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What It Means to be a Good Ally: The LGBTQ+ Lexicon

An ally; a person or group that provides assistance and support in an ongoing effort, activity, or struggle.

These days, it’s essential to be a good ally to the LGBTQ+ community. Ally is a common lexicon in the queer community, and you may be wondering what it means.  

According to Merriam Webster, an ally is “one that is associated with another as a helper: a person or group that provides assistance and support in an ongoing effort, activity, or struggle.”

Specifically, LGBTQ+ allies are straight and/or cisgender individuals who advocate for the community and support it. Now that you have a basic definition of queer allyship, here are some ways that you can become a good ally. 

Some Ways to Start with Allyship

If you are curious about how to begin being a good ally, here are some basic steps:

  1. Be a strong listener
  2. Be open to having conversations and be open-minded
  3. Include LGBTQ+ people in your social circle (if it is safe for them to do so)
  4. Don’t assume people’s sexual orientation 
  5. Do not make jokes about LGBTQ+ people and speak up when others do
  6. Confront your pre-existing biases
  7. Believe that all LGBTA+ people are worthy of respect and dignity

Acknowledge Your Privilege and Use it for the Greater Good 

When you don’t experience discrimination first-hand, it can be not easy to relate. For many people, recognizing their own privilege can be challenging but is necessary.  

A specific example of privilege within the LGBTQ+ community is being a cisgender person and never facing discrimination for your gender. Even if acknowledging your advantages leads to uncomfortable feelings, you can use this energy more positively. You are not responsible for how this oppressive system was created, but you can implement change. Speaking up about ending these structures that give you privilege is an excellent way to progress as an ally. 

Uplift the More Marginalized Community Members

It is essential to lift queer voices, but it is especially crucial to give space and a voice to more marginalized identities like black and indigenous people of color (BIPOC), impoverished trans people, gender non-conforming people, low-income and undocumented people, and sex workers.

Be sure to show up and celebrate the most marginalized and oppressed within the queer community. These individuals experience much systematic oppression like poverty, unemployment, and other economic issues and need to have their voices heard within the community. 

One way to do so is by ensuring queer community organizers call out racism with police tactics that harm sex workers (especially black sex workers) and targets these sex workers, people of color, and trans folks.  

For allies who aren’t a part of the LGBTQ+ community, you can learn about the intersections between LGBTQ+ issues, sex work, labor rights, discrimination against immigrants, housing, policing, and many more. To do so, you can attend rallies, marches, talk to local or national representatives, and support bills that support marginalized individuals. You can contact organizations that work with these folks and help sponsor their events, spread awareness and advertise the events on your social media profiles. If you are active online, you can bring this activism into real life to show your support. 

Perform Your Own Research

Many things are affecting the LGBTQ+ community daily, so it’s essential to learn about these topics and educate yourself. However, keep in mind asking LGBTQ+ people to continually perform emotional labor so that you can learn from their experience can cause burnout and is not fair to them. Plus, talking about these topics often can cause these folks to re-experience traumas. 

Be sure to do your online research to ease the burden on the queer people in your life. Asking questions can be helpful, but be sure to navigate whether or not these questions will be triggering or if they are offensive. If you struggle to grasp certain concepts, find resources on your own to learn more. 

Offer Financial Support 

One excellent way to improve the livelihood of LGBTQ+ folks is by contributing financial donations. You can donate to organizations such as the following: 

You can also donate to marginalized people’s GoFundMe’s or other crowdfunding campaigns, which give people of all gender expressions and sexual orientations basic means for safety from violence.  

Get Comfortable with Making Mistakes

When you start doing the necessary work of becoming or being a better ally, you will likely make mistakes along the way. There’s nothing wrong with making these mistakes. Allyship can even be more about those errors than the actual things you are doing right. The most important part is how you respond and deal with the mistakes and how you progress. 

When you take the steps towards allyship, make sure you let people know that you are open to feedback and conversations. If you show that you are keen to learn and want to expand your ways of thinking, then you can communicate better. 

If you make a mistake, don’t be too negative and hard on yourself – being perfect is not the objective. All it means is that you need to learn more. 

Being excessively defensive or overly apologetic will hold you back. LGBTQ+ people or other allies that correct you are likely right, and their intention is not to attack you but keep you informed. All you can do is apologize, not make that mistake again, and keep trying hard to educate yourself. 

Continuing to do the Work 

When it comes to becoming an ally, you can start by taking small steps. That way, you can lead the way for others to join you and get closer to achieving the shared goal of equality.

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Billie Olsen

MODEL: Billie Olsen

Billie Olsen (she/they) is a lifestyle writer, disability justice advocate, and cozy femme located in Kelowna, BC, Canada. Their works have appeared in Metro News, Discorder, Sophomore Magazine, the Post-Feminist Post, DINE Magazine, and NerdReader.