Tips on Being an LGBTQ+ Ally Through Speech
Written by Megan Allegretti, MA, LPC
Happy Pride Month Y’all!
Everyone needs supporters and promoters! I’m a white cisgender female in a heteronormative relationship, and I identify as an LGBTQ+ ally which meands I support and promote equality and rights for LGBTQ+ people along with actively challenging homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. In this article I’ll use the acronym LGBTQ+- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning (or Queer), + for everyone else who does not fit into those specific boxes. It is a very diverse group of individuals, and every community under the LGBTQ+ umbrella has unique needs, challenges and goals that they face. This community is so genuinely accepting that it’s an honor to be an ally to them.
Being an ally means having a strong concern for the well-being of the LGBTQ+ community. If you are like me, in the traditionally privileged group seen as the default by society, being an ally is using our power to help advocate for equal rights and fair treatment of those who do not have the same opportunities as we do, while standing up to people or movements that would marginalize or denigrate our allies. Here are some ways we can show our support through the way we use our words.
Show or Ask Preferred Pronouns
This one is super easy, and can be very effective. When meeting someone new, introduce yourself along with your pronouns. “Hello I am Megan, I prefer she/her.” This opens the door for others to follow, and requires minimal effort, less effort than telling someone you’re from Kansas City. Try not to assume you know what pronouns someone uses by how they look and start with gender neutral pronouns they/them . The best way to be an ally is to ask everyone you meet, “what pronouns do you prefer?” Then use the ones they identify with!
Use More Gender Neutral Terms
When addressing people, writing emails, or sending group texts, try using more gender neutral greetings. Instead of “Hello ladies and gentleman,” try something like “Hello folks” or “welcome everyone” because you want to be welcoming to everyone. When referring to a romantic partner try something like “my partner,” or “significant other.”, instead of introducing them as “my boyfriend/girlfriend” or “wife/husband,” Even making career professions gender neutral, like “fire fighter, mail carrier, actor, waiter, etc.…” can be an ally strategy. The different words accomplish the same goal, but can be much more inclusive to those that do not fit into traditional gender norms. Making this shift requires some effort on our part as the ally to challenge the societal norms we are used to, but this is a small adjustment to help someone feel more welcome and seen.
If you Make a Mistake, Apologize, and Correct Yourself
If you use the wrong pronouns, or a dead name, it happens. I have been there, and I feel awkward and guilty afterwards! This is a friendly reminder that it is not about you, as the ally. People make mistakes, so be conscious you’re not dragging out how bad you feel so that your LGBTQ+ friend has to be the one to apologize. When you notice you have made an error in labeling, simply apologize, use the correct label accordingly, and learn from your mistake.
There can be many reasons why people do not speak up when they hear something offensive related to the LGBTQ+ community. It can be awkward and we do not know what to say, or we do not want to make the situation worse. But as we have seen- words have power and can be hurtful. As an ally we can speak up and educate others to let them know that their words are not acceptable and actually detract from the user. Using it as an opportunity to educate others and bring awareness to how their words have meaning and promote self reflection to become more of an ally themselves.
Continue to be an Ally all Year
June is a colorful and joyous month celebrating the history and vibrancy of the LGBTQ+ community and individuals. Their needs do not disappear the other 11 months out of the year, nor do the reasons to celebrate and recognize them. We can use our words and actions to continue to support them in ways like coming out as an ally, continuing to advocate for equal rights and supporting inclusive policies at schools, work or other places to help protect LGBTQ+ folks from discrimination. Ask yourself questions, do research, and be honest about what you don't know, or are still working on.
I hope the biggest takeaways from this blog is you can be an ally in many ways, to many people, and that our words make a difference. Let us use our words and actions to support the LGBTQ+ community this month, and every month!