Being a True Ally
Working at a University back in Texas years and years ago, I noticed stickers in certain office windows — “Ally,” they read — with a rainbow background. After inquiring, I learned that many of the staff members and professors wanted to ensure a safe space for LGBTQ and questioning students. Those staff and faculty attended trainings and put the sticker in a visible place so that students knew it was safe to come in and talk about identity, orientation, and more. As a bisexual woman who wanted to support the community, I joined in and proudly kept a sticker in my office.
Since then, more and more people have heard of being an ally to the LGBTQ community, and other words describing active support have found their way into common parlance such as “accomplice” and “co-conspirator.” Each of these words, while not perfect, helps indicate solidarity and a willingness to stand behind and beside those who may be experiencing oppression and discrimination.
As PRIDE approaches, here are some reminders of ways allyship can support those of us in the LGBTQ community.
1) Consider your language – Think about how phrases like “that’s so gay” might impact people around you. It’s not just “a phrase.” Words have impact.
2) Show support in public – Come march in PRIDE, repost and share articles from your friends on social media , and call out oppression when you see it.
3) Listen, listen, listen to LGBTQ people – When in doubt listen some more. Follow LGBTQ activists on social media and read their work.
4) Ally the verb not the noun – It’s not a status you get to show off, it’s action you take to stand with and beside people who want or need your support, taking their lead and supporting them while taking the focus off yourself.
5) Educate yourself – Don’t expect others to teach you, especially if you can Google it yourself. It’s fine to ask close friends who have offered to be of help, but do work on your own and put in that effort.
6) Be aware of Intersectionality – This is a term coined by American feminist legal scholar, critical race theorist, and civil rights advocate Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw. It describes overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression. This is incredibly important. It’s not just about one letter of the LGBTQ alphabet, but all of them, AND about race, class, age, ability and more.
7) Be on duty – There aren’t any “off hours” when you are an ally. Be out as an ally with those who are out as LGBTQ all the time.
8) De-center yourself – LGBTQ people should be centered in conversations and policy decisions. Be aware of the space you take up in those conversations and focus on those who you are supporting instead of your allyship.
9) Be welcoming – You can be a warm and welcoming presence for someone who may or may not be out. Don’t apply pressure for admission of identity, but let people tell you what they’d like to share.
10) Be open to possibilities – Many people get uncomfortable with pronoun and name changes, so examine that if you feel it. Allow creativity and possibility to lead the way when a friend, co-worker, or relative is experiencing a transition and sharing themselves in a new way with you.