Being an Ally: The Personal Level
If a friend, family member, or any other close person in your life confides in you that they identify as something within the LGBTQ community, it’s important that you respect them by being a good friend. Remember that they are more than likely struggling. They were probably extremely nervous to tell you, but they probably trust you. This makes it crucial to be there for them as much as possible, as they are going through a very fragile and tumultuous journey of self-realization and acceptance. Here are some tips on what to do to help a loved one who has come out to you:
- Listen. Being a good listener is essential to be a helpful ally. It’s likely that your loved one has a lot to say, whether it be about their experiences, their fears, or their hopes for the future. Be sure to validate them, as insecurity and doubt are often filling their mind.
- Be respectful. Always be careful of what you say. Choose your words thoughtfully. It’s quite common for coming out to be an extremely nerve-wrecking experience, so being kind and respectful is imperative for your loved one’s comfort.
- Reassurance. Validation, encouragement, and support are vital to being a good friend to someone in the LGBTQ community. Since there is so much discrimination, harassment, and stigma surrounding LGBTQ, it’s very important that an individual’s friends and loved ones are as supportive and encouraging as possible.
- Fight against discrimination. Don’t be afraid to confront unacceptable behavior, comments, jokes, and other discourse that is damaging or discriminatory against the LGBTQ community. As an ally, it is important for you to know that any type of discriminatory comment can be very harmful, especially to someone who has just recently come out.
- Avoid assuming. Making assumptions about someone’s gender identity or sexuality isn’t helpful. If you suspect that a friend or loved one identifies within the LGBTQ community, try not to ask them. It’s important that they come to you first and that they begin to tell people at their own pace. Assuming one’s gender or sexuality to be straight can also be harmful. This is referred to as “heteronormativity.” It can be harder for someone to convince themselves that it’s safe to tell you about their identity if you are full of assumptions.
Being an Ally: A Larger Scale
The LGBTQ community needs help from all kinds of people, and any type of person can be an effective ally. By changing your lifestyle, words, habits, and being more proactive, you can really aid in the fight for equality. These changes range from simply changing your vocabulary to dedicating your time to volunteering for LGBTQ organizations. Here are some of the most helpful ways that you can be an effective ally to the LGBTQ community as a whole:
- Pronouns. Remember that not everyone uses he or she pronouns. One’s appearance doesn’t always match up to society’s gender appearances. Therefore, it’s important to try and use gender neutral language when speaking to or about someone. Replace gender specific language from “he” or “her” to “they”. It would be even more helpful to ask someone what their pronouns are. If you don’t feel comfortable asking them, just stick to gender neutral language until you find out some other way.
- Become educated. One of the most important and supportive things you can do is to learn as much as you can about LGBTQ identities, genders, and what needs to be done for equality. There are many different resources that can help you learn more about the different LGBTQ laws, hardships, and other information. The most helpful are the Human Rights Campaign, the Equality Federation, The Trevor Project, and more.
- Show your support. Letting others know that you are an ally and supporter of the LGBTQ community can be extremely helpful. Not only does it let LGBTQ individuals know that you support and understand them, but you can also be an incredible influence for other people to become allies as well. You can do this by attending LGBTQ events and fundraisers, wearing buttons or shirts that advertise your support, and be a volunteer at LGBTQ events and organizations.