How to be an Effective LGBTIQ Ally
During Pride month, many people feel inspired to learn more about what it really takes to be an ally to the LGBTIQ community. Allies are crucial to the fight for recognition of the human rights of LGBTIQ people. Our allies serve as a much-needed reminder that the LGBTIQ community is not in this fight alone.
But, what does it really mean to be an ally for the community? How can allies mark Pride with a Purpose?
We are never just one thing.
It is impossible to be a true ally to the LGBTIQ community without understanding the intersectionality of LGBTIQ identities. We are never just L, G, B, T, I, or Q, our sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression do not define our entire being. Our community is composed of people of all races, ethnicities, religions, abilities, socioeconomic statuses, citizenship statuses, and everything in between. Our communities consist of athletes, and creative souls, animal lovers, and avid readers. It is essential to foster a community where all aspects of people’s identities are uplifted, not one where they feel like they can only embrace one aspect of their identity at any one time.
As Audre Lorde wrote, “there is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives."
Be an ally every day.
To be a true ally you have to be an ally every day, not just in the month of June. LGBTIQ people face discrimination, harassment, and violence all year long. Moreover, while the level of discrimination and exclusion varies by location, there is no country where LGBTIQ people are entirely safe.
Allies are needed everywhere. If you are a teacher, bring it into the classroom and ensure a safe environment for LGBTIQ youth. If you are a cook, bring it into the kitchen. If you are a trainer, bring it into the gym. If you are a healthcare worker, or service provider, or any other profession. Every space could be made more inclusive and safe for the LGBTIQ community, and you could be the one to ensure that safety. Be an active bystander wherever you are and speak up when you see injustice!
Pride is a time when information about the LGBTIQ community is readily available. There are plenty of social media accounts that post about terminology definitions, flags, LGBTIQ figures from history, and more. If you are a new ally, use this opportunity to seek information about LGBTIQ communities, about the human rights violations LGBTIQ people face, about the situations in different countries, and about how you can get involved in various initiatives as an ally. Do not rely on the LGBTIQ people in your life to explain everything about the LGBTIQ community to you, they may not want to and they may not be able to!
Ask questions, but do not push for answers. LGBTIQ people may not be ready, willing, or able to share. Instead, create a comfortable environment around yourself where people who want to share will know that they can. If it is safe for you to do so, try displaying LGBTIQ-related objects around your office or home, displaying your pronouns wherever you can, and actively engage in LGBTIQ events like Queer film festivals, marches, or community events, including virtual ones. If you are unable to participate in any of these actions, remember that one of the most powerful things anyone can do for the LGBTIQ community is to simply accept us as we are.
Lastly, and most importantly, be comfortable with being uncomfortable. It is perfectly normal to feel unsure. In fact, knowledge is constantly in flux, and what we may know now could need to be re-evaluated again in the future. There is no shame in this, and this uncertainty should be embraced and celebrated as we anticipate how else the world could shift in the years to come.
Think outside your perspective.
Remember that no one knows everything about what it means to be LGBTIQ. Listen to, and learn from, the local LGBTIQ organizations that operate on the ground in countries around the world. These organizations know what it means to be LGBTIQ in their culture better than anyone else.
If you are interested in being active in international LGBTIQ efforts, follow local LGBTIQ accounts and donate to their organizations, but do not contribute to the discourse unless you have a clear understanding of the culture and history of the region. In many places, LGBTIQ rights are misunderstood because they are viewed as a “western” invention. In many cases, this is because “western” voices have dominated the conversation. This makes the fallacy an easy one to convince people of, especially when we consider “western” nations’ legacies of colonialism.
Help to dismantle this stigma by listening to, supporting and amplifying, the local civil society organizations that are doing the work on the ground.
In many places around the world businesses also mark Pride, showing their support for LGBTIQ equality. Wearing LGBTIQ-themed clothing or accessories can be a strong sign of your allyship, however, do some research into the business you are considering buying from before you do. Do they give a portion of the proceeds back to the LGBTIQ community? Do they have a history of supporting anti-LGBTIQ legislation? Is there a Queer-owned business near you that you could buy from instead?
Use this time to amplify the voices of LGBTIQ people, do not speak for them. You can use your platform to help spread the message of many different LGBTIQ civil society organizations. While re-posting an Instagram story may not seem like a big deal, you are helping them reach audiences that they otherwise may not be able to reach.
Be prepared to have difficult conversations. When you become a visible ally for LGBTIQ people, you also become visible to those who do not support the LGBTIQ community. Try redirecting these people to resources that may help them better understand the dire importance of LGBTIQ rights protections.
Things you can do right now.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of steps that you could take, right now, to be a more inclusive ally.
- Update your social media bios, and email signatures with your pronouns.
- Purchase an inclusive Pride flag to display at your workplace, home, or other relevant location if it is safe to do where you are.
- Look into queer-owned businesses near you which you can support year-round.
- Sign-up for LGBTIQ inclusion training, and/or active bystander training, to better equip yourself for allyship in the workplace.
- Research any anti-LGBTIQ legislation that may be active in your country right now and do your due diligence to support any efforts for change by local organizations.
- With continued social distancing, many Pride events are virtual this year. This means we can attend various Pride events around the world, like, Global Black Pride, World Pride, or Can’t Cancel Pride.
- Follow some of the local organizations OutRight partners with, and do some research to find others. Examples include; TransWave Jamaica, Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, Access Chapter 2, The United Caribbean Trans Network, and Unión Afirmativa de Venezuela.
- Consider, if you can, donating to OutRight’s COVID-19 Global LGBTIQ Emergency Fund for LGBTIQ organizations that serve as front-line workers for LGBTIQ communities.
- Follow OutRight's social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn) and stay up to date with all the LGBTIQ related news, events, and more.
Published on June 11, 2021 | OutRight Action International an LGBT human rights organization