QUEER CAFE │ LGBTQ INFORMATION NETWORK │ RAINBOW OF RELEVANT RESOURCES

ALLIES/ADVOCATES
 

Wikipedia: What is a Straight Ally?

Huff Post: HRC's Ally Annual Awards

Info: LGBTQ Organizations

Straight But Not Narrow

Diversity Best Practices: LGBTQ Organizations

How to be a Better Ally at Pride Events

HRC: How to be an LGBTQ Ally


LGBTQ Allies

"I affirm that I am a friend and ally of the LGBTQ community and that I will use my voice to take a stand."

-GLAAD Allies Program

 

An LGBTQ ally is a heterosexual or cisgender (straight person) who believes in, supports, and advocates for LGBTQ rights. In relation to issues of oppression, an ally is defined as a person who is a member of the "dominant" or "majority" group who challenges inequality and prejudice and works to end oppression in his or her personal and professional life through support of, and as an advocate with and for, the oppressed population. An LGBTQ ally is a person, often straight, who is accepting and supportive of the LGBTQ community.

 



You have the opportunity to be an ally and a friend at home, school, church, work, and in your community. A straight ally can merely be someone who is supportive and accepts the LGBTQ person, or a straight ally can be someone who personally advocates for equal rights and fair treatment.

Allies are some of the most effective and powerful voices of the LGBTQ movement. Not only do allies help people in the coming-out process, they also help others understand the importance of equality, fairness, tolerance and mutual respect. They raise awareness and build bridges by actively, publicly, and courageously practicing acceptance of and support for LGBTQ people and speaking out in their behalf.
 

Why Pride: Explanation for Straight People

Straight for Equality

Info: LGBTQ Organizations

Straight Allies at Pride Events

Wikipedia: What is a Straight Ally?

Huff Post: HRC's Ally Annual Awards

Straight But Not Narrow

 

Becoming An LGBTQ Ally or Advocate

There are stages to becoming an effective LGBTQ ally or advocate.  Some people go through an evolutionary process of first becoming more aware and informed of LGBTQ issues and concerns and then discovering and more fully recognizing the needs of LGBTQ people.  At first they might be hesitant to respond and get involved, but then they gradually become more sensitive to the oppression that exists for LGBTQ people.  They eventually get to the point where they are more intentional and assertive in their involvement.

 

Interfering/Opposing  -  This stage describes individuals who are not yet allies.  It includes direct and deliberate actions and activities that are oppressive to LGBTQ people. These actions include laughing at or telling jokes that put down LGBTQ people, making fun of LGBTQ people, and engaging in verbal or physical harassment of LGBTQ people and those who do not conform to traditional sex-role behavior. It also includes opposing pro-LGBTQ activities, programs, and legislation and supporting anti-LGBTQ activities, programs, and legislation.

 

Denying/Ignoring  -  This stage includes inaction that perpetuates LGBTQ oppression coupled with an unwillingness or inability to understand the effects of homophobic and heterosexist actions. At this point the individual is still not an ally. This stage is characterized by a “business as usual” attitude. Though responses in this stage are not actively and directly homophobic or heterosexist, the passive acceptance of these actions by others serves to support a system of oppression.

Recognizing/Hesitating  -  This stage is characterized by a recognition of homophobic or heterosexist actions and the harmful effects of these actions. However, this recognition does not result in any effort to address the homophobic or heterosexist situation. At this point, the individual has still not made a decision to be an active ally. Taking action is prevented by homophobia, insensitivity, or a lack of knowledge about specific actions to take. This stage of response is accompanied by discomfort due to the lack of congruence between recognizing homophobia or heterosexism yet failing to act on this recognition. An example of this stage of response is a person hearing a friend tell a homophobic joke, recognizing that is homophobic, not laughing at the joke, but saying nothing to the friend about the joke.

