HOW TO BE AN ALLY
Even if you aren’t LGBTQIA+, chances are you’ll know someone who is. Whether they’re a family member, a friend, or someone you work or study with, it’s important to know what you can do to support them and create an environment that is safe and accepting. Your actions can have a huge impact on how someone feels, so here are some tips on how to be an ally to the LGBTQIA+ people around you.
Never “out” someone – ever. This is a big one! If someone you know is LGBTQIA+ and they haven’t come out yet, they’ve probably not done so for a good reason. Either they aren’t ready, it’s not safe for them to come out, or they simply want to keep it private. Don’t disrespect them by sharing these details with others unless they’ve said it’s ok to do so. Even if they’re out to some people, don’t assume that they’re out to everyone. If it’s not your stuff to tell, then don’t. Simple!
Use correct pronouns and name. If someone has decided to change their name or pronouns, the best act of support you can give them is to refer to them by their preferred name and pronouns. If you’ve known someone for a long time, you might forget at first, and that’s ok – if you accidentally slip up, apologise to them and move on. This brings us to the next point…
Ask where and when it is safe to use pronouns or correct names. Some people might not be out to their family yet, or at school or work so it’s a good idea to check with them first in private before addressing them in public. You might accidentally out them which can be upsetting, or worse – put them in danger.
Don’t use dead‐names or ask “but what’s your real name”. This can be distressing and extremely invalidating to a trans person. Imagine if someone started calling you by the wrong name all the time even if you corrected them on it – and how frustrating it would be.
Listen if someone chooses to talk to you about their gender or sexuality. You might not have the answers or even know what to say and that is OK – sometimes the best support you can give someone is to show them you care by listening to what they have to say.
It’s ok to ask questions if you don’t understand some things, but avoid asking invasive/private questions regarding someone’s genitals, or how someone might have sex – you don’t really need to know unless it directly affects you! Also, it can be helpful to consider whether you’d ask the same question to someone who is straight or cis‐gender. If you wouldn’t, probably best not ask someone who is LGBTQIA+.
Recognise your privilege as a cis‐gender and/ or heterosexual person and use your place in society to help support people in the LGBTQIA+ community. As cis‐gender and heterosexual is the societal “norm”, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever be unfairly discriminated against, abused, or excluded based on your sexuality or gender. Of course, you might have different struggles in your life, but acknowledge that you are privileged in this area and have power to make a difference to lives of LGBTQIA+ people. How? By openly supporting them, calling others out on disrespectful language (e.g. “that’s so gay”), and being a good friend and ally.
Support LGBTQIA+ rights. Keeping informed about the issues that impact on LGBTQIA+ people and communities is a really important part of being an ally. Get informed about the history and present challenges faced by LGBTQIA+ people in Australia and the world so you can better support and advocate for your LGBTQIA+ friends.