BEING AN ALLY CAN SOMETIMES SEEM INTIMIDATING. ARE THE THINGS I’M DOING OR SAYING HELPING?
Am I saying something wrong accidentally? Don’t worry! Supporting an LGTBQ+ person with love, understanding, and respect is half the battle. Read on for Dos and Don’ts for educated LGBTQ+ allyship.
- BE INFORMED.
Do use the right terms. Maybe start with the basics, like this list of LGBT terms from the University of Massachusetts. Knowledge is power!
Don’t use “gay” and the like as a derogatory term. Some people have been using phrases like “Ugh, that’s so gay” so long that it’s a habit. But habits can (and sometimes should) be broken.
- UNDERSTAND IDENTITY
Do use people’s pronouns. If you’re not sure, ask. That shows that you’re listening and that you respect their identity. Remember: Pronouns are not “preferred”—simply give your name and pronouns and ask someone theirs. Similarly, names are not “preferred.” They’re names. Period.
Don’t criticize their pronouns. Phrases like “It’s so hard remembering to call you ‘they’” or “but you don’t act gay” are disrespectful and devaluing. If you mess up, correct yourself and move on. Over-apologizing makes it awkward for everyone.
- RESPECT PEOPLE’S SEXUALITY AND/OR GENDER IDENTITY.
Do show your support for LGBT friends and family. Get to know their partners and treat LGBT relationships as they really are: normal. Being an ally means understanding that sexuality and gender identity are two separate concepts.
Don’t minimize LGBT people. Phrases like “You’re so handsome, I wish you weren’t gay” and the very-common “I don’t see you as trans, I see you as a person” are incredibly hurtful even when said with the best of intentions. Just don’t. Please.
- MAKE YOUR SPACE A SAFE SPACE.
Do be visible and loud! Attend Pride events, wear pins or bracelets that show your support. And maybe most importantly: stand up against intolerance with your words and actions. Provide gender neutral bathrooms or other accommodations LGBTQ+ guests need.
Don’t only be an ally when you’re in an LGBT space. Being an ally isn’t a light switch you can flip on and off—because if you aren’t going to be an ally wherever you go, are you really an ally at all?
- COMMUNICATE BETTER.
Do Listen when LGBT people talk about their experiences. Sometimes it’s really hard to find an outlet, and it’s really important to show that you are there to be supportive. Stick up for them, even when they are not around. Also: this is a great way to stay informed (See #1).