The best way to be an LGBT ally is to be open and willing to learn. And remember, it’s okay to make mistakes.
Remember, too, that it’s up to people with privilege to start conversations and amplify voices that are often ignored or silenced. This is a lifelong commitment.
1. Be a good listener
When a friend, coworker or acquaintance comes out as LGBT, listen attentively. Avoid interrupting or rushing them, and don’t ask too many personal questions.
Respect that they are the expert on their own lives and experiences. Don’t expect them to be a walking LGBTQ encyclopdia.
Learn as much as you can about LGBT history and terminology, and keep up to date on issues the community faces. Don’t get defensive or sarcastic when you make a mistake—that’s part of the learning process of being an ally. And remember, you can always apologize. It’s important to show your LGBTQ friends that you care about them and want to help them be their best selves.
2. Be a good friend
One of the best ways to show support for LGBT people is simply by being a good friend. Your LGBTQ friend or coworker’s interests and hobbies won’t change just because they come out, so treat them the same as before.
Educating yourself about queer identities and issues is also important. This includes learning about gender identity and sexual orientation – not just the terms you might already know.
If you accidentally use the wrong pronoun for someone or say something that could make them uncomfortable, apologize. Being an ally is a process, and you’re bound to make mistakes along the way. Accepting that and learning from them is an essential part of being an ally.
3. Be a good partner
Being a good partner can be a big part of being a good LGBTQ ally. Supporting your LGBTQIA friends through the ups and downs of relationships can help to reduce discrimination and prejudice, Burke says.
Support your LGBTQIA community by calling out hecklers and amplify the voices of people who aren’t often heard, Fusca says. This can include correcting people who misgender others or using slurs.
Allies should work to understand sexual orientation, heterosexism, transphobia, and other forms of prejudice and try to eliminate them in their daily lives. They should also be willing to admit when they make a mistake and work to correct it. Humility is the cherry on top of being a good ally.
4. Be a good parent
As a parent, you can help children become allies by teaching them to be accepting of LGBTQIA+ people. It’s also important to talk with kids about prejudice and bias in the world and how it hurts people.
Introduce kids to books that feature LGBTQ characters. This can teach them about same-sex families, for example, and that homes with two moms or two dads are just as loving as those with a single mother or father.
Familiarize yourself with LGBTQ history and terminology, and take the time to regularly check-in on your own assumptions, prejudices and learned phobias. You’ll likely find there’s a lot of room to grow! Then get involved in your community.
5. Be a good employee
Be proactive about promoting LGBTQ equality at work. If you notice a colleague being subjected to prejudice in the workplace, report it. Be sure to follow the proper channels to ensure that your report is taken seriously.
Learn about LGBTQ history and familiarize yourself with inclusive language. Sharing personal pronouns in email signatures and introducing yourself as she/her/hers in meetings and presentations is an easy way to demonstrate your commitment to inclusivity.
Being a good employee and an LGBT ally requires that you are open to learning and making mistakes. If you say the wrong thing, sincerely apologize and move on. The fight for LGBTQ rights is a long one, and we all need each other to make progress.
6. Be a good citizen
Being a good citizen means standing up for the rights of people in your community. It also includes supporting local organizations that are doing the important work of educating others and helping marginalized groups.
Learn as much as you can about LGBTQ history and issues, including the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation. A quick Google search will reveal plenty of resources that will help you educate yourself, Burke says.
Make a point of sharing your personal pronouns—they/them/theirs, he/him/his—in emails and meetings to reinforce your commitment to inclusivity. Make a commitment to never misgender someone, either. And remember that no one is perfect—it’s okay to make mistakes, but don’t let them discourage you from continuing your allyship.
7. Be a good volunteer
Allies are critical to the fight for LGBTQ+ rights. They show support by going to rallies, calling out homophobia or transphobia, and supporting businesses or other initiatives run by members of the community.
Learn more about the community by reading books and watching documentaries, Fusca says. Learn about the pivotal events in LGBT history and individuals who pushed and put their lives on the line for equality.
Be open-minded when talking to LGBTQ people and always be willing to hear something new. For instance, don’t assume someone’s sexuality or gender identity based on how they dress or speak. Also, be sure to use the correct pronouns and avoid slurs.
8. Be a good volunteer leader
Being a good ally requires you to learn how to talk about LGBTQ people, their experiences and rights. This means understanding how to use the proper language and pronouns. It also means learning about gender identity and sexual orientation as a spectrum, not just as a binary.
Being an LGBT ally also requires you to understand intersectionality, or the way social categories like race and disability intersect with one another. For example, a transgender person of color who lives with a disability might face discrimination in multiple areas, including at work. This is why it’s important for allies to be aware of their own privilege and be mindful of how they use it in ally relationships.