This article provides information on what an ally is, tips about what to avoid as a true supporter, and how you can become an effective ally for the LGBTQIA+ community.
As we enter into the latter half of Pride Month, you have most likely at some point come across an ad campaign, product, or store front displaying rainbow colours or supportive messaging for the LGBTQIA+ community. Getting the message to the public about Pride Month is great to normalize support within the community, but there are also negatives to the increase in branding. It is important to remember that being a true ally goes beyond buying a rainbow product or reposting a cool graphic on instagram. Allyship is not something you do, it is something you are.
What is an Ally?
So, what is an Ally? People who identify with the gender they were given at birth and are attracted to the opposite gender can be considered allies. Allies actively support LGBTQIA+ people to end homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia. This means supporting when LGBTQIA+ people share their stories and personal experiences, being there as a friend when times are hard, and intervening in situations of homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic attacks. This takes working on yourself, and learning how you can become a better ally through things like inclusive language and pronouns. Reflecting on your privilege is a good place to start. You will make mistakes, and that is okay. When you do, own up to them and take it as a learning curve. Like most things in life, it takes time and effort to learn. Pride month is a great time to increase your knowledge as there is an abundance of information to take in, but it is important to remember this information should be applied to your life beyond just June.
The Learning Curve
As previously stated, it takes time and effort to learn how to be a true ally. There may be things you thought were acceptable and positive, which in reality are negative and counterproductive. Refer to figure 1 to see a list of five things to avoid as an ally. Following these guidelines will not make you perfect as further research and experiences are needed to develop your understanding to become an effective ally.
What Can You do to Be an Ally
Though there are many ways to be an effective and positive ally, here are six tips to start with:
- Ask educated questions and do your own research
Asking questions is a positive thing as long as they are with intent to learn. It is unnecessary to rely solely on LGBTQIA+ people to relive all of their own trauma for you to educate yourself. By doing your own research you can remove some of this emotional burden. There are plenty of great sources on the internet where you will be able to find what you are looking for.
2. Build from your support online and apply it to real life situations
Being supportive on social media is good as it spreads positivity and lowers stigmas, but if this is not applied in real life situations, then there is performative activism present. There are various organizations such as The Trevor Project you can donate too and events you can attend.
3. Speak up
Use your voice for those who are underrepresented. Amplify these voices to spread the message and create a more inclusive environment. When people make snarky comments or use offensive language, call them out on it (as long as you feel you can remain safe in the situation).
4. Take responsibility when you mess up
We are all human and make mistakes. Learn from these blunders and try your best to correct them moving forward. It’s a process, and as long as you are willing to continue the journey, the world will slowly become a better place.
5. Confront your own prejudices and biases, even if it is uncomfortable to do so
You may have lingering prejudices and biases, some that you don’t even know are present. These can be certain words or actions that take a second to think about to notice you have them. Working on eliminating these traits are key in becoming a good ally.
6. Recognize privilege
This can sometimes rub people the wrong way. This does not mean you do not have a difficult life or face your own hardships, rather being straight just doesn’t make life harder for you. Recognizing you do not face discrimination for being who you are in certain places is a privilege that LGBTQIA+ people do not always have.
Learning, supporting, and speaking up are not jobs solely to be done during pride month, they are valuable actions that can make a difference 365 days a year. It’s okay to mess up or admit you don’t know something, but this doesn’t mean you should let your foot off the gas. The job is not done until everyone can be free to represent who they are at any given time, in any given place. The world has come a long way since the Stonewall riots in 1969, and we still have a ways to go. It will take understanding, effort, and compassion from all walks of life to build toward the day when every person on the planet can leave their home free to be who they are. That sounds like a much happier world.