There’s no such thing as a perfect ally; you’re bound to make mistakes. But with some easy changes, you can be a better ally to the LGBTQ+ community.
The word ally means someone who advocates for the rights of marginalized people, and it has many synonyms—supporter, protector, partner, and even friend. However, allies of the LGBTQ+ community are faced with a conundrum when they decide to be a defender of LGBTQ+ rights. They quickly realize there is no guidebook on how to be the perfect ally.
You don’t want to speak over the voices of others, step into circles in a way that may make others feel unsafe, or damage a cause without meaning to. It’s up to you to navigate the field of allyship with respect, compassion, empathy, and interpersonal awareness. No one is perfect; therefore, there is no perfect ally. However, there are things you can do to be a better ally to the LGBTQ+ community.
Learn How To Listen More Than You Speak
Listening is not just about being silent; rather, it’s about genuinely hearing and internalizing the experiences and perspectives of LGBTQ+ individuals. Often, the most enlightening insights come from personal stories and experiences.
When a member of the LGBTQ+ community shares their narrative with you, take this as a precious opportunity to broaden your understanding, challenge your preconceptions, and truly empathize with their journey. LGBTQ+ community members face the challenge of not having their voices heard every day—be mindful of whether you’re speaking over or for someone instead of supporting them.
Being an Ally Means Being Active
Saying you’re an ally isn’t the same as actually being an ally. Allyship is inherently tied to activism, but knowing how to help can be difficult at times. While LGBTQ+ civil rights have advanced, there are still ongoing challenges; with book bans, violence, and anti-LGBTQ+ legislation being passed seemingly every day, there is no shortage of activism opportunities.
Attend protests and rallies, contact your local government officials, and vote! Part of being a better ally to the LGBTQ+ community means joining to make the overall voice of change louder. The louder and harder we collectively fight, the sooner change will come.
Be Conscious of How You Speak and the Language You Use
Language is a powerful tool; it can either perpetuate stereotypes and biases or contribute to an inclusive and accepting environment. For example, using a person’s correct pronouns and avoiding making assumptions about a person’s gender or sexuality are basic acts of respect.
However, there are ways to use language to actively protect LGTBQ+ members. Using gender-neutral terms such as “partner” or defaulting to they/them pronouns when you aren’t sure of someone’s gender identity can be extremely helpful. When we make these words more commonplace, we allow LGBTQ+ members to use these terms without immediately outing themselves to the wrong people.
Humility Is a Must: Know When and How To Apologize
It’s best to accept the fact now that you will make mistakes, and that’s okay! You may misgender someone, speak over someone, or cause unintentional harm to a person in the community. Our first line of defense as humans may be to backpedal or try and defend our mistakes, but that’s not needed here.
It’s crucial to listen, take responsibility, and make an effort to learn. An apology isn’t about defending your intentions; it’s about acknowledging the impact of your actions. Being humble in these moments demonstrates your commitment to allyship, personal growth, and the LGBTQ+ community.