What is an ally and why is it important?
“Being an ally means consistently acting to support people from marginalised or under-represented groups and working to build a more inclusive working environment” (The Law Society, 2020). Allyship provides you with the opportunity to have a greater understanding of society as you can learn about other people’s experiences and struggles.
Allies are important as they help to amplify the voices of minority groups and fight against the injustices they face. Not only this, but allies can act from a position of privilege (e.g. being cisgender or straight) and can use this privilege to help others. It is important to remember that having privilege does not mean you don’t face hardships but that you don’t experience certain biases that others do based on particular characteristics (for example, being gay or transgender).
5 tips on how to be a better LGBTQ+ ally
- Educate yourself – It is important not to completely rely on someone you know in the LGBTQ+ community to inform you on the struggles the LGBTQ+ community face. Be willing to listen to your friends’ personal stories and respectfully ask questions, but also make sure you are being proactive in your allyship by actively learning about the injustices the LGBTQ+ community face. You can do this by reading books, watching tv series, listening to LGBTQ+ podcasts and much more.
- If possible, support LGBTQ+ owned businesses – If you can afford it, support LGBTQ+ owned businesses. If you don’t know where to start, social media and the internet have made it a lot easier to discover what small-LGBTQ+ owned businesses are available. If you can’t buy anything, why not reshare their social media posts on your social media platforms to raise their profile and show your support.
- Confront your own prejudices and biases – “Being an ally means you will often find that you need to challenge any bias, stereotypes, and assumptions you didn’t realise you had” (Carroll, 2020). To be an effective ally, make sure you are willing to work on any prejudices you may have (such as assuming someone’s partner is of a particular sex because of the way they look/act) and be open to the idea of not always being correct.
- Know language matters– “Allyship is not knowing it all and never making mistakes. That’s impossible. It’s putting in the effort and not expecting trophies” (McConnell, 2021). By putting in the effort to learn someone new name or pronoun or practice using gender neutral language to avoid making assumptions, shows that you are actively trying to be a better ally for the LGBTQ+ community.
- Know that you will make mistakes – If you make a mistake, such as unintentionally using the wrong pronoun, don’t panic, we all make mistakes. Instead, apologise, correct yourself and don’t make a big deal about it – most of the time “the person you are talking to will know that this process of unlearning is new to you and will appreciate your honesty and effort” (Carroll, 2020).
Overall, being an ally is important as it not only helps you learn about others’ experiences, but it also helps give people from marginalised backgrounds a louder voice and a stronger sense of belonging within society.
Here are some useful websites if you want to find out more about being a better ally:
- 10 Ways to Be An LGBTQ+ Ally – BBC
Inclusion allies – The Law Society