On Being a Better Ally
Updated: Jun 11, 2020
Being an ally is an ongoing learning process that takes continuous work. There's always something new to learn and something more to do to support the LGBTQ+ community (and all marginalized communities, for that matter). Here's our list of 10 different ways you can become a better ally. (And a lot of these pointers can apply to being a better ally to many marginalized communities in general [not just the LGBTQ+ community], so a great deal of us can gain something from this!) We hope you find this helpful!
Offer your LGBTQ+ friends support by listening to them and not delegitimizing their feelings or problems. Be open and receptive. If you are part of the problem, listen to what they are saying without getting defensive and make an effort to change for the better.
Learn and respect pronouns
This comes with practice, but respect your LGBTQ+ friends by learning their pronouns and using them correctly. This goes hand in hand with remembering not to assume other people's sexualities or gender identities. And don't forget to learn LGBTQ+ terminology so you not only understand what your queer friends are referring to, but you also understand what terms to use and avoid.
Don't expect queer people to teach you how to be a better ally--take the time to educate yourself. Research microaggressions and do not use them. (Some examples include: "You're too pretty to be gay" or "People who are bi just can't make up their mind") Erase derogatory, outdated, offensive terms or slurs from your vocabulary. (Some examples include the words "transsexual," "homosexuals," or "hermaphrodite," which should be replaced with "trans/transgender," "gay/lesbian," and "intersex," respectively) Understand why microaggressions or outdated terminology, etc. are wrong and hurtful. Do more research. Keep doing research. Keep learning. Keep striving to learn and change for the better. It is your duty as an ally to do what you can on your own time to better support your queer friends and the LGBTQ+ community.
Use more inclusive language
Avoid phrases like "ladies and gentleman" or "boys and girls" and replace them with "friends and colleagues" or "students/friends." These are simple and quick changes that include all gender identities.
Slurs are not yours to reclaim
Historically offensive slurs like "faggot" or "dyke" are NOT yours to reclaim, appropriate, or use in any way--no matter the context. Just because you have queer friends or family members does not mean you can use these words. They are not yours to use. Many queer people choose to reclaim these words as empowering terms, but this does not apply to you. There is a history of hate and oppression behind them, and no matter how close you are with queer people, hearing these words from non-queer mouths is unsettling and just does not feel the same. It doesn't matter if you're "just messing around," it still hurts and it still feels weird and wrong coming from your mouth. Please eliminate slurs like these from your vocabulary--and learn why you should not be saying them. You will be bettering yourself and avoiding unnecessary harm to your queer friends the the queer community.
Do your best to catch yourself when doing something problematic and correct your behavior or language. This can mean catching yourself when you're staring at someone who looks and identifies differently than you. It can be tricky since so much has been socialized since birth, but becoming aware of your own subconscious behaviors is the first step.
If you are able to, donate to LGBTQ+ nonprofits, organizations, charities, programs, projects, initiatives, and more! Every little bit counts in the fight for equality. And when better to start than Pride month? Here are a few places to donate to: SNaPCO; LGBTQ+ Freedom Fund; Youth Breakout; PFLAG; The Trevor Project; GLAD; GLAAD; GLSEN; Howard Brown Health Center. You can also locate more organizations to donate to on our resources page.
Defend your queer friends and the queer community
Speak up and stand up against discrimination and hate towards the LGBTQ+ community. Be a rock for queer friends, family members, and the community and use your voice for good. Be an advocate with and without your queer friends present. If your straight, cisgender friends are being problematic, call them out and engage them in conversation to help them understand why what they're saying or doing is hurtful. Become a supportive voice even when nobody is watching you.
Hold yourself accountable
You're going to mess up--and that's okay, as long as you hold yourself accountable, apologize, and take the necessary steps to correct yourself for the future. This means that when your queer friend calls you out for doing or saying something insensitive or homophobic/transphobic/etc., you listen to what they are saying. Acknowledge their feelings and hold yourself accountable by apologizing, educating yourself, understanding what you did wrong, and changing your behavior for the future. Learning how to hold yourself accountable starts with learning how to apologize. No, "I'm sorry what I said/did offended you" is not an apology. People make mistakes and we are all learning. What's important is how you move forward.
Join the Movement
If you are able to, support the LGBTQ+ community by putting your body on the line and joining protests, marches, and demonstrations. Use your voice, use your power, use your privilege. Jump off the sidelines, show up, and get to work with us.
We hope you enjoyed our list! See anything we missed? If you have any advice or would like us to give specific advice, email us at Prism@Hopeloft.com!