LGBTQ+ and allies
An ally is someone who takes action to support groups they're not part of. Being an ally is not about a 'label' – it's more about what you can do to support others.
Allies are critical as they can help raise the profile of people in underrepresented groups and dispel stereotypes amongst often impenetrable 'in groups' with low diversity. This can have a transformative impact on inclusion and cultures.
How to be a good LGBTQ+ ally
A key part of LGBTQ+ people's lives is coming out. This doesn't only happen once, but happens continuously throughout a person's life.
Heterosexual or cis people don’t have to come out as most people will have assumed that they are ‘straight’ or identify with the sex they were assigned at birth. However, LGBTQ+ people need to come out multiple times in their lives to multiple groups of people. Often this can feel difficult or daunting, as this may make them feel as though they need to explain themselves, or it can open them up to scrutiny. Sometimes people’s identities do not neatly fit into boxes and it can be easier not to say anything.
You can support this by listening to LGBTQ+ people, by being supportive when they come out. It's vitally important you listen - don't just do something because you think it will help them - listen to them and take your lead from them, as they understand their needs best!
You can also help support by:
- Actively supporting events and campaigns such as Pride
- Acknowledging and actively undertaking activities, for example on social media, in recognition of important dates in the LGBTQ+ calendar, for example, LGBTQ+ History Month, International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT), and International Day of Transgender Remembrance.
- Support and champion LGBTQ+ individuals, this can begin to help open 'in groups' to others, and make these spaces truly accessible for LGBTQ+ people.
- Keep the conversation going with other heterosexual and cis-people - help them to understand what they can do to help advance LGBTQ+ equality, and how they can use their positions to further this.
- For trans and non-binary people in particular, be supportive of the way in which they wish to dress.
- Further, a good ally is self-aware, recognises what they have, learns about others and supports others who may not have their same privileges.
Some further points to consider:
- Think about what you say and the message that it may send, for example, referring to a 'husband' or 'wife', 'ladies and gentlemen' or gendered language. Consider using more inclusive gender-neutral terms instead, such as 'partner', 'esteemed guests' or 'they' instead of he/she.
- Reflect on times when you may have done this. Everybody has biases and everybody will have said something which could be interpreted in a different way from which it was intended at some point in their life. Reflect on this, and consider what you would have done instead. The important thing is recognising what we have done and considering how we can change this going forward.
- Recognise the significance of microaggressions and take these seriously. It's not whether you think that something should have made a person feel in a certain way, the point is that they felt in a certain way because of this. Listen and respect this, and consider whether you're able to help (importantly however, don't intervene without asking the person first - it may not be what they are seeking).
- Don’t make assumptions and label people. For example, assuming a person who has a partner of an opposite gender is heterosexual - they may be bi for example.
- Encourage and build inclusive environments
- Educate yourself - to learn properly, you have to be truly open to listening about other people's stories and experiences.
Remember - whilst you can educate yourself, you will not get everything right. What's important is that if you do, that you apologise and ask for help to understand and learn.