Acknowledging/Asserting  -  This stage includes not only recognizing homophobic and heterosexist actions, but also taking action to stop them. At this point, an individual begins to behave as an ally. Though the response goes no further than stopping, this stage is often an important transition from passively accepting homophobic or heterosexist actions to actively choosing to address homophobic and heterosexist actions. In this stage a person hearing a homophobic joke would confront the joke teller. In this stage a person might realize that he or she is avoiding an activity for fear that others might think he or she is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer.

 

Education/Awareness  -   This stage includes taking action to learn more about LGBTQ people, LGBTQ issues and concerns, and heterosexism and homophobia. These actions can include reading books attending workshops, talking to others, joining organizations, attending LGBTQ events, or any other actions that can increase awareness and knowledge. This stage, in which the individual regards him or herself as an ally, is also a prerequisite to becoming more comfortable and confident for further involvement as a true ally.

Questioning/Dialoguing  -  This stage is an attempt to begin educating others about homophobia and heterosexism. In this stage, the individual identifies him or herself as an ally and others recognize the individual as an ally. This stage requires more commitment as it seeks to engage people in dialogue about critical LGBTQ issues. Through the use of questions and dialogue, this stage of response attempts to help others increase their awareness of and knowledge about homophobia and heterosexism.

Supporting/Encouraging  -  This stage includes dedicated actions by the ally that directly confront the homophobic and heterosexist actions of others.
 These actions include supporting, encouraging, and reinforcing efforts to combat oppressive anti-LGBTQ behavior and attitudes. 

Initiating/Preventing  -  This stage includes actions by the ally that actively anticipate and identify homophobic institutionalized practices or individual actions and work diligently to change them. Actions in this stage are assertive and proactive and seek to defend and protect the rights of LGBTQ people. This stage is characterized by making changes in curricula, procedures, policies, and laws.

 

Ally Guide for Well-Meaning Straight People

Being a Straight Ally to the LGBTQ Community

How to be a Better Ally at Pride Events

Info: LGBTQ Organizations

HRC: How to be an LGBTQ Ally

Straight for Equality

ABA Toolkit: How to Be An LGBTQ Ally

Straight Allies at Pride Events

Diversity Best Practices: LGBTQ Organizations

 

 

Tips for LGBTQ Allies

--Be a good listener.

--Be open-minded. Don't be judgmental.

--Be supportive, encouraging, and affirming.
--Be willing to talk. Start a conversation about LGBTQ topics. Engage in discussions about LGBTQ issues and concerns.

--Be inclusive. Invite LGBTQ friends to hang out with your friends and family.

--Don't assume that all your friends and co-workers 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.
--Be sensitive and aware of homophobia, heterosexism, and other forms of oppression.

--Homophobic comments and jokes are harmful. Let your friends, family and co-workers know that you find them offensive.
--Confront your own prejudices and homophobia, even if it is uncomfortable to do so.
--Defend your LGBTQ friends against discrimination.

--Attend LGBTQ events. Participate in LGBTQ activities.

--Join LGBTQ organizations.

--Seek to make changes in curricula, procedures, policies, and laws.

--Support LGBTQ equal rights through legislation and political activism.
--Believe that all people, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, should be treated with dignity and respect.

 

Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network
Parents & Friends of Lesbians & Gays
Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation

Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network

 

Becoming an Ally

 

Developing as an ethical and competent LGBTQ ally requires:

 

--Knowledge and Skill

--Openness and Support

--Oppression Awareness

 

Where are you on the spectrum of becoming a full-fledged LGBTQ ally?

 

--I’m not really an ally, but I am contemplating and willing to listen.

--I’m becoming more aware and starting to understand and empathize.

--I’m beginning to see the importance and willing to get involved.

--I’m committed to preparing myself by learning more about the issues.

--I’m talking about the issues and starting to get involved.

--I’m taking action and eager to make some changes.

