You want to support your friends, family, and even people you don’t know that are part of the LGBTQIAA+ community. However, as someone who is not a member of the community, it can often be difficult to know what you should do as an ally that will help rather than making it all about yourself. It doesn’t have to be as difficult as you think. Below, we will be looking at a list of the different ways that you can be a better ally.
Learn to Listen
One of the most important things that you can do as an ally is to learn how to listen without interjecting your own thoughts and experiences. If you didn’t go through the experience that they are telling you about or that they are currently going through, just listen to them. Don’t correct them or question them about whether what they are saying is valid. Being a good listener is an essential part of being a good friend and ally.
Don’t Make Insensitive Jokes
Everyone likes a good joke, but no one likes jokes that make them feel bad. Some jokes and sayings are derogatory and harmful to those in the LGBTQIAA+ community. No matter how good you might think your intentions might be or how funny and clever you think you are, these jokes will harm others. People will no longer see you as someone safe that they can trust, and you will erode any good that you might have done. Keep in mind that this doesn’t just mean that you shouldn’t tell these jokes to someone in the LGBTQIAA+ community—you shouldn’t tell those jokes at all. You should also let family, friends, and coworkers know that you find the jokes offensive.
Do Some Research
As an ally, it doesn’t mean that you have to become an expert in every nuance in the community. However, you can do things that will help you to become a better and more knowledgeable ally. Research online and get some books on the subject. The more you learn, the better informed you will be.
Use Pronouns Correctly
Today, many people have preferred pronouns that they would like others to use. It’s important to them and their identity, and you should always respect that. Learn their pronouns and make sure that you are using them correctly. There is the possibility of forgetting or making a mistake, of course. This happens, but you will want to correct yourself and endeavor to do better. It’s a simple thing for you to do, and it helps others to better validate who they are.
Defend Against Discrimination
Whether it is in person or online, people who are in the LGBTQIAA+ community are often subject to discrimination. As an ally, you have a responsibility to speak up and defend them from insults and harassment. Make sure that the target of the harassment is safe. Don’t let your other friends, family members, or coworkers engage in mean or harassing behavior. Call them out over their actions and make them reflect on what they are doing or saying.
Don’t Assume Everyone’s Straight
Just because you are straight, you can’t assume everyone you have contact with is straight, too. In 2017, GLAAD found that around 12% of the population identifies as LGBTQIAA+ and this number has been growing. There could be someone who is close to you and who is looking for an ally and someone to talk to, so don’t make assumptions. It’s okay to ask someone how they identify and how they see themselves. Be willing to talk with them about it if they want to, but don’t push for a conversation when they don’t want to talk.
Be Wary of the Questions You Ask
Although you might be curious about the LGBTQIAA+ community, it doesn’t mean that your gay or lesbian friends and family members are going to want to answer all of your questions. This is especially true when it comes to questions that are too personal. Don’t assume that any topic is on the table. Don’t ask derogatory questions either. If you aren’t sure whether a question might be derogatory, err on the side of caution and don’t ask.
Support LGBTQIAA+ Businesses
Another way that an ally can make a difference is by putting their money where their mouth is, as they say. Find and support businesses that are owned by queer individuals. This shows financial support to these businesses, which can make a real difference for the owners and employees of the company.
Additionally, you should do your best to stay away from those businesses that have homophobic agendas. For example, if a business is known to donate to anti-gay organizations or if they have people that make homophobic comments, stop supporting their business.
Get Involved and Donate Time or Money
Look at the community centers and other organizations that support the LGBTQIAA+ community. In some cases, these places could be looking for volunteers to get involved. Other times, they might need donations. Find ways that you can help on this level, and consider getting other friends and family involved, as well. Although you might only be one person, you can make a real difference as an ally.
Learn from Your Mistakes
As an ally, you will make mistakes, especially in the beginning. You might say the wrong thing, or you might not realize the gravity of an issue that someone is talking about. When you make mistakes, you need to recognize them, accept them, and learn from them, so you don’t make those same mistakes in the future.
These are some of the best ways that you can better support those in the LGBTQIAA+ community. Keep learning and continue to become a stronger ally. You should also remember that even though you might be an ally, you are still an outsider. Your experiences and viewpoints will differ from those who are part of the community.