How to Ally

There are many ways to ally for the queer community, and all are important in helping to create a better, more welcoming community for us all.

You have the opportunity to create a safer, brighter space by fighting discrimination and embracing the differences that make up our community.

Below are just a few suggestions on how you can serve as an ally and support queer people.

Educate yourself about the queer community. Find out what different identities mean, learn about the common struggles experienced by queer people, and identify the needs of the community. Reading this guide is a great start!

Become comfortable with words used to talk about queer people. And always be open to learning the correct words and pronouns to talk about a specific individual. Often, it’s as easy as asking the person and truly caring about their answer. Also, check out the Terminology tab above!

Do not tolerate discrimination. When others make jokes that demean queer people, use derogatory language or slurs, or make disparaging remarks about queer people, please interrupt and challenge these statements. If you witness physical harassment or violence against queer people, do what you can to safely help the victim.

Listen to queer people. The queer community is large and ever-changing, and no two queer people are identical. Everyone has their own experiences, struggles, and identity. Listen to people who are willing to share their stories with you and amplify their voices when you have the opportunity.

Speak up. Sometimes it’s not safe for queer people to speak up for themselves, or some straight people write off what queer people say and will only listen to other straight people. Advocate for the queer community and help others to understand.

Show some pride. Use stickers, magnets, posters, etc. in your home or office to show support for the queer community. Faculty at ETSU can take Safe Zone training and get a sticker to let others know they are an ally!

Show up. Attend queer events, such as Pride, a local meeting debating queer-related legislation, the public event of a queer club, or the release of a new movie with queer characters. If you have a queer loved-one, be open to accompanying them to medical or legal appointments, should they ask, to serve as an advocate.

Respect people’s privacy. Even if a queer individual has directly chosen to share their identity with you, it does not necessarily mean that they want to share their identity with everyone. Never assume that you can share this information, and always ask first to make sure you don’t inadvertently place someone in danger.

Use more inclusive language. Don’t assume the gender identity or sexual orientation of people, and help normalize the words that some queer people use to protect their identities by using them yourself. For example, gender-neutral words such as “partner,” “significant other,” or “date” are all words that do not presume gender and that allow a queer person to talk about their personal life more comfortably if they are not yet out.

Do your research. Seek out and support queer-friendly or queer-owned businesses in your area; let them know you appreciate their inclusiveness. Research policies at your workplace or school; suggest anti-discrimination policies if you don’t find any. Learn about political candidates’ views concerning the queer community and make it a factor in who earns your vote.

Learn our history. As is true of many marginalized groups, a lot of queer people have been removed from history or had their queer identities ignored. Being queer is nothing new, but we often get this idea when those who came before us are hidden. Learn about the gay rights movement, and intentionally seek out historical queer figures and explore their experiences.

Know available resources. There may be times where you don’t truly understand the issues a queer person is struggling with or know the right way to support someone, but if you familiarize yourself with local resources, you can refer them to someone who is better equipped to help.

Share your knowledge. At some point, you didn’t know anything about the queer community, so pay it forward and share what you’ve learned with others. Plus, some straight people feel as if there’s no reason for them to learn about queer people. Share queer issues or news with straight co-workers or friends.

Embrace mistakes. Nobody is perfect 100% of the time, and that’s okay. Mistakes make learning opportunities. So long as you’re genuine in your apology, and you work to correct it in the future, you’re doing the best that can be expected of you.

Just ask. We all have a lot to learn, but it doesn’t have to be intimidating. If you don’t know the right thing to say or you have a question that you’ve been wondering about, just ask. Sometimes it is awkward, but if you ask out of a sincere desire to learn, to be a better ally, and because you care about someone, then you’ll get a helpful, worthwhile answer.

These are just some of the ways you can ally for the queer community, but there are limitless opportunities to show your support.

These might seem like big steps to you, but we’re all capable of doing a bit to help our community members live happier, safer lives. Or maybe these seem like small steps to you, but little efforts add up.

Thank you for reading this guide, learning a little about how to ally, and helping to make the difference for someone who needs you.

Resources

Coming Out as a Supporter

LGBT Center at Princeton University

UNC Charlotte SafeZone