 

Frances Goldin: I Adore My Lesbian Daughters

“I always tell other parents that you’ll never find more giving children than gays and lesbians. And that I have the most devoted, loving, helpful, useful children in the world because I support my kids and they support me. So, please, cherish your lesbian and gay children.”
-Frances Goldin

 

She’s been a staple of the New York City Pride Parade for more than 30 years. Literary agent Frances Goldin, 92 years old, was the subject of a moving profile by BuzzFeed (September 2016), in which the proud mother of two lesbian daughters shared her story of activism.

“Since the beginning of the parade, I’ve been going and waving my sign,” Goldin explains. The message, “I adore my lesbian daughters,” instantly caught the attention of other parade attendees. “It sort of hit a nerve with people, particularly those whose parents rejected them. The response to the sign is always so great — it urges me to keep going.”

 

LGBTQ Nation: Proud Mom of Lesbian Daughters Carries Same Sign in Every NYC Pride Parade

BuzzFeed: 92 Year Old Woman Holds Same Sign for 30 Years

Huffington Post: Mother of the Century


Goldin's daughter Reeni says that her mother simply “believes in equality and fairness and what’s right. She really puts her money where her mouth is. She works for it. That’s her life. That’s just who she is.”

Frances Goldin has been attending the NYC Pride Parade for over 30 years with the same sign. Her daughters, Reeni and Sally Goldin currently reside in New Paltz, New York, and San Francisco, California. Both Sally, 70, and Reeni, 68, grew up on the Lower East Side of New York City with their parents and came out as lesbians soon after New York City’s first Pride Parade in 1970. The event is held annually on the last Saturday in June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots.

Goldin is a powerhouse of a woman who, ever since both of her daughters came out in the early 1970s, has been an outspoken and compassionate advocate for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community ― among other social and political causes.  Goldin’s daughter Reeni describes her mother as a 1950s radical whose commitment to social justice has led to her being arrested almost a dozen times. She’s worked tirelessly throughout her lifetime fighting for the rights of marginalized groups.

[Source: LGBTQ Nation, Huffington Post, BuzzFeed]

Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network
Parents & Friends of Lesbians & Gays
Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation

Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network
National LGBTQ Task Force

Human Rights Campaign

Southern Poverty Law Center

Campus Pride

Trevor Project

 

Zach Wahls: LGBTQ Ally

In 2011, Zach Wahls was an Iowa student whose impassioned pro-gay marriage speech to Iowa legislators became the most-watched political clip YouTube after going viral twice. Zach Wahls went on to serve as co-chair for "The Outspoken Generation," the Family Equality Council's national youth advocacy initiative involving the young adult children of LGBTQ parents.

 

Wahls is author of the book, My Two Moms.  He says, "A family is a group of people who love each other. If you're willing to put in the blood, sweat, toil and tears...if you're willing to make the commitment and demonstrate the love that it takes to successfully raise a young, healthy, well-rounded adult...who you are is so much less important than what you do."

"We are now seeing the first generation of children, who were lovingly raised by LGBTQ parents, coming into young adulthood," Family Equality Council Executive Director Jennifer Chrisler says. "We know, from our conversations with these young people and from our experience with them, that they are terrific kids who are thriving and succeeding in life by any measure you choose to use. Many of them are now telling us that they are eager to tell the truth about their families. Who better to refute the myths and lies of hate groups than our grown up children?"

 

Allies Within Organizations

 

"Engaging allies for LGBTQ inclusion in the workplace is crucial. Creating and maintaining LGBTQ-inclusive workplaces takes concerted effort and sincere commitment from both organizations and individuals. However, research shows that many lack the awareness, knowledge, and skills necessary to foster LGBTQ inclusion at work. While protecting employees from discrimination is essential to creating LGBTQ-inclusive environments, organizations must move beyond anti-discrimination policies to everyday issues facing LGBTQ employees."

