Three Ways You Can Be an LGBTQ Ally
October 10, 2014
I’ve always thought of compassion and consideration for the well-being of others as two necessary qualities for any human. An ally to the LGBTQ community, in my opinion, embodies these characteristics by supporting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and speaking out against acts of transphobia and homophobia. I consider myself an LGBTQ ally, but some may find it difficult to stand up and speak out, whether it be for fear of being labeled gay themselves or disagreeing with their friends. But I personally find it is more important for a heterosexual and/or cisgender person to stand up for equal rights than be worried about being teased. And what’s so bad about being called gay anyway?
Since today marks the first day of Ally Week, here are three simple things that you can do as an ally to support the LGBTQ community:
1) Be vocal and be supportive.
We all know how difficult it can be to stand up to people, especially if they’re your friends. However, if people are making homophobic or transphobic jokes, one of the most important things that you can do is stand up to them. Another helpful thing you can do is to be encouraging and open to LGBT or questioning friends. And if a friend has chosen to come out to you, respect your friend’s confidentiality and let him or her know you’re there.
2) Understand what coming out truly is.
Friends who come out are still the same friends you knew before. Sharing their sexual orientation does not change who they are. I imagine coming out is terrifying. It forces someone to put a private part of his or her life on display for the community to see and evaluate. People then either reject or accept that person simply based on who they’re attracted to. You can help by keeping in mind that a person’s sexual orientation isn’t a significant change in character. Be careful not to belittle your friend’s experience, but reassure him or her that this does not change your friendship. It is a big deal that your friend chose to tell you, so let him or her know that you’re glad he or she opened up to you.
3) Don’t pretend to have all the answers.
The assumption is that everyone is cisgender or heterosexual until they say otherwise. Heterosexual and cisgender people don’t have to come out. This means that dealing with the pressure and backlash of coming out will be foreign to cisgender and heterosexual people, so cisgender and heterosexual people can’t pretend to completely understand or to have all the answers. In the end, all you can do is offer your friendship and support, which may be exactly what your friend needs.
Just as I mentioned above, I don’t pretend to have all the answers. I offer my basic insight and understanding on how a friend and ally can make the situation better. Of course, in a perfect world LGBTQ people wouldn’t need to come out just as heterosexual and cisgender people don’t have to. While there are so many things you can do to be a good ally, I wanted to highlight a few simple things that could go a very long way not only during Ally Week, but every week.