How to be an ally of the LGBTQAI2S+ community
You may have heard the term allyship before. Or perhaps you’ve seen an ally flag floating around the internet.
Allyship is commonly used in the context of gender identity issues and the LGBTQAI2S+ community at large, an umbrella term that includes those who self-identify as lesbian, bi, gay, or other non-binary identities and sexual orientations. But what does allyship mean? And what does it look like in practice?
With June being Pride Month, culminating in the joyously liberating Pride Parade, there’s no time like the present to learn how to be an LGBTQAI2S+ ally.
If you want to show your support for your lesbian, bi, gay, or queer friends by waving your ally flag, it’s important to know what allyship is all about first.
How to be a good ally
Just like the gender spectrum, there is no definitive way to be an ally. Instead, there are several ways you, as a straight ally, can actively support and advocate for LGBTQ+ people. And it all starts with being informed.
In this article we’re going to go over some quick definitions before getting into five concrete ways that will help you learn how to be a good ally of the LGBTQAI2S+ community.
Definitions of Allyship, LGBTQAI2S+, and Sexual Orientation
Part of being an LGBTQAI2S+ ally requires knowing what an ally is and what exactly sexual orientation means. Let’s define these important terms.
- Ally: a straight person who supports and celebrates LGBTQAI2S+ people (who identify their gender or sexual preferences more broadly than the gender binary of male-female). Straight allies support equal rights, gender equality, LGBTQAI2S+ social movements, and challenge discrimination against the LGBTQAI2S+ community.
- Ally flag: One of several flags related to the Pride Parade, which depicts colourful stripes (representing the queer community) intermingled with black and white stripes (representing heterosexual/cis-gendered people).
- LGBTQAIS2+: Stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and/or Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Two-Spirit, and the countless affirmative ways in which people choose to self-identify.
- Sexual orientation: the sex of the person or persons with whom someone is attracted to. Example: homosexual, straight, pansexual, etc.
With these definitions fresh in our mind, it will be easier to understand the many LGBTQAI2S+ issues in our society. Now let’s move on to some constructive suggestions for how to be an ally to LGBTQAI2S+ people everywhere.
Be a listener
The first step in being an LGBTQAI2S+ ally is understanding their struggle by listening. They may have come through hardship, or are currently going through hardship. By listening, you can validate their voice.
An important part of listening is being aware of how much space you take up. Your responsibility as an LGBTQAI2S+ ally is to leave space for your lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, or otherwise gender-fluid friends to speak their own truth. In a world where they often lack safe spaces, providing one can be a powerful jolt of positivity for them.
Be open to learn
Learning and empathy are the cornerstones of LGBTQAI2S+ allyship. Only through learning can you understand how best to be an ally. There is a history of queer liberation to be educated on, cisgendered privilege to unpack, and so much more. You could even start by learning the history of the Pride Parade. There are many places to start - what matters is that you are open to learning! After all, learning how to be an ally - and being open to continually update your views - starts with education, and it has many benefits for the LGBTQAI2S+ community.
Don’t reduce queerness - amplify it!
A common mistake cisgendered people make is to say: “you know, you might be trans/gay/bi/queer, but to me you’re just another person.” While the intentionality behind this comment might be respectful, this is not something an LGBTQAI2S+ ally would say. After all, if as an ally you are not able to see their queerness as part of their identity, then are you really seeing them for who they are?
A more holistic approach is to learn to value and amplify LGBTQAI2S+ people for who they are and what they are into - just like you would with any straight friend, right? It’s all about your attitude (how open you are, and how accepting you can be).
Besides, if you want to support all the colours on the ally flag, you need to be proud of them all! And helping others feel proud of themselves is what flying the ally flag is all about.
Speak out against discrimination
Allies have to learn how to uplift the LGBTQAI2S+ community by making space and listening. But there are also times when speaking out is important, too, like when you confront discrimination. It may be a workplace policy that only affects an LGBTQAI2S+ person, a situation where a relative or friend is bullied in school, or a limited ability to access public health services.
Discrimination against LGBTQAI2S+ people is common and debilitating. Speaking out against it (either in person or online), shows you have a deep interest in their well-being and in social equality.
Support equality - on the street and in the bedroom
One area where LGBTQAI2S+ people can feel shunned or left out is in bedroom talk. It’s common for straight people to feel uncomfortable talking about sex with LGBTQAI2S+ people, as though there is nothing to relate to! But that's not true. You don’t have to be attracted to the same gender to share an interest in sex, right?
There is so much we can all relate to about sex. Everyone loves sex, and sex is for everyone to enjoy, so let’s all talk about it! Whether its swapping juicy sex stories, sharing the joys of a liberating sexual experience, or just plain talking about who you think is hot, it’s all good healthy human bonding, grounded in the body.
As an LGBTQAI2S+ ally, you should have no qualms about talking openly about sexual interests and escapades with LGBTQAI2S+ folks, just like you would be around straight friends. May we suggest a starting point? Talking about which sex toys you like most!
Learning how to be a good ally is all about empathy and understanding. If you can incorporate these suggestions into your life, then you can confidently fly your ally flag during Pride this year, and everyday day of your life. To dig deeper into the luscious soil of sex talk, check out our Explore Sex blog.