-J. Harper, Catalyst

"My support for the LGBTQ community started many years ago, way before I openly identified as an ally in the 90’s. Back then, I had close friends and family who could not be openly gay for fear of losing their jobs. Despite many changes, I feel it is important to continue to advocate for fairness and equality for all. Personally, I don’t believe we should have to hide who we are in order to be treated fairly in our communities, at work and within our families. I decided to become a visible or out ally to advocate for members of the LGBTQ community, who may not be able to do so for themselves. And through our LGBTQ-focused employee resource group, I am able to support a positive and inclusive workplace."

-Jean-Claire Fitschen, Executive Director, Multicultural & Diversity Services, Comcast

 

 

As I got up to leave a meeting the other week, a co-worker happened to glance at the small and slightly fading, but still largely visible sticker I had plastered to my company employee badge. There, the neatly printed characters “ALLY” reflected back at me. “What’s that for?” He asked, pausing to stay behind as other colleagues began to file out of the conference room. “Nickname?” I glanced down and smiled, explaining to my colleague that the sticker was actually a part of a larger campaign with one of our organization’s employee resource groups to identify individuals willing to support and stand up for the rights of other individuals in the workplace (in this case, members of the LGBTQ community). We had a valuable conversation discussing why I became an Ally, what it meant to be an Ally as a non-LGBTQ person, and why it was important to declare “Allies” in the workplace.

 

Though I left the conversation feeling good about sharing new resources and potentially opening up the opportunity for further discussion in the future, I couldn’t help but think of how many Allies in the LGBTQ and other underrepresented communities are not visible. It can be hard to find an Ally in your workplace, school, or community. Simply put, it is not very likely they will be wearing a sticker.

 

And while the term “Ally” is well-known and often discussed within the LGTBQ community, as a woman and person of color, it is worth reiterating this important role in other communities as well. Individuals in all marginalized groups could benefit from the advocacy, engagement, and support of Allies. Recognizing and acknowledging our own privileges enable us to work as Allies towards upheaving biases, prejudices, and patterns of injustice that continue to persist within our society. Allies also help to dismantle stereotypes and provide valuable support to individuals in oppressed groups who may not have the power, status, or opportunity to influence institutional and systemic change. To be an Ally is to be an advocate and catalyst for social change, particularly in the face of our society’s “isms” (sexism, racism, ableism, heterosexism, ageism, classism).

 

 

Oftentimes, individuals may not believe they have the tools, resources, or influence to be an Ally. They may fear saying or doing the “wrong thing”, or may feel that they do not have the knowledge needed to contribute meaningfully to a conversation. Being an Ally doesn’t have to mean starting a campaign, kicking off a new initiative, or organizing an event (although these are all great efforts). It is often through our smallest day-to-day interactions (speaking up for a colleague overlooked in a meeting, listening with empathy, and making an effort to understand others’ experiences) that can make the greatest impact, both personally and across our organizations.

 

Without wearing a sticker proclaiming your Ally status, the easiest way to begin to be an Ally is to listen. When you take the time to truly hear others and learn from them, people take notice. Developing as an Ally is a skill that doesn’t happen overnight. It comes from engaging in open conversations, asking questions, recognizing your own biases and blindspots, and stepping out of your comfort zone.

 

Most, if not all, of us have encountered instances in our lives where we have felt like “the other”. Whether that feeling has come on a sports team, at work, with our families or friends, or in another social situation, it has allowed us insight into how individuals in underrepresented and oppressed groups feel during their daily lives.  As potential Allies, it is our responsibility to use these experiences to shape our thoughts, words, and ultimately actions.

 

To empower others, we must first empower ourselves to be brave in our interactions, conversations, and actions. This bravery, in turn, translates into a stepping stone for more inclusive and collaborative environments.

