When someone you know and love comes out to you as queer, how do you react? How can you be understanding, open-minded and welcoming to them especially if heterosexuality is what you’re used to? A lot of people find themselves in this predicament not knowing what to do or say without it sounding wrong and this article is for them.
Wikipedia describes an ally as, “A heterosexual and cisgender person who supports and/or accepts equal civil rights, gender equality, and LGBT social movements, challenging what they perceive as homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia.” An ally is simply a friend and supporter of LGBTQ+ individuals.
Allyship should be built on the foundations of acceptance, empathy and safety. Without allyship, LGBTQ+ individuals are not safe and free to express their gender identity and sexual orientation. It’s not about sounding politically correct by saying the right things but about making real connections with and understanding the LGBTQ+ community. Allyship matters because it creates more room for people to live in their truth without the fear of being judged, oppressed or abused.
How can you become a better LGBTQ+ ally or start your journey of allyship?
- Listen actively without trying to fix or change anything in them or convince them out of their feelings and identity. When someone tells you that they are questioning/exploring their sexuality and gender, just give them a listening ear. Let them express their concerns or doubts without you getting in the way. Listen when they tell you about their experiences with homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, etc. No judgment or interruption – just listen.
- Ask questions. If you don’t fully understand what you’re hearing, ask for clarity. Don’t jump to conclusions or assume people’s orientations if they haven’t said it themselves. Ask what pronouns they prefer to go by so that you can respect their identities. If you’re unsure if something is offensive, ask someone who belongs to the community before using it yourself. The questions should not be a means of pushing your own agenda down their throats.
- Learn as much as you can. Educate yourself on what the acronym LGBTQ+ means because those letters don’t mean the same thing. Follow social media creators who highlight and educate on these issues from first-hand experience. Organizations like GLAAD and PFLAG have resources that answer questions about LGBTQ+. Learn about the rights that they currently don’t have access to under law so that you can be a better advocate for them to champion more equality. You can also educate yourself on the challenges they face and how you can show your support.
- Be supportive of your LGBTQ friends and family members when they come out to you. Give them space to talk about this new part of themselves, but also be sure that you don’t pressure them into anything they don’t want to do. A loved one who trusts you with this information about themselves deserves your allyship. If you’re a parent unsure of what to do or say, focus on loving and being there for your child because that’s what they need. Treat them as you would your other children and assure them that it’s okay to be themselves.
- Challenge and unlearn your personal biases, prejudices and stereotypes. Our beliefs and worldviews influence how we speak to and treat people who are different from us. A lot of this is rooted in culture, socialization and religious views. Unlearn everything you know that might cause you to judge or shame a queer person. You can’t be empathetic if you don’t try and understand where queer people are coming from even if it’s not your personal experience.
Becoming an ally means that you are contributing to the community care of LGBTQ+ individuals. Community care is about togetherness and using the resources we have to care for each other in our families, neighborhoods and organizations. It looks like activism, donating, volunteering, calling out injustices or simply being there for the other people. Community care is also simply asking, “How can I support you or be there for you?”
Our call lines are open to help you become a better ally as a parent, sibling, friend, and even stranger. Navigating allyship can be tough and we get it so allow us to help you through it. Schedule your free consultation call today.