Becoming An Ally
What is an Ally?
An ally is an individual who works to end oppression within their personal and professional life. An ally works to end a form of oppression from which they receive privilege. For example, a white person who works to end racism, a lesbian woman who works to end discrimination against transgender individuals, or a straight man who combats homophobia.
Why be an Ally?
- By embracing difference in others, you embrace it within yourself.
- It gives you an opportunity to interact with and learn from a population that you may not be a member of.
- You will make a difference in the community environment and in the lives of LGBTTTIQ community members.
- If you have friends or family members who are LGBTTTIQ identified, this will allow you an opportunity to actively indicate your support of them.
- You will make the community a better place, oppression is a negative force that impacts everyone.
What does an Ally do?
- Works towards developing a greater understanding of oppression, privilege and the needs of the LGBTTTIQ communities.
- Promotes a community that appreciates, embraces and celebrates difference.
- Challenges anti-LGBTTTIQ comments, statements or jokes.
- Interacts respectfully and maintains the confidentiality of others.
- Commits to making positive changes.
What does it take to be an Ally?
- Commitment to Social Justice
- Risk taker
- Willing to learn
- Recognizes that Oppression hurts all people
- Good Active-Listener
- Willing to challenge yourself and others
- Recognizes that oppression is an ongoing issue
- An Ally is committed to personal growth and is willing to examine how privilege operates within her/his life
What does an Ally experience?
An ally who challenges oppressive behavior may need to work together with other allies to help ensure that their actions find some support and understanding.
Supporting LGBTQI Individuals - When Someone Comes Out to you as LGBTQI Identified
Thank the person for having the courage to tell you.
Please keep in mind that a LGBTTTIQ person cannot accurately predict your reaction to their coming out to you. You have lived in a society that often teaches intolerance of LGBTTTIQ people. Therefore, by telling you, this person is putting a large amount of trust in just a few words. At that one point, they have the possibility of losing you as a friend or family member, so often times the decision to first share that piece of their life is not one taken lightly. Do not judge the person, if you have strong religious or other beliefs about LGBTTTIQ identities keep them to yourself. Ensure that you respect this person's confidentiality and tell them that you still care about them, no matter what.
Understand that the person has not changed.
They are still the same person they have always been. You might be uncomfortable or surprised by the news at first, but make an effort to understand why you are surprised or uncomfortable. Also, this person may share things with you related to this part of their life. Do not assume this person is coming on to you or finds you attractive.
You can ask questions of the individuals, but understand that they might not have all of the answers. If you want to learn more, then say so. It helps to admit to yourself out loud that you are not an authority on the subject. Also, understand that it is not this person's job as a LGBTTTIQ person to educate you fully, be prepared to do your own research. You may want to keep the conversations going and provide a way to contact the person in the future. This interaction lets the person answer your questions at a pace that is their own.
Helpful Responses for Discussions around LGBTTTIQ identity:
- It's okay if you are LGBTTTIQ identified.
- I can appreciate how difficult it must have been for you to tell me this.
- If you are LGBTTTIQ, what are the kinds of things that worry you the most?
- What kind of support do you think you need from me?
- I may not have all the information, but I can find more for you.
Potentially Damaging Responses:
- How do you know? Are you sure?
- You're too young to make a decision like that.
- How can you know if you've never had sex with someone of the opposite sex?
- It's just a phase you're going through.
- A lot of people experiment or fantasize, it doesn't mean you're LGBTTTIQ.
- It's fine that you told me, but you shouldn't tell ___________.
- Maybe you just haven't met the right person yet.
Guidelines for Supporting LGBTQI Individuals
As an Ally to the LGBTQI community you may find yourself in situations that require you to support an individual who is experiencing difficulties because of their LGBTQI identity, or who may be in a state of crisis. If someone approaches you, it is important to remember that this person is placing their trust in you, but does not expect you to have all the answers or to be able to fix all of their problems. Instead, you should ensure that you have a good knowledge of your local LGBTQI resources. The internet is a great place to start. If someone comes to you with questions around their identity, offer to help them to do some research, guide them to other resources in your community or give them the time to really listen to them.
Be aware of and respect your limits. We are each unique and have different strengths. We also each have limits, which need to be respected. Collectively, if we use our individual gifts in our work as allies, we will have a powerful network of multi-talented, multifaceted committed people. Know yourself and what you want and are wiling to do as an ally. There is enough to be done that we can all share a part in this exciting project!
Don't be hard on yourself! While we are not personally responsible for the existence of homo/bi/transphobia or heterosexism, we are responsible for its existence within our environments and ourselves. It takes courage to examine the source of prejudice within us and to work to eradicate it. Be patient with yourself. We are all human, born and raised in homo/bi/transphobic and heterosexist cultures. We all have growth and learning that will take place as part of this self-evaluation process. This is extremely important to our work as allies and for those we want to support.
Demonstrate LGBTQI Positive Behavior:
- Remember that the LGBTQI individual may be experiencing grief reactions because of negative stereotypes. The person may have lost connection, or fear losing connection with family, friends and community.
- Use the vocabulary that the other person uses. If they say "homosexual", follow their lead. Likewise, if the person uses other words to describe him or herself, use those. Remember that to some, terms such as "queer" are acceptable and are part of a reclaiming of language. Ensure that the other person uses such terms before you do. If you're unsure what word to use, ask the person what they would like you to use when referring to them. Some might not feel comfortable identifying as LGBTQI.
- ??? Be aware of your comfort level and limitations. Do not add pain because of your judgments about LGBTQI identities.
- Be aware of cultural differences that may affect the person.
- Provide pamphlets and materials to the person if they are seeking resources
- Respect confidentiality. Any information that is shared with you around LGBTQ identity should be kept confidential
From: Positive Space Training Manual, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Positive Space Program (Antigonish, Nova Scotia)
Rainbow Health Educational Toolkit Workshop #5 Handouts
Twenty-five ways of being an effective ally
1. Work to develop an understanding on your own of the personal and institutional experiences of target group members rather than expecting to be taught
2. Choose to align yourself publicly and privately with members of target groups
3. Take risks
4. Expect to make some mistakes and do not use that as an excuse for non-action
5. Don't expect people to thank you for what you're doing
6. Believe that it is in your self interest to be an ally
7. Commit yourself to a process of personal growth that is necessary to be effective
8. Be willing to learn from history
9. Take a stand
10. Be honest
11. Provide information and resources
12. Don't overpersonalize members' of targeted groups words or actions
13. Understand the importance of social context for interpreting targeted group members' ideas or actions
14. Don't pass ignorance to children
15. Take responsibility to share your stands with other members of dominant groups
16. Teach children and others to celebrate and appreciate individual and cultural differences as well as human commonality
17. Recognize strength in numbers; get support from other allies
18. Do your homework
19. Be able to acknowledge and articulate how patterns of oppression and privilege have operated in your own life
21. Be willing to initiate change toward personal, institutional and societal justice and equality
22. Promote a sense of inclusiveness in any organization you work in
23. Be able to say "I was wrong" and move on - don't let yourself get mired down with guilt
24. Step out of the "missionary" role
25. Have fun and cultivate a good sense of humor
Developed from resources by Patricia Shropshire Waters, Shawn-Eric Brooks, Vernon A. Wall, Paul Kivel, & Frances E. Kendall
Rainbow Health Educational Toolkit Workshop #5 Handouts