How to be an LGBTQ+ ally
Being an ally to any community is an ongoing learning process. Not being part of the community that you support may make it impossible for you to fully grasp the weight of the issues that it deals with. However, there are some important ways that allies to any marginalized community, specifically the LGBTQ+ community, can be supportive.
Firstly, respect everyone’s gender identity and sexual orientation. Not everyone will have the same experience as you – So, stay open-minded.
Respect also involves using the correct name and pronouns for a person – If you don’t know, it’s better to ask than to risk being offensive.
It’s okay if you don’t know what every term means. People are constantly finding new labels to describe themselves, and it can be hard to keep up with them – It’s okay if you don’t know.
Just respect others’ use of them, and don’t ask if it’s a “real thing.” Let people have their differences and use labels they feel comfortable with. This applies to both gender and sexual orientation.
Next, apologize. It can be extremely difficult getting used to new names or pronouns, especially if you’ve known someone for a long time. There will be times when you slip up and, when you do, make sure you apologize. Listen to the concerns of the other person and commit yourself to change your behavior.
Try not to assume a person’s gender. If you aren’t sure of how they identify, ask. Ask for their name and pronouns, and if you really don’t know, using “they/them” is more inclusive and safe.
There are some things that you just should not ask LGBTQ+ people. Don’t ask for “dead names” that are associated with a trans person’s sex assigned at birth. Saying the name can bring up painful memories for a trans person – Just respect their transition by using their chosen name and pronouns.
Do not ask what gender a person “used to be.” A trans person never used to be any gender – Their gender was always the gender they identify with. Don’t say things like, “She used to be a girl” – If a person identifies as a girl, they were always a girl.
Don’t be afraid to stand up for a trans, lesbian, gay, or bisexual person if the situation is safe for you to do so – Call people out when they are misgendered and use your privilege to make sure others respect everyone’s identity.
Lastly, the most important part of being an ally is taking action. While it is great to want to go to gay pride celebrations, if you don’t show up for some of the harder events, like rallies and protests, it shows the LGBTQ+ community that you only want to be part of the fun, but not the issues that many of them face.
Overall, being an ally is all about respect. Respect a person’s identity, the gender they chose to or chose not to identify with, and commit yourself to use the correct pronouns and breaking habits such as automatically assuming and labeling a person’s gender.