Being an ally to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community is about supporting and advocating for their rights, fundamental human dignity, and equal access to opportunities, resources and services. LGBTQ people have been subjected to discrimination, prejudice, and violence both in the past and still going on in some parts of the world today. It is disheartening to learn that LGBTQ individuals are more prone to experiencing bullying, harassment, and suicide ideation than their heterosexual counterparts.
This article aims to increase awareness and understanding of what it means to be an ally to LGBTQ people. It highlights the importance of being an ally, how to become one and the do’s and don’ts when interacting with members of the LGBTQ community.
What is an Ally in LGBTQ?
An ally is a person who does not identify as part of the LGBTQ community but supports, advocates, and takes action to promote the rights, dignity, safety, and wellbeing of LGBTQ people. An ally recognizes that all humans are entitled to respect, love, and equal opportunities regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Why is it Important to be an Ally?
Being an ally of the LGBTQ community is essential for several reasons, including:
- Showing solidarity and support – LGBTQ individuals feel more accepted and supported in their journey to self-discovery and growth when they see non-LGBTQ people taking action to promote their well-being.
- Reducing discrimination and prejudice – Allies can use their privilege to advocate for the rights of LGBTQ people and challenge any form of discrimination, prejudice, and misinformation towards this community.
- Creating inclusive workplaces and communities – Companies and communities that embrace diversity and inclusivity tend to be more productive, profitable, and innovative. An ally can help create an environment that welcomes and respects differences.
- Building meaningful relationships – Allies can establish meaningful connections and friendships with LGBTQ people based on mutual respect, empathy, and understanding.
What are the Qualities of a Good Ally?
Being a good ally requires a combination of attitudes, behaviors, and skills that show your commitment to advocating for the needs and rights of LGBTQ people. Some of the qualities of a good ally include:
- Open-mindedness – Being open to learning new ideas, accepting different perspectives, and being respectful towards differences is crucial to being a good ally.
- Understanding – An ally should strive to understand the experiences, challenges and needs of the LGBTQ community. This understanding can be achieved through connecting with LGBTQ individuals or reading materials on the subject.
- Empathy – Empathy is the ability to identify with the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of another person. A good ally should strive to empathize with LGBTQ individuals and support them in their journey.
- Active listening – Listening attentively without interrupting, judging or dismissing is essential when interacting with LGBTQ individuals. This approach shows that you value their thoughts, experiences and feelings.
- Being vocal – A good ally should use their voice to promote the rights and dignity of LGBTQ individuals. This can be done through speaking out against discrimination, advocating for inclusive policies and norms, and supporting LGBTQ initiatives and events.
- Humility – A good ally acknowledges that they do not know everything and are open to receiving feedback, criticism, and advice from LGBTQ individuals to improve their allyship skills. They should not be defensive but be willing to learn and grow.
What are the Do’s and Don’ts of being an Ally?
Interacting with members of the LGBT community as an ally needs to be done with caution, empathy and a good understanding of the issues affecting them. Some of the things you should and should not do when interacting with the LGBTQ community include:
- Respect the Pronouns – Always use the correct pronouns when addressing LGBTQ individuals. To avoid making any mistakes, it’s okay to ask them which pronouns they use.
- Listen – Listen to the experiences and perspectives of LGBTQ individuals actively. This will help you understand their needs and how best you can support them.
- Be an Ally Without Expecting Praise – Being an ally requires genuine commitment and support for the community. Recognition should not be the main objective.
- Be Vocal – Speak up against discrimination, prejudice and misinformation affecting the LGBTQ community.
- Be Educated – Read materials and attend events related to the LGBTQ community to deepen your understanding of the issues affecting them.
- Do Not Out Individuals – Do not share someone’s LGBTQ status with others without their consent.
- Do Not Assume – Do not assume every individual’s sexual preference or gender identity.
- Do Not Tokenize – Do not use LGBTQ individuals for your personal gain or to appear tolerant and diverse.
- Do Not Speak Over – Allow LGBTQ individuals to speak for themselves and do not speak over them.
- Do Not Be Careless – Be careful of your language and how it can hurt individuals, especially when using derogatory terms or slurs.
How to Be an Ally?
Education and knowledge are key to being a good ally. Understanding the challenges and experiences of LGBTQ people helps you understand how you can support them. This education can be through reading books, articles or attending events related to the community. Some of the recommended books include:
|Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of a American Family||Amy Ellis Nutt|
|This Book is Gay||Juno Dawson|
|The Gay Revolution||Lillian Faderman|
|The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing up Gay in a Straight Man’s World||Alan Downs|
|Gender Outlaw||Kate Bornstein|
Listen to the Stories and Experiences of LGBTQ People
Listening to the lived experiences of LGBTQ individuals helps you understand their challenges, fears, and goals. This education can be through attending events, watching films or series, volunteering, or making connections with members of the LGBTQ community.
Speak Up, Speak Out
Being an ally requires you to use your voice to highlight the issues affecting the LGBTQ community. Speak up against any discrimination, violence, or hate against them. You can use social media, workshops, or public gatherings to voice your support.
Support Queer Initiatives
You can support queer initiatives by attending events, donating, or volunteering. You can also lobby for policies and organizations that embrace diversity and inclusivity regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
Being an ally of the LGBTQ community requires commitment, empathy, and a willingness to learn and grow continually. All humans deserve respect, love, and equal opportunities regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Supporting and advocating for the LGBTQ community is essential in promoting fundamental human dignity and reducing discrimination and prejudice. Let us embrace diversity and celebrate our differences.
FAQs about Being an Ally in LGBTQ:
- Q: What does LGBTQA stand for?
- A: LGBTQA stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, and Asexual or Ally.
- Q: What is the difference between sex and gender?
- A: Sex refers to biological attributes such as reproductive organs and chromosomes, while gender refers to social and cultural differences between males and females.
- Q: How can I be an effective ally for the LGBTQ community?
- A: Some tips for being an effective ally include getting educated, listening to the experiences of LGBTQ people, speaking up against discrimination, and supporting queer initiatives.
- Q: Can an ally be part of the LGBTQ community?
- A: No. An ally is a person who does not identify as LGBTQ but supports and advocates for the community.
- Q: What are some common stereotypes about the LGBTQ community?
- A: Some of the common stereotypes about the LGBTQ community include being promiscuous, confused, or seeking attention.
- Gardiner, T. (2019). What being an ally means to LGBTQ activists. BBC News. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-48450454
- Pica, B. (2020). Is Your Workplace Supportive of LGBTQ Employees? Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/briannepica/2020/05/11/is-your-workplace-supportive-of-lgbtq-employees/?sh=4353cef26b7e
- Human Rights Campaign. (n.d.). Coming Out: A Resource Guide for LGBTQ People and Their Allies. Retrieved from https://www.hrc.org/resources/coming-out-resource-guide