How to be a better Ally

Written by: Emily Peterson, MS, LPC-IT

Welcome to June!  School is out.  The sun has (finally) come out!  And you may know someone who has come out!  Don’t know what to say, or how to support that person?  You are in luck because this blog will provide you with some tips on how to be a better ally to the LGBTQ+ community!

Did you know that June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month?  It all started in 1970, one year after the historic Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village, New York.  Pride has evolved over the past few decades, and is now seen as a celebration of sexuality and queer life.  One way to support the LGBTQ+ community is to learn how to be a better ally.  Here is a list of suggestions to help!

  1. Be an Active Learner. You don’t have to recite facts or memorize exact dates of the important LGBTQ+ milestones in history.  However, it is important learn about the history, current events, and relevant issues that this population faces.  It is also important to recognize that it is not the responsibility of members of the LGBTQ+ community to educate you.  People may answer questions and provide you with helpful information, but it is important to seek out other resources as well.
  2. Practice Respect. You do not have to have full understanding to show respect.  Avoid seeing Pride as a “spectacle” or an excuse to gawk at LGBTQ+ people.  Know what the Pride flag signifies and what you are truly celebrating if you attend a Pride event.  Practice respect for lifestyles that may be different from yours.
  3. Don’t be a Fair-Weather Ally. Being an ally to the LGBTQ+ community is more than just celebrating Pride in June with your friends.  Being an ally is a commitment twelve months of the year.  Being an ally is not retreating into your privilege.  It is not stepping back when you don’t want to engage in discussion.  It is about stepping up to the plate when needed, no matter what month it is.
  4. Use Your Privilege. Do you remember last year during the peak of the #MeToo Movement, celebrities would take the opportunity at award shows to call attention to the sexual harassment in the entertainment industry?  That is an example of how celebrities used their privilege to call attention to inequality.  Now, not many of us in Central Wisconsin get the opportunity to step into a spotlight that public, but we are occasionally offered the chance to use our privilege to help others.  Throughout history, our society has marginalized or silenced LGBTQ+ voices.  As an ally, it is important for us to recognize our privilege and use it to amplify marginalized voices.

Now I know you’ve heard enough from me… Here are some tips from a few members of the LGBTQ+ community:

  1. “I’ve always felt like when allies meet a new LGBT member, they should forget what they thought they knew. Everyone has their own story and sexualities are never the same.”
  2. “Be active in advocating! Wearing the “ally” badge is great, but not just for social media.”
  3. “Speak up with LGBT rights are threatened.”
  4. “Just listen.”
  5. “Sometimes venting and knowing someone is in our corner can mean the world sometimes.”
  6. “Don’t assume all your friends or coworkers are straight.”
  7. “Don’t make assumptions.”
  8. “Nobody is perfect. Just try your best.”

10 Ways to be an ally and a friend. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.glaad.org/resources/ally/2

HRC staff. (2014). The history of LGBT Pride, from 1970 to now. Retrieved from https://www.hrc.org/blog/the-history-of-lgbt-pride-from-1970-to-now

Utt, J. (2013). So you call yourself an ally: 10 things all ‘allies’ need to know. Retrieved from https://everydayfeminism.com/2013/11/things-allies-need-to-know/