 

[Source: Na Shai Alexander, The Inclusion Solution]

 

Ally Tips: Do's And Don'ts

Assumptions/Stereotypes

--Don’t assume that LGBTQ persons are more open to discussing sex

--Don’t use language that sexualizes LGBTQ persons

--Don’t assume that LGBTQ individuals have certain politics, views, philosophies, perspectives, opinions

--Don’t make assumptions about a person’s gender identity/expression based on their sexual orientation, and vice versa (for example, assuming that a gay man is interested in fashion solely because he is gay)

--Do treat LGBTQ persons the same as anyone else

--Do understand that an individual’s LGBTQ status is only a very small part of who they are

 

 

Terminology/Word Usage

--Don’t say “lifestyle” or “choice” when you mean “sexual orientation”

--Don’t say “sexual preference” when you mean “sexual orientation”

--Don’t say “those people” or “you people”

--Don’t say “homosexual”

--Don’t say “transgendered”

--Don’t say “a transgender”

--Don’t say “tranny,” even if you are a member of the LGBTQ community

--Don’t refer to an LGBTQ person’s significant other as “your special friend”

--Don’t use “queer” if you are not sure the person is comfortable with the term

--Don’t refer to someone as “changing” their gender

--Do follow the LGBTQ’s person’s lead in terms of word choices

--Do ask people what terms they feel comfortable with

--Do include the entire LGBTQ community in language (don’t just say gay and lesbian)

 

 

Conversation

--Don’t assume that just because you are an ally you have the right to ask intrusive questions about the person’s sex life and politics (for example, asking “how do you have sex”)

--Don’t comment on whether or not an individual looks gay, lesbian or transgender (LGBTQ individuals are all different)

--Don’t ask questions about personal medical issues (“Have you had the surgery?”)

--Don’t ask about genitals (“What’s in your trousers?”)

--Don’t mistakenly “out” a person as LGBTQ (by talking about them, or assuming that others know)

--Don’t ask others if you think someone else is gay

--Don’t limit conversation with LGBTQ individuals to LGBTQ issues

--Don’t ask “Which one of you is the guy/girl in the relationship?”

--Don’t make inappropriate personal inquiries that begin with “when you were a man/woman…” (for example, “When you were a man, did people treat you differently?”)

--Don’t refer to a transgender individual as a “transgender man” or “transgender woman,” thus demeaning their stature as being female or male

--Do apologize if you make a mistake, and then move on

--Do be supportive, but don’t over-compensate

--Do talk about the same things you would talk about with anyone else (the weather, sports, hobbies)

--Do respect personal boundaries

--Do use open, inclusive, gender neutral terms if you are inquiring about whether person has a significant other

--Do resist tendency to bring up LGBTQ topics immediately after someone discloses in one way or another their LGBTQ status or frequently when you are speaking with LGBTQ folks

--Do listen, and take your cue from the LGBTQ person regarding what they do and don’t want to share or talk about

 

 

Transgender

--Don’t use transgender as a noun (For example, don't say: "Sally Johnson is a

Transgender")

--Don’t use "transgendered" (Transgender never needs an extraneous "ed" at the end)

--Don’t use "transsexual" or "transvestite"

--Don’t speculate about medical procedures transgender people may or may not choose to undertake as part of their transition (This is private medical information, and a transgender identity is not dependent on medical procedures)

--Don’t imply that someone who comes out as transgender (regardless of their age) was lying or being deceptive because he or she chose to keep that information private

--Don’t indulge in superficial critiques of a transgender person's femininity or masculinity (Commenting on how well a transgender person conforms to conventional standards of femininity or masculinity is reductive and insulting)

--Don’t police people’s bathroom choices

--Do understand that transgender individuals are not necessarily gay, lesbian or bisexual

--Do understand that LGBTQ youth may be particularly vulnerable and sensitive

--Do describe people who transition as transgender, and use transgender as an adjective

--Do refer to someone’s transgender female/male identity as her/his gender identity, not her/his sexual orientation

 

Gender Neutrality

--Do try to avoid gendered terms if they aren’t necessary (say “child” not “son”)

--Do create a more inclusive environment by using gender neutral and inclusive language (use words like “partner” and “significant other” instead of “husband” or “wife”)

--Do avoid reference to gender in forms and applications if you don’t need it

--Do consider not saying “ladies and gentleman” if it is not necessary, since you exclude people who don’t strongly identify with either

--Do open events to both genders (Don’t assume that men would not want to be invited to an event about fashion and make-up)

 

 

 

Pronouns

--Don’t try to guess someone’s pronoun

--Don’t use the wrong pronoun (Pronouns really matter)

--Do ask (if you truly need to) “what pronoun do you prefer?”

