Do you consider yourself to be an LGBTQ+ ally? Check out these tips to learn how you can better support your friends, family members, colleagues and community members.
1. Treat allyship as an action rather than a label
While it’s easy to call ourselves allies, it’s important to remember that the label alone isn’t enough. In order to be an effective ally, we all need to be willing to consistently show up, take action, support LGBTQ+ rights and defend LGBTQ+ communities against oppression and discrimination.
Here are some simple ways you can actively show your support:
- Be an effective bystander and speak up when someone makes anti-LGBTQ+ comments or jokes.
- Listen and offer support when LGBTQ+ friends, family or community members share their story or their concerns.
- Support LGBTQ+ organizations, artists, charities and businesses.
- Be mindful of how you shop, and spend some time researching if a company has lobbied or donated money to anti-LGBTQ organizations or legislative measures. Opt to shop at places that support LGBTQ+ rights and communities.
- Embrace the gravity of the current climate while also allowing for levity. Remember that we can still create space for laughter, joy, connection and hope.
2. Confront your own assumptions
Confronting our biases, assumptions and stereotypes can be difficult. However, it’s an important step we all must take to become better allies. Take some time to reflect on assumptions you may still hold or stereotypes you may need to challenge.
Here are a couple of examples:
- Gender and pronouns
When you see someone you don’t know, do you tend to assume their gender or pronouns? For instance, if you see a passerby on campus or at the store, do you automatically assume they are a man or woman? If so, practice correcting yourself or reframing your thoughts with neutral language like they/them instead of he or she. Learn more about pronouns.
- Sexual orientation
When you see someone with an engagement or wedding ring, do you tend to assume the gender of their partner or spouse? For instance, you may automatically ask someone about their husband or wife. If so, practice correcting yourself, asking for clarity and reframing your thoughts with neutral language like partner or spouse in conversation.
3. Accept that nobody is perfect
Did you accidentally use the wrong pronouns or say something that made another person feel uncomfortable without meaning to? It happens, even to the best of us. When you make a mistake, take a moment to apologize and correct yourself.
One way to address a potential slip-up is to say something like, “I’m so sorry, that wasn’t the word/phrase I meant to use. If you hear me misuse something, I’d really appreciate it if you could let me know so I can be better about it in the future.” This type of response lets the person know that you are actively trying to unlearn habits and are willing to make an effort to be more mindful and inclusive.
4. Listen to those in the community
You can learn how to be a better ally to marginalized communities by creating opportunities for meaningful conversations. Listen to what your friends, family members and colleagues have to say about their experiences, identity and concerns. It’s important to keep conversations focused on individual experiences and learning more about the other person. Avoid asking them to educate you on general topics, explain their politics or name resources.
Keep in mind that when someone talks to you about their gender identity or sexuality, assume that information is confidential. If someone shares that they are having a difficult time and you want to support them, take the time to ask how you can offer support. It’s also a good idea to ask what type of action is unhelpful, so you can avoid causing unintentional harm