Being an Ally to LGBT People
Being an Ally to LGBT People
Anyone, regardless of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, can support lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Deepening your understanding of LGBT-related issues, including basic terms and concepts, can help you support LGBT-identified people. You may have heard of the term “ally” in relation to LGBT issues. Here, we describe some ways to think about what “ally” means and provide helpful tips on how to be one.
What Does “Ally” Mean?[i]
- A person who has a genuine, strong concern for the well-being of LGBT people
- A person who supports and accepts LGBT people, and advocates for equal rights and fair treatment[ii]
- A person who confronts challenges that LGBT people experience, and believes that we face these problems in society:
- Heterosexism — The assumption that everyone is or should be straight[iii]
- Biprejudice — Harmful, preconceived ideas about bisexual people
- Transprejudice — Harmful, preconceived ideas about transgender people
- Heterosexual Privilege — The everyday privileges straight people have in society. For example, the ability to display attraction or affection (e.g., holding hands) to the opposite gender in public without fear of judgment or even violence
Ways to Be an Ally:[iv]
- Stay Informed: If you don’t know the difference between sex and gender or current LGBT-related news and issues, educate yourself. Ask questions, do research, and don’t be afraid to be honest about what you don’t know. You can start by reading our blog post on LGBT Key Terms & Concepts!
- Speak Up: There are many reasons why people don’t speak up when they hear something offensive, like “that’s so gay.” It can be awkward, people don’t know what to say, or don’t want to make the situation worse. But, words can hurt. When you speak up, it educates others, lets them know their words are not acceptable, and may give others the courage to speak up as well. You can also change how people act in the future. This is powerful.
- Be Honest: Speak openly about family members, friends, and colleagues who are LGBT, if they are out and are comfortable with you discussing it with others. People often assume they will offend others or make them uncomfortable if they mention LGBT topics. Also, remember that occasional disagreement is normal and healthy!
- Support Equality: Support policies at school, work, or other places that help protect LGBT people from discrimination. Even if the issues seem small, they can have a big impact on people’s lives. If you see or hear of an unfair rule or policy, talk to a peer or trusted adult about your concerns and what you can do to make a change.
- Come Out as an Ally: Anyone can be an ally, regardless of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Be proud to support the LGBT community. Remember, being an ally can be joining an LGBT group — for example, Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), a student-run group — or as simple as showing your support online.
Allies are important and welcome supporters of the LGBT community. They can be effective and powerful voices for LGBT equality, and can not only help LGBT people feel comfortable coming out, but also help others understand the importance of equality and fairness for all people.[v]
For more information about being an ally, check out this Guide to Being a Straight Ally (PDF, 28 pages) from Straight for Equality.
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[i] Poirier, J. (2015). Improving conditions for learning for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) students. Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research.
[iii] University of Connecticut. (n.d.). Creating LGBTQ+ curriculum and classroom spaces at colleges and universities: A guide for faculty/instructors. Retrieved from https://rainbowcenter.uconn.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/786/2016/02/Creating-LGBTQ-Curriculum-and-Classroom-Resource-Guide-Fall-2016.pdf