--Do apologize and move on if you use the wrong pronoun

 

Support

--Do be affirming and let your LGBTQ friends and colleagues know that you love them just as they are

--Don’t suggest that you accept a person “even though” they are an LGBTQ individual

--Do encourage employment of LGBTQ persons

--Do speak out and express your objection if someone else is making stereotypical and/or offensive jokes or statements about LGBTQ persons or issues

--Do offer health insurance benefits that cover gender transition related medical care

--Do ensure that people at the top of large organizations are vocal about being allies and actively involved in promoting LBGTQ inclusion

--Do donate money and resources to LGBTQ organizations

--Do get training and education on LGBTQ issues, no matter how much you think you know already

--Do spend time with members of the LGBTQ community

--Do join LGBTQ organizations

--Do include younger persons in your efforts to be an ally as they are often more inclusive and aware of LGBTQ issues

 

[Source: American Bar Association]

 

Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network
Parents & Friends of Lesbians & Gays
Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation

Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network
National LGBTQ Task Force

Human Rights Campaign

Southern Poverty Law Center

Campus Pride

Trevor Project

 

Remembering the Early Pioneers

PFLAG Began in 1972

Photo Left: PFLAG Moms, Mrs. Elizabeth Montgomery and Mrs. Jean Manford, show their support during the 1974 Pride Day Parade in New York City. Photo Right: PFLAG Dad, Dick Ashworth, a founding member of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG,) marching on June 3, 1974.
 

 

In 1972, Morton Manford was physically attacked at a gay rights demonstration in New York. Morty’s parents, Jeanne and Jules Manford, saw the attack on a local newscast and witnessed the failure of the police to intervene. Their outrage turned them into activists. The concept of PFLAG began in 1972 when Jeanne Manford marched with her gay son in New York’s Pride Day parade. After many gay men and lesbians ran up to Jeanne during the parade and begged her to talk to their parents, Jeanne decided to begin a support group. Approximately 20 people attended the first formal meeting held in March 1973 at a local church.

In the next years, through word of mouth and in response to community need, similar groups sprung up around the country, offering “safe havens” and mutual support for parents with gay and lesbian children. Following the 1979 National March for Gay and Lesbian Rights, representatives from these support groups met for the first time in Washington, DC. In 1981, members decided to launch a national organization.

 

The first PFLAG office was established in Los Angeles under founding President Adele Starr. In 1982, the Federation of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), then comprising some 20 groups, changed from a federation to a membership-based organization and was incorporated in California and granted non-profit, tax-exempt status. In 1990, following a period of enormous growth, PFLAG hired an Executive Director, expanded its staff, and consolidated operations in Washington, DC. In 1993, the word “Families” was added to the name.

 

Personal Reflection: Being a Straight Ally to the LGBTQ Community

 

Do you want to be an LGBTQ ally? What is your motivation to be an LGBTQ ally? Most straight people who begin the process of becoming an LGBTQ ally describe feelings of anxiety because their internal pro-LGBTQ beliefs were incongruent with their external behaviors.

 

I had a similar experience. I first wanted to be an ally because I was tired of being silent during situations in which people talked about the LGBTQ community. Internally, I felt comfortable with my lesbian and gay friends and accepted LGBTQ persons. However, having LGBTQ friends did not help me feel comfortable about talking with LGBTQ persons about their concerns and realities. I recall several occasions when I fell silent and wished I could have said more.

