June is pride month, and although it’s great to shine a light on the LGBTQ community, it is important that we remember that they do still need us to be an LGBTQ ally the other 11 months of the year.
What Is An Ally?
An ally is usually a cisgender or heterosexual person who respects members of the LGBTQ+ community, often aligning themselves with the LGBTQ+ community when it comes to matters of equal rights, gender equality, and social movements. Just like we should all be feminists, we should all be allies too.
Here's how you can be a LGBTQ+ ally to your friends...
- Be a listener.
- Have an open-mind.
- Be open to education – educating yourself is key to being a good ally. So don’t be afraid to ask your LGBTQ-identifying friends and family questions, and have real, deep conversations about their experiences. It can be hard sometimes because you might find out you’ve been doing or thinking about something the wrong way.
- Do some research – being curious is a healthy and good thing, but there’s no reason you can’t do a little research on your own given all of the resources out there.
- Check your own privilege
- Don’t assume that all of your friends and classmates are straight. Someone close to you could be looking for support in their coming-out process. Not making assumptions will give them the space they need.
- Anti-LGBT comments and jokes are harmful. Let your friends, family and classmates know that you find them offensive.
- Confront your own prejudices and bias, even if it is uncomfortable to do so.
- Be inclusive and invite LGBTQ friends to hang out with your friends and family.
- Don’t generalise or buy into stereotypes. Spoiler: but not all gay men are obsessed with makeup and dolling you up for a date like gay BFFs are depicted in Hollywood movies. And lesbians aren’t all “butch”. Both stereotypes are really offensive.
- Don’t refer to friends as your gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer best friend – pretty sure that they don’t refer to you as “my straight friend, *insert name*. Their sexuality doesn’t define them as a person, just the same as it doesn’t with you.
- Don’t out them to people they don’t know – just because your LGBTQ friends are comfortable sharing their identity with you, it doesn’t mean they are ready for everyone to know. As a general practice, unless they bring it up first, don’t talk about it with other people.
- Listen to them when they call you out for something.
- Defend your LGBTQ friends against discrimination – if you hear someone say an anti-LGBTQ slur, Call. It. Out.
- Believe that all people, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation, should be treated with dignity and respect.
- Recognise and appreciate difference – if you have more than one friend in the LGBTQ community, they are likely to have very different experiences. Don’t assume that just because you know one person’s journey that you know them all.
- Things have changed a lot in Ireland over the past 30 years, so sometimes there can be a big generational gap when it comes to LGBTQ issues – educate your parents and grandparents on the changes and current issues. Also challenge them if they have prejudices.
- Don’t ask invasive questions
- Educate yourself on acceptable terms and language when discussing gender and sexuality
- Don’t forget queer people for the rest of the year – Pride Month is just 30 days!
Use your platform and privilege as a straight person to boost LGBTQ+ voices, without asking for a pat on the back for it.