Two LGBTQ+ allies walking proudly down the street together.

WHAT IS ALLYSHIP? HOW TO BE A GOOD LGBTQ+ ALLY

You may have heard the term allyship before. Or perhaps you’ve seen an ally flag floating around the internet. But do you know what allyship is, really? Allyship is commonly used in the context of gender identity issues and the LGBTQ+ community at large, an umbrella term that includes those who self-identify as lesbian, bi, gay, or other non-binary identities and sexual orientations.

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 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 an LGBTQ+ ally is first and foremost.

How To Be An Ally

Just like the gender spectrum, there is no definitive way to be an ally. Instead, there are several ways you can set an example of being an ally. 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 what is allyship, how to be a good LGBTQ+ ally and understand why allyship is important.

Definitions You Should Know

Part of knowing what allyship is requires knowledge about important community-based terms. Let’s get into them:

  • Ally: a straight person who supports and celebrates LGBTQ+ people (who identify their gender or sexual preferences more broadly than the gender binary of male-female). Straight allies support equal rights, gender equality, social movements, and challenge discrimination against the LGBTQ+ 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).
  • LGBTQAI2S+: 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 LGBTQ+ issues in our society. Now let’s move on to some constructive suggestions for how to be an ally to the community at large.

    For more of an understanding of the acronym, watch What Is LGBTQ2IA+ and get the full beneficial breakdown.

    1. Be a listener

    The first step in being an LGBTQ+ ally and nailing the definition of 'what is allyship' 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 LGBTQ+ 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.

    2. Be open to learn

    Learning and empathy are the cornerstones of LGBTQ+ 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 LGBTQ+ community.

    Group of friends wrapping their arms around each other and smiling.

    3. 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 a good LGBTQ+ 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 the voices of LGBTQ+ 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!

    4. Speak out against discrimination

    Allies have to learn how to uplift the LGBTQ+ 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, a situation where a relative or friend is bullied in school, or a limited ability to access public health services.

    Though discrimination against LGBTQ+ has lessened over the years, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist entirely. And the experience for the person discriminated against can be debilitating, and they may need someone else to speak on their behalf and show up. Speaking out against it (either in person or online) shows you have a deep interest in their well-being and in social equality.

    Two women reading a book together on allyship in bed.

    5. Support equality - on the street and in the bedroom

    One area where LGBTQ+ people can feel shunned or left out is in bedroom talk. It’s common for straight people to feel uncomfortable talking about sex with people who identify as anything other than heterosexual, 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 it’s 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.

    Looking to have an open and honest conversation about sexuality with your family? Check out How To Talk With Your Parents About Sexual Health for expert tips.

    As an LGBTQ+ ally, you should have no qualms about talking openly about sexual interests and escapades with folks in the community, just like you would be around straight friends. May we suggest a starting point? Talking about which sex toys* you like most!

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    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. Nothing feels better than your support.

    Are you part of the LGBTQ+ community but are nervous about opening yourself up to others? Look to How To Come Out: Advice From The Durex Community for helpful advice!

    *Ensure this product is right for you. Always read and follow the label before use.

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