 

For example, I remember riding in a car with a gay couple and one of the partners talked about how his family struggled to accept him. I was silent, wanting to say something to show my understanding, but unable to do so. I remember, at a wedding, I heard other persons continually make jokes about a gay man and I could not respond. I remember trying to be supportive when a classmate, “came out” and told me he was gay. I remember others who said that there had to be a biological cause to being gay because no one would intentionally choose to be gay. I remember agreeing with my friend that it was difficult to know how to respond to a man when he says he has difficulty telling his family that he is gay. I remember talking to a Christian person who accepted gays only because she “loved the sinner and hated the sin.” I remember inadvertently discovering that my friend was a lesbian and I did not know how to respond.

 

During those times, I remember being passive and silent. I expressed general acceptance, but I always felt disappointed in how I handled those experiences. I just did not know what to say when a person made jokes about gays or lesbians or if a gay or lesbian person “came out” to me. My silence made me anxious. If, internally, I felt comfortable being around gays and lesbians, and I had gay and lesbian friends, when I had the chance to say something meaningful whenever others talked about being gay, why did I become silent? I was tired of being silent and wanted to do something about it.

 

Most straight allies report experiencing “ambivalence” and a “fear of the unknown.” In the early stages, allies might feel anxious because they do not know what is expected of them. An ally may fear how LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ persons will react to them. Initially, I feared that I would not be a “credible” ally. I felt that I was less “qualified” to be an ally compared to friends who had LGBTQ siblings. My friends were “credible” allies because they knew what it was like when their family member “came out” as gay or lesbian. I did not have these experiences, so how could I relate? Would others describe me as an ally to the LGBTQ community? I had to answer “no.” Honestly, I felt that it was not enough for me to say I had LGBTQ friends, that I accepted LGBTQ persons, or that I was against the oppression of the LGBTQ community. I was uncomfortable because I felt that I was too passive. I needed to do more.

 

However, if I wanted to “do more,” what would I do? What evidence did I need to back my claim that I was an ally? Should I read more literature about the LGBTQ community? Should I take every opportunity to strike down LGBTQ jokes? Should I speak out and fight legislation that discriminates against LGBTQ individuals? How should I respond if someone used the Bible as “evidence” that being gay was fundamentally wrong?

 

New allies need to explore their fears and anxiety. I too had to explore my self-doubts and ineffable anxiety. I wondered if others might question my motives. Among my motives was my desire to improve my interactions with LGBTQ persons and because the LGBTQ community deserves fair justice and equal treatment.

 

Sometimes, allies encounter less than positive reactions from non-LGBTQ persons who may even question an ally’s sexual identity.

 

It is important that new allies become aware of homophobia and understand the oppression of the LGBTQ community and, as a result, lay the foundation for genuine empathy and compassion.

 

Even though I thought of myself as an ally, I still felt powerless about discussing the concerns and realities that LGBTQ persons face. I still did not know how to support LGBTQ persons if they decided to “come out” to me, if they were anxious if their families and friends would accept their LGBTQ identity, or if they talked about the detrimental effects of homophobia.

 

To be effective, allies need to acquire knowledge about the experiences, concerns, and realities of the LGBTQ community. I needed to enter a knowledge stage. To gain knowledge, I wanted to be a part of a group that was involved with the LGBTQ community. The logical place to start was a local PFLAG chapter. I attended a PFLAG meeting and found it to be illuminating. I met an old friend and found out that after all these years he was gay. We have maintained our friendship ever since. Members were happy to see a straight man participating in PFLAG. The meeting also altered my assumption that everyone at PFLAG was comfortable with his or her

LGBTQ loved ones. Some have fully embraced their gay or lesbian family member while others still struggled to accept. However, PFLAG provided a space for everyone to feel comfortable and talk openly about their experiences in being a family member or a friend of a LGBTQ loved one.

