What is an ally and what does it mean to be one?
An ally is someone who advocates alongside marginalised communities to empower their voices and together spread knowledge, awareness, respect, and to challenge oppression.
If you agree in equality and fair treatment of people who identify as LGBTQ+ then you are already an ally. But there are some really simple things you can do to go from passive support to being an active and engaged LGBQ+ ally.
How to be an active ally
Familiarise yourself with the language
Use respectful terminology to everyone around you and to help you to feel more confident when discussing LGBTQ+ issues. Read a glossary of terms and teach yourself the right language to use when talking with LGBTQ+ people.
It’s okay to ask questions but check the person you’re asking is happy to answer them and that they're not offended or uncomfortable. It's not for LGBTQ+ people to teach you everything themselves. Take time to teach yourself the language and experiences.
Identity-based language for LGBTQ+ people can be an individual thing. Don’t assume everyone is comfortable using the same language to describe their identity or experiences. If in doubt, check with individuals to make sure you’re using language they’re comfortable with.
Learn the history of LGBTQ+ activism
Getting to know the history of LGBTQ+ activism is a significant part of becoming an LGBTQ+ ally. It's important to understand the social context of people’s experiences, how far we've come, and how far we need to go. It can help to expose us to the culture of those different from us and can help to encourage tolerance through understanding.
The gay rights movement teaches people the kindness and resilience of the LGBTQ+ community, as well as the ability to stand up and achieve what they believe in.
Discover the challenges and barriers the LGBTQ+ community face today
To be a good ally, it’s important to understand how LGBTQ+ people’s gender identity and sexuality exist in relation to other social issues. Research the barriers different members of the LGBTQ+ community face and learn how you can focus your support to make a difference.
Understand that the LGBTQ+ experience is not the same for everyone
People have different experiences based on how other aspects of their identity (such as race, religion, gender, and disability) interact with their sexual or gender identity. Make a conscious effort to seek out different voices and perspectives, including those of people marginalised within the LGBTQ+ community.
Don’t make assumptions
A meaningful way to show that you're an ally and a safe person is to not make assumptions about people’s identities. This involves being mindful of your default assumptions and unconscious biases. If someone refers to their 'partner', use neutral pronouns instead of assuming their partner’s gender; if someone refers to having an ex-partner of a particular gender, don’t assume that this defines their whole identity; don’t assume that because someone is trans, they've had certain medical interventions.
Get involved in the community and speak up
Discover campaigns and groups in your local area that you can get involved with.
Although it’s not always easy, there are situations where being an ally counts. The best way to encourage allyship is to start a conversation. If you hear or see something negative or harmful, challenge this, even if you don’t think there is anyone from that community present. Show that you're a safe person for LGBTQ+ to be themselves around. Use your voice alongside LGBTQ+ people to help create a safe environment for all but don't overshadow an LGBTQ+ person's right to speak up for themselves.
Being an ally means working alongside LGBTQ+ people to achieve equality.
It is about amplifying the voices of the LGBTQ+ community.
Four simple ways to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community
- Correct people if they misgender someone, even if that person isn't in the room
- Speak up when a person uses slurs, assumptions, stereotypes, or harmful language
- Promote diversity and celebrate different identities
- Update your email signature to include pronouns
- Show your support by wearing a Pride lanyard or pin (you can collect these from Student Support)