As LGBTQ+ Pride Month comes to a close, we know that many people have questions about how they can support the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people in their lives. Being an ally is about more than claiming the label. It involves taking action, and making a stand against oppression and marginalization. Below, we are breaking down some ideas of how you can do just that — both during Pride and throughout the year.
Too often, people with good intentions make themselves the center of conversations about issues that don’t directly affect them. As an LGBTQ+ ally, your goal should be to uplift marginalized voices — which starts by listening.
Part of listening involves following the lead of your LGBTQ+ friends, family, colleagues, and peers. For example, if you are out with a gay friend and someone makes a homophobic remark, you may want to defend them. While it is important to use your voice to speak out against homophobia, pay close attention to what your friend wants. If they don’t want to make a scene and ask you to let it go, listen to them. Remember: being an ally is about benefitting LGBTQ+ people, not about proving that you are an ally.
One of the best ways that you can be an ally to LGBTQ+ people is to spend some time educating yourself about the issues that affect them. This relieves some of the burden on people in your life to teach you about things like the discrimination that they have experienced.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t ask questions — but your questions should be informed so that they are not offensive or cumbersome. There are lots of resources available (like our glossary) that can help you understand certain concepts and terms. Do your research, and learn as much as you can as a way to show both respect and support.
If you hear or see something that is damaging towards the LGBTQ+ community, say something. Let the other person know how their words or actions affect others, and ask them to stop. This may include doing things like:
Correcting people if they misgender someone, even if that person is not in the room;
Updating your email signature to include your pronouns; and
Saying something if a person uses slurs or insensitive language.
Speaking out can also include showing your support in visible ways, like wearing a Pride pin or hanging a Pride flag at your house.
Being inclusive can take many forms, from the language that you use to inviting your LGBTQ+ friends and family to your home. When it comes to language, be mindful of the words that you use, and strive to use words that don’t make assumptions or include negativity about LGBTQ+ people. For example, instead of asking someone if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend, you can simply ask if they are dating anyone.
Confront Your Own Bias
One of the hardest things that allies must do is to recognize that we all have certain biases and preconceived notions. Realizing that each of us carries with us internalized phobias, biases, and stereotypes allows us to address them head on — which can make us better allies.
At the same time, accept that you will probably make mistakes along the way. No ally is perfect, and making errors just means that you have some learning to do. If you do make a mistake, don’t make a scene or get defensive — instead, focus on apologizing and doing better next time.
Recognize Your Privilege — and Use It for Good
If you are a cisgender, heterosexual person, then you have a certain amount of privilege (or a societal advantage). This doesn’t mean that your life is easy — but it does mean that you don’t face difficulties (such as discrimination) because of your gender identity or sexual orientation. Recognizing that you have this type of privilege is critical in becoming a LGBTQ+ ally.
The next step is to use your privilege for good. This doesn’t mean centering yourself in a conversation about LGBTQ+ issues — but instead finding ways to confront oppression and marginalization. For example, your employer’s health insurance plan may cover hormone replacement therapy for women in menopause — but not hormone treatment for transgender individuals. You can use your privilege to ask your employer to change this policy, even though it may not impact you personally.
Need Help? Reach Out Today.
At Blackburn Center, we are proud to be an ally organization to the LGBTQ+ community. We understand that gender-based violence can affect anyone — and that it may impact LGBTQ+ people in unique ways.
We offer a range of services to women, children and men who have experienced violence or abuse. If you need help, we are here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Give us a call anytime at 1-888-832-2272. Calls to our hotline are always free of charge, and can be confidential.