Many people consider themselves to be an ally of the LGBTQIA+ community, and that’s great! It’s always important to be an ally for targeted individuals. However, being an ally is more than just claiming you are one. It’s more than telling everyone on social media that you support the community. Here are a few ways that you can up your game as an ally:
One of the most important things about being an LGBTQIA+ ally is to contribute to the fight for equal rights. People in the LGBTQIA+ community deserve to be treated like human beings and have the same rights as the general population. Speak up when you see someone being ridiculed for loving who they love. Defending members when they’re under attack is a great way to show that there are true allies that believe in equality. When you stay quiet in situations like this, it can make members of the community feel alone and that they don’t have anybody outside of the community helping them fight for their rights. Contributing to their fight can also include going to pride parades or events where you showcase your support. The same goes for when you hear a stereotype about the community verbalizing that the comment is inappropriate is a great way to be a supportive ally.
Another way to be an ally is to listen to members. People in the community want to be heard and want others to know what they’re going through. To be ally does not mean to talk over them and relate to their experiences. It means actually listening to them, acknowledging what they’ve been through and to be a shoulder to lean on, especially during their darkest and hardest times. Even if you may not understand what they’re going through, acknowledging what is being said and being present shows that you care. Displaying empathy acknowledges the fact that their struggles matter and that you want to support them.
To be an ally does not mean being careful with what you say and walking on glass. It means being supportive. Many people in the LGBTQIA+ community do look for signs of whether their friends and family are secretly homophobic. Having a rainbow wristband on your wrist or a rainbow key can be more supportive to them than you think. They look for little signs to indicate how you really feel about them and their community. Hearing things such as, “That’s so gay," or “No homo" can be triggering for them and will give them a sign that you may not be as supportive as you say you are.
What it means to be an LGBTQIA+ ally is to be reassuring and accepting without minimizing their queerness. You can reassure your friends that loving who they love is important so that they know you fully support them. However, reassuring them doesn’t mean saying things like, “Oh, I couldn’t even tell you’re gay!" Many people in the community often get offended when they hear things like this. This statement is not a reassuring line. It shows to them that you’re stereotyping them and that they don’t live up your “gay expectations." Reassuring them means reiterating that they deserve rights and that you will continue to fight with them until they get the respect, equality and love they deserve. It most definitely doesn’t mean saying, “Gay people have the most fun!" or “I love going to gay bars, they’re so different from the ones I go to!" These are not reassuring statements. In fact, it makes them feel different instead of accepted. It can also make them feel like they’re just a pawn or an experience to you. Reassuring and accepting them includes letting them know that they are loved and that their feelings matter.
For the LGBTQIA+ community, it means a lot to them when they hear that they have allies supporting them. However, it means more to them when these allies speak up and defend them. They remember the moments when they see others validating that their life matters the most. So if you are an ally of the community, you do not need to walk on eggshells around them, but you do need to be aware that being an ally is more than claiming you’re one on social media.