intersectional issues. You can print out resources and have them available for people to read and take home. That way, when vulnerable people enter the space they can feel as if they are among others who understand their issues and needs.

2. Don’t be a bystander.

Unfortunately, many people still use derogatory language that is harmful to those it targets. Not everyone is willing to call those people out for saying hurtful words, but the ones who do are doing the work of an activist. You may not consider calling out offensive language as a big moment of activism, but you never know how much it could mean to those who hear you standing up for them. Activism involves changing the hearts and minds, so when you do call someone out, even if their minds aren’t changed in that moment, you may have contributed to their path forward in being an ally.

3. Create something! Then share it.

Most students are used to writing for classes. We choose a topic, research, write, turn in their work, and repeat. Some students, like me, write about LGBTQ+ issues and are super excited about them, only to have them read by one teacher or professor and then forgotten about. When you create something for a class and are proud of your research, you should be encouraged to share what you research and write about with others aside from your professor. It’s good to try and change the minds of others through a casual conversation, but having the research to back up the argument will strengthen your case. Alternatively, try and get yourself published! Whether it is on your own blog, a campus newspaper, or a media outlet, there are more ways than ever to share or publish you work so that more people can learn from your ideas and take action.

4. Connect those in need to resources.

Not all of us have the answers to everyone’s problems.Thankfully, there are plenty of resources and organizations to support those in need. For example, if you know someone who is trans and struggling, you can direct them to a local trans support group. Do your research on the topic and issue at hand to learn about what resources are available in your community. Though we may not be able to directly help people, we can help them find those who can help.

Every action, no matter how big or small, can have a big effect. There’s no way to know exactly how our small, local actions can make a difference, but that doesn’t mean we don’t try. Not all of us have the same voice as an activist, but we can have the power of an activist. Even the quiet ones can have that power. And maybe through that power, a voice can be developed and heard.

To take action in your community, please continue to check out our student-activist-led campaign, revamp, as GLAAD’s Campus Ambassadors share insights on how to make your campus activism more inclusive and effective.

Isaac Kovnator is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador and a senior at The College of Staten Island studying Cinema Studies. Isaac is a member and former Vice President of the Gay Straight Alliance on their campus.

the voice and vision of a new generation