If you want to show your support as an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community, keep reading for advice on how to do so. Being an ally is not something you do once and consider it done; it’s a lifelong commitment to standing up for LGBTQIA+ people and rights, even if doing so may feel uncomfortable at times.
First, let’s define what an ally is: An ally is someone who is straight and/or cisgender who aligns themselves with and advocates for the LGBTQIA+ community. Being an ally can take many forms, but at its core it means that you stand with this community, while recognizing that you are not a member of it. An ally speaks out to augment the voices of LGBTQIA+ people, without trying to speak for them.
Even now, not all of us are treated equally. There is still widespread discrimination against LGBTQIA+ people, who may or may not have supportive families to lean on. As an ally, you can be there to help make the process of coming out, claiming space, and navigating the world as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and/or asexual person much easier for those you care about as well as advocating for issues important to the broader community.
Having an ally can do wonders for the mental health of those who are unsure of how or when they should come out, if at all. It can take a lot of courage to work up to the point where they’re “ready,” and having someone in their corner to support them can genuinely mean the world. Allies are also important to those who are either out, semi-out, or don’t plan to come out yet, but who want to know they have encouragement and understanding from their straight peers. Being an ally means you fully support the LGBTQIA+ community. Show that you care by following some of these tips below to become the best ally you can be!
How to Be An Ally:
One of the most important things to remember about being a great ally is to stay open-minded. If someone is opening up to you about their gender or sexual orientation, then it probably means they really trust and care about you. When someone shares something personal about their sexual orientation or gender, they are likely vulnerable and feel safe with you to reveal this information. Being open-minded gives others the opportunity to be free and completely themselves without any judgment.
Pay attention to the specifics of what your friends, family members, roommates, coworkers, or anyone else you’re close to wants you to know. They may choose to disclose this part of themselves and not want to discuss it further with you, or they may want you to lend an ear or offer advice. Be willing to help them in whatever way they need. That could look like sitting alongside them during a discussion they have with someone else close to them, joining them at an LGBTQIA+ event, or another way of showing your support. Ask appropriate but not invasive questions where relevant, and, unless they tell you otherwise, keep what they tell you confidential. Human Rights Campaign has some suggestions for questions to ask to make the person feel seen and respected and ways to foster respectful dialogue.
Part of being open-minded means knowing what you don’t know and educating yourself. Don’t rely on your LGBTQIA+ friends to answer all of your questions; do your own research if you come across a term that’s unfamiliar to you. Know that it’s okay to not be sure about what something means, and to take some time to consider the new information you’ve been given, which may be different from what you were taught growing up.
Use proper pronouns
Always making sure to use the proper pronouns is a very important way to show respect and acceptance for others. There’s a difference between sex and gender; just because someone may have certain physiological characteristics does not mean they identify with the gender typically associated with them. Not using the proper pronouns can leave people feeling upset, disrespected, and invalidated. If you aren’t sure of someone’s pronouns, ask instead of making assumptions. If you make a mistake, apologize directly to the person and make a concerted effort to use their correct pronouns. You can practice using them at home, talking out loud to yourself, as well as to others who know the person so that it becomes second nature. You can also share your own pronouns on your social media accounts, email signature, and elsewhere as a sign that you know that pronouns aren’t a given. See our blog post on why pronouns matter to learn more.
Inclusivity is essential to ensuring everyone feels accepted and comfortable with their sexuality and/or gender. One of the most important things about staying inclusive is to never make any assumptions and recognize that while we are all different, we are all human. Consider the way you communicate in a group and think about whether or not you’re being inclusive of all genders. Whether you’re discussing pronouns, partners, or something else, it’s best to use language that includes everyone, no matter who’s part of a given group. Being a great listener is also another way to stay inclusive. Making sure those in the LGBTQIA+ community are heard and feel validated is a perfect start to being inclusive.
Inclusivity can also include making any space you’re in welcoming to LGBTQIA+ people. Adding a sticker to your laptop or water bottle, wearing a pride pin on your jacket or backpack, or showing off any other pride items publicly lets people in the LGBTQIA+ community know instantly that you’ve got their back.
Stand for equality
Showing your support at in-person events such as pride parades, fundraising events or social events is a great way to show your allyship. If you’re friend mentions they’re going to an LGBTQIA+ movie, ask if they want company. Get a glimpse into their world and add a wider mix to your social circle. This will help you understand more about individual LGBTQIA+ people. By getting to know them, you can better champion what matters to them.
There are also ways for you to speak out and advocate for LGBTQIA+ people throughout the year. Below are some resources for more information.
Pay attention to LGBTQIA+ news
Being aware of what’s happening with the LGBTQIA+ community is part of being an ally and will help keep you informed about important topics that may affect those you know and the broader world. In addition to the resources listed above, you may want to check out a local or national publication dedicated to news about the LGBTQIA+ community. Sites like Queerty, Pink News, and publications such as The Advocate all cover news and entertainment in the LGBTQIA+ community.
If someone you know is being mistreated because of their sexual orientation or how they identify, say something. Create This provides a teachable moment and educates others about equality and the LGBTQIA+ community. As a straight and/or cisgender person, you may have more influence over your straight and/or cisgender peers, who will likely listen to you when you explain why something they said is offensive or problematic. You should also speak up any time you hear something derogatory being said about members of the LGBTQIA+ community, whether that’s an outright slur, a joke, or an assumption. Even seemingly innocuous “jokes” often have hurtful stereotypes behind them. Getting to the root of them will help broaden people’s minds and hopefully rethink making those kinds of statements in the future. Social media is also an excellent way to show you care about the LGBTQIA+ community. Share posts by people from the community, add your pronouns to your bios, and comment and engage with posts related to LGBTQIA+ topics.
Take the first step toward allyship by adding these tips to your everyday life. Remember that you don’t have to do everything all at once. Start at whatever level you’re comfortable with, and you can build from there. Show your pride or your alliance by checking out our pride collection at Spencers.com!