Life

10 Tips for LGBT Allies

ALLIESI spend a lot of time online and try to read all things LGBT which means that I read a lot of posts about LGBT issues written by our allies. In the eight years I have been blogging, there has been much progress in terms of acceptance of the LGBT community in both the real and virtual worlds and it does my little ol’ queer heart good to see so many people speaking out and supporting equality. Let me be clear – I appreciate every word you put on the page that pushes society forward and allies are absolutely essential to creating change. But I have to be honest too – I have also seen some of our allies miss the mark and that’s why I am writing this post.

So, here are my 10 tips to being the best damn LGBT ally you can be. Most of these are specifically geared towards online community but are applicable to life outside our screens as well.

1. Read our stories.

There are many talented LGBT writers online. Read our blogs and our stories. If you don’t know where to start, check out our contributors or look through the hundreds of blogs listed in our directory. There is an LGBT writer for every topic out there.

2. Build relationships with LGBT people.

Reach out to people in our community. Chat with us and get to know us. LGBT people are some of the most loyal people you will ever meet so we make great allies for the issues and causes that are important to you as well. We can’t help each other if we don’t have a connection. Also, don’t be the person that has the one gay friend – collect a full set!

3. Educate yourself.

If you are reading our stories and building relationships with us, you are already on your way. Make trusted friends who won’t mind answering your questions – even the crazy ones. But don’t make us do all the work in terms of your enlightenment. Show your love by doing your own too.

4. Curiosity does not equate to open-mindedness.

Your apparent comfort in asking what queer folks do in bed is not a sign of acceptance as much as it is a sign of questionable boundaries. I know you have questions and Google can’t answer all of them but be respectful and don’t ask probing questions unless you have a close relationship with someone or they’ve made it clear they are open to answering anything. For example, I’m happy being the Gay Next Door and will answer almost anything but not everyone is willing and/or able.

5. Be mindful of the language you use and make no assumptions.

Listen when we talk and you will quickly pick up on the language we use. What pronouns do we use? What words do we use to describe our significant others? What words have we used to describe our identities? Use those words.

6. Write about LGBT issues.

Many of you are doing this – keep it up! My only suggestion is that you consider bringing LGBT voices into your posts. Reach out to our community for quotes and our perspective. It will make your writing richer and make us visible.

7. Amplify LGBT voices.

Most LGBT bloggers will never have the audience and reach that our allies do. Use your platform to help your audience find us. Link to us, sing our praises, make us brownies. Wait – the brownies thing is a totally separate issue.

8. Check your privilege.

Most of us have some type of privilege. I have race privilege and education and class privilege and I am able-bodied. I’m also queer as a three dollar bill. My point is that we should all be aware of our privilege. I need you to understand that if you are writing as a heterosexual person, writing about LGBT issues will never cost you what it costs us. When you write about LGBT issues, I read the comments and I see people touting your bravery. That kind of praise is seductive but resist being the hero and use those comments as a way to start a conversation about privilege.

9. We are not living in a post-gay society.

Marriage equality may be sweeping the country but that does not mean the fight is over. We have bigger issues to address like poverty, health disparities, homelessness, bullying and violence. And yes, coming out still matters. When people in the public eye have come out recently, I’ve heard  allies say, “It doesn’t matter! We’re past that!” and I know you say that because you are over and because you want it to be true but please don’t say we’re past that because we aren’t.

10. Speak out and don’t worry about mistakes.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “But Vikki, you just made me feel like I’ve been doing it all wrong!” You aren’t doing it all wrong and the fact is that we all make mistakes. I make many but we have to look at them as learning opportunities. So, don’t worry because we already love you. If you mess up, own it, learn from it and move on.

 

And now I’d like to quote the great philosophers of days gone by, Sister Sledge:

 

Living life is fun and we’ve just begun
To get our share of the world’s delights
High hopes we have for the future
And our goal’s in sight
No we don’t get depressed
Here’s what we call our golden rule
Have faith in you and the things you do
You won’t go wrong, oh no
This is our family Jewel, yeah
We are family…

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15 Comments

  1. I absolutely love this and I love you.

  2. THANK YOU. Seriously. Thank you. Am now going to point everyone to this post. (and go make brownies)

  3. Great article. Thanks for writing this. I hope that I am a good ally but I know I can probably do better.

  4. Thank you for helping us listen! And lists are my favorite.

  5. thanks for helping me listen, and for using a list to do it. Lists are my favorite.

  6. I used to have one gay friend. Now I have more thanks to VillageQ!

  7. This sounds like you are saying thanks for trying to be an ally but you aren’t doing it right.

    I beg to differ about #8. Allies can and have lost things when they speak out. I have not been disowned by my family for being an ally, but there are members who have loudly informed me that I am NOT to speak of LGBTQIA events! groups and especially PRIDE around them. I can’t confirm it but I’m pretty sure I haven’t gotten job interviews because of working with LGBT students at a former job. I’ve lost social media followers posting from PRIDE (fortunately I make that up by the people I meet at the event.) I lost a significant number of blog readers and subscribers (and revenue) posting about marching with the Gay and Lesbian Band Assoc in the last Inguaration Parade. In some conservative social and blog circles coming out as an ally IS a brave thing to do.

    • No, I’m not saying that at all. What I am saying is that I know people want to help, so here are some ways to do it that might be empowering for the LGBT community and enrich the writing of allies, building coalitions in the process.

      As far as #8, I never said it doesn’t cost allies to speak out. Of course I know that it does. But, I stand by my point that it will never cost as much as it costs the LGBT community. I also never said it wasn’t brave – I said I see people touting that bravery and I’ve seen allies embrace their role as a hero. There is a difference. Allies are brave. Absolutely. But there is privilege there too that needs to be recognized.

      I do appreciate you taking the time to comment and for all that you do.

  8. Great post – I struggle with the “we’re past it” stuff even as a gay woman because I live in the most lesbian-friendly place ever (Burlington, VT), and sometimes I have to remind myself that my bubble is not everywhere

  9. Pingback: Find out about VillageQ and why they are supporting Blog Action Day | Blog Action Day October 16 2014

  10. Marissa Anderson says:

    I consider myself an ally because I will quickly and fearlessly stand up for the LGBTQAI+ community. I have been incredibly blessed to be so privileged, I am straight, cis, half white(I can pass as full white), and very able bodied. Because of this, I am able to see how much others suffer and want to help them with everything I have. Just was wondering, how far is too far for us allies? Is it inappropriate to wear ally shirts? How much is too far when posting about us being allies? I’m young and have lots to learn about being an ally, any and all advice I will take to heart and use. Thank you!

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