What is an Ally?
An ally is someone who advocates for and supports members of a community other than their own; reaching across differences to achieve mutual goals.
Why do LGBTQ+ people need allies?
It is a widely available statistic that an estimated 10% of the population is comprised of LGBT people. This means that one in four families have a sexual minority within their immediate circle and almost everyone loves someone who is LGBT within their extended circle of friends.
Despite decades of progress towards universal human rights, the LGBT community still confronts criticism, discrimination, and animosity. Alarmingly, these prejudices and stereotypes are often much more socially acceptable when directed towards sexual minorities than towards many ethnic, racial, and religious minorities.
By forming an alliance with those that we love, we can forge a bridge of understanding and support that will strengthen the fabric of our society.
What can allies do?
- Help LGBT people feel supported and included.
- Help others understand more about LGBT experiences.
- Support fairness and justice for everyone.
- Make our neighborhoods, communities, and our world a safer place for everyone.
How can I get started?
Strong allies learn about LGBT issues and share their insights with others. Here are some basic ways to do so:
- Educate yourself
- Ask Questions
- Support Your LGBT Friends & Family
Support your LGBT friends & family
- A real friend walks in when everyone else walks out.
- Let them know you care.
- Invite them (and any significant other) to activities with your heterosexual friends.
- Learn to use the words gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, and transgender comfortably and correctly.
- Be interested in their romantic life and significant others. If they are in a committed relationship, be sure to ask about “partners,” rather than “boyfriends” or “girlfriends,” showing your acceptance of both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.
- Join PFLAG, GLSEN, GLAAD, and other support groups.
- Share the same kinds of pasttimes.
- Talk to them about the same things as you do with other friends (music, weekends, parties, parents, dates, movies, studies, etc.). Their sexuality is just one part of their life (just as it is with yours) and should not dominate all of your conversations with them.
- Volunteer for or contribute to organizations that support the LGBT community.
- Be as physical (or not) just as you are with heterosexual friends.
- Check in with them if there has been an anti-gay incident on campus or in the news.
- Do not inform others of their sexual orientation or identity without prior consent. In fact, as with all good friends, if they tell you anything in confidence, honor that trust. Go to queer events now and then, such as the Utah Pride Festival.
Educate & Advocate
- The responsibility of tolerance lies with those who have the ability to advocated and educate in areas uncomfortable/unsafe to the LGBT community.
- Make LGBT issues a comfortable part of your everyday conversation, just as you might talk about music, a class, or political ideas.
- Let people know you don’t want to hear offensive slang, anti-gay jokes, stereotypical remarks, or put-downs of LGBT people.
- Write an editorial when someone prints a slanderous article about the LGBT community.
- Stand up against harassment of a person or group perceived as LGBT.
- Join a political rally.
- Write a letter to your legislators encouraging them to defend the civil rights of the LGBT community.
- Report illegal discrimination, hate crimes, and abuse to the authorities.
Some Terms to Know
When communicating with others regarding the LGBT community, it is important to use the correct terminology comfortably and confidently. The LGBT community is a vastly diverse group, even among itself. Below are some of the major groups of sexual identities:
- A man attracted to another man; can also be used as an umbrella term for lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals.
- Women who are attracted to other women.
- Attracted to both men and women.
- Someone's psychological self ("gender identity") differs from the social expectations for the physical sex they were born with.
- Individuals who regularly or occasionally wear the clothing socially assigned to a gender not their own, but are usually comfortable with their anatomy and do not wish to change it.
- The preferred term, rather than transvestite.
- Drag King
- Male-emulating woman.
- Drag Queen
- Female-emulating male, usually exaggerated or performative, often (not always) gay.
- The performance of one or multiple genders theatrically. This is gender as purely performance, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the person’s gender identity.
- Masculine-appearing person.
- Feminine-appearing person.
- An appearance and/or identification that is neither man nor woman, presenting a gender either mixed or neutral.
- A person whose sexual identity (yet not necessarily their orientation) is opposite their assignment at birth. Not all TS people undergo sexual reassignment surgery.
- FTM (female to male)
- Transgender man who was assigned “female” at birth.
- MTF (male to female)
- Transgender woman who was assigned “male” at birth.
- A term used to describe a person whose sex chromosomes, genitalia, and/or secondary sex characteristics are determined to be neither exclusively male nor female.
- Cconsidered a more appropriate term than "asexual," a person who has no evident sex or sex organs. In usage it may refer to a person who is not sexually active, or not sexually attracted to other persons.
- A person who experiences the human need for warmth, affection, and love from persons of the opposite gender. Sometimes this includes sexual contact.
- Refers to having honest, usually non-possessive, relationships with multiple partners.
- Different. Once used primarily as a pejorative term, queer is being reclaimed by many LGBT+ people in an attempt to blur rigid labels. Many who choose to use the term feel that it is more inclusive, allowing for diversity of race, class, and gender that are often underrepresented in the LGBT community.
- A person who recognizes more than two genders and experiences the human need for warmth, affection, and/or love from a person of any gender.
- First used in 1994 by British journalist Mark Simpson, who coined the term to refer to an urban, heterosexual male with a strong aesthetic sense, who spends a great deal of time and money on his appearance and lifestyle. This term can be perceived as derogatory beacuse it reinforces stereotypes that all gay men are fashion-conscious and materialistic.
- Gender Queer
- A person who redefines or plays with gender, or who refuses gender altogether. A label for people who bend/break the rules of gender and blur the boundaries.
- Literally "not transgender." This is a less problematic term for people who are not transgender -- prefrred over terms like "real man/woman," "biological man/woman," or "natural man/woman."
- Male Assigned At Birth.
- Female Assigned At Birth.
- Someone who does not identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual -- either because they haven't determined how best to identify themselves or simply because they do not wish to associate themselves with any one category.
- Ze (zee)/Hir (here)
- Gender neutral pronouns that can be used instead of his/her.
Will people think you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender?
It is a possibility and one great way to show your support for LGBT people is to be OK if this happens. Correct any misunderstandings without getting flustered or defensive. Then people will see that you are comfortable with yourself as well as with the LGBT community.
- How do they feel about LGBT issues?
- What helps them accept others?
- Why are people so quick to judge others?
- Read books by or about LGBT people.
- Attend a workshop about diversity or homophobia.
- Visit your local LGBT/Pride Center.
- Research topics at the library at the university campus or the LGBT Resource Center.
- Read poetry or stories with LGBT themes.
Ask LGBT people about their experiences
- What was coming out like?
- Who supports them and how?
- What can you do to support them?
- Have they been harassed or discriminated against?
- How does being gay affect their lives?
Ask yourself some questions, too
- How comfortable are you with LGBT people?
- What are your assumptions?
- Do you hold any stereotypes?
- What comes to mind when you think of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals?
- What personal characteristics and perspectives will make it easy for you to be an ally?
- What personal characteristics and perspectives will make it more difficult?
- Are there questions you’d like to have answered?