 

As I listened to their stories, I became familiar with the experiences of LGBTQ persons, the coming out process, and the experience of family members when they first received the news that their loved one was LGBTQ. I discovered a key reason to be an ally. Allies can support non-LGBTQ persons, family members and friends, who feel isolated because they carry a secret: someone they know and love is gay.

 

For example, one mother said her daughter confided that she was a lesbian. However, the daughter was unsure if she could tell the other members of her family. Only the mother knew her daughter’s secret. Consequently, when the mother came to a PFLAG meeting she could not tell family members where she went because she did not want to expose her daughter’s secret.

 

A father described how difficult it was for him to hear his fellow co-workers joke about “homosexuals.” He could not risk saying he was offended because he was afraid of the potential backlash if he disclosed he had a gay son. Listening to these stories, I began to understand that being an ally is not just about accepting LGBTQ persons. One can support parents, family members, and other non-LGBTQ persons who feel isolated because their secrets cannot be shared due to homophobia, discrimination, and oppression. In a homophobic society, it is not enough to accept passively LGBTQ persons. Allies need to express openly their support so everyone can be free to either say they are LGBTQ or that they know someone who is.

 

In an effort to be more effective, allies should engage in pro-LGBTQ activities. I finally felt comfortable interacting with LGBTQ persons and their families and friends because I felt conversant in the experiences and realities of the LGBTQ community. I was no longer silent.

 

But, allies do more than simply voice support for the LGBTQ community. They can support LGBTQ persons who are coming out, support the family and friends of LGBTQ persons, and non-LGBTQ persons who struggle with homophobia or oppression. By accessing supportive resources and interacting with the LGBTQ community, one can develop pro-LGBTQ skills and form an ally identity.

 

Here are reasons why it was important for non-LGBTQ persons to support the LGBTQ community:

 

--Allies can help other persons stop the oppression of LGBTQ persons.

 

--Some non-LGBTQ persons may have communicated to an LGBTQ person that his or her sexual identity is deviant, inappropriate, or transitional. Allies, however, can embrace and value an LGBTQ person’s sexual identity.

 

--Allies can dispel the myths and misconceptions of the LGBTQ community that are held by the majority of society.

 

--Allies can help non-LGBTQ persons positively resolve their biases and discomfort with LGBTQ persons.

 

--An LGBTQ person might feel excluded from other parts of society if the LGBTQ community is the only community that accepts him or her. Allies from all parts of society can help LGBTQ persons feel acceptance. When everyone, not just the LGBTQ community, accepts and includes LGBTQ persons, LGBTQ persons have an easier time accepting their identities.

 

--Sometimes, the LGBTQ community may not express acceptance towards an LGBTQ person. In these cases, an LGBTQ person can rely on allies for safety and support.

 

--Allies can provide hope to an LGBTQ person that non-LGBTQ persons will accept his or her sexual identity when the LGBTQ person is ready to come out” to his or her families and friends.

 

--Allies can support an LGBTQ person if his or her own family or friends do not accept or support him or her.

 

--The friends and family members of LGBTQ persons, who are searching for support, may need to come out to allies.

 

--Persons who want to come out as allies need the support of other allies.

 

--Allies can make every setting (workplace, school, social group) safe for LGBTQ persons and their family and friends to come out.

 

--It is simply the right thing to do.

 

As an active ally, I realized that to be a true supporter meant remaining curious about my ally identity, being honest about myself, acknowledging what I knew about my experiences with the LGBTQ community, and deciding how I wanted to be of help.

 

Ultimately, being an ally is about taking action. This final stage of becoming an ally involves open advocacy for the LGBTQ community. I was finally able to reach that stage. At that point, I felt comfortable in a supportive role. I felt I could support an LGBTQ person’s concerns and realities if he or she decided to come out. I also felt I could offer support to the families and friends of LGBTQ persons and interact with LGBTQ persons and converse with them about their experiences with homophobia, oppression, and heterosexual privilege.

 

[Source: Dr. Peter Ji, Journal of Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy]

 

 

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