8th June 2022
You’ve got a friend
This Pride Month, Civica’s Alex Carpenter discusses all the ways everyone can be an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community
One of the best ways that someone who is not LGBTQIA+ can help to make those who are feel welcome and safe in their workplaces and social settings is to be an ally.
People who are LGBTQIA+ are still part of a marginalised community around the world. We face prejudice, injustice and even hate in many forms in society. This can take may shapes, such as obvious physical/verbal attacks, subtle use of language, and even legislation that seeks to remove our rights or (in more extreme cases) legislate us out of existence.
Being an ally is when you use your position and privilege as someone who is not marginalised, to actively help those that are. It’s important to say that the methods of allyship don’t just apply to being an ally to LGBTQIA+ people. A white person can be an ally to people of marginalised races. A person with no disabilities can be an ally to disabled people. The acts of compassion that are core to allyship translate to so many other circumstances in life.
Accept what you hear
The first step to being an ally is to listen. Be a part of the conversation and make it clear that you want to help. Part of the inherent difficulty of being marginalised is that you have no way of knowing if someone is prejudiced against you before you interact with them. If you listen, learn and make the effort to show support, then that barrier is lowered and progress can be made.
Another important thing is to accept. Recognising that you have the privilege to be yourself in public when others may not, is important to know what effects your allyship will have. Being able to hold your partner’s hand as you walk down the road is never given a second thought when it’s a man and a woman. If it’s two people of similar gender presentation, then those people might experience abuse for expressing their love in the same way. They may even be assaulted for it. Having something like that happen to you, or seeing it happen to someone else makes us afraid, and that fear can stop us from expressing our love in that way again.
Show active support
One of the most common issues in social and workplace settings is around language. If someone says something but has no idea that their words were offensive, the only way they can learn is through education.
If you hear someone say something that you know is not okay, it’s important to call them out on it, regardless of who else is around. This will both help that person to be more respectful in the future, and let others around you know that intolerance will not be tolerated and people will be supported.
If you’re not sure of someone’s pronouns, just ask. If you ask an LGBTQIA+ person their pronouns, they will immediately know that you respect them for who they are, not who you might think they are – this makes a massive difference.
If you have questions about someone’s identity, or you are curious about what being someone of an identity might be like, it seems natural to ask questions. But when you do want to ask someone something, consider whether that same question would be appropriate to ask someone who wasn’t LGBTQIA+. It’s often much simpler to do a quick Google search for a definition or an explanation than to ask potentially difficult questions.
Allyship is an ongoing process, as is progress for any marginalised community. The more you learn and the more you listen, the better you can help. A great way to do that within Civica is to join our LGBTQIA+ affinity group as an ally, join in our discussions and listen to our lived experience.