Being an effective ally

An ally to LGBTIQ individuals is a person who

  1. Believes that it is in her/his self-interest to be an ally to LGBTIQ individuals.
  2. Has worked to develop an understanding of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex issues. Works to be comfortable with here/his knowledge of gender identity and sexual orientation.
  3. Is comfortable saying the words; "gay", "lesbian", "bisexual", "transgender", "intersex", and "queer".
  4. Works to understand how patterns of discrimination operate, and is willing to identify such acts and challenge behaviours of others.
  5. Finds a way that feels personally congruent to confront/combat homophobia and heterosexism.
  6. Similar to how an LGBTIQ person "comes out of the closet", an ally "comes out" by publicly acknowledging her/his support for LGBTIQ people and issues.
  7. Chooses to align with LGBTIQ individuals, and represents their needs - especially when they are unable to do so themselves.
  8. Expects to make some mistakes, but does not give up when things become discouraging.
  9. Promotes a sense of community with LGBTIQ individuals, and teaches others about the importance of these communities.  Also encourages others to provide advocacy.
  10. Is aware that she/he may be called the same names and be harassed in similar ways to those whom she/he is defending.  Whenever possible, a heterosexual ally avoids "credentialising", which involves disclosing their heterosexual identity in order to avoid negative or unpleasant assumptions or situations.
  11. Works to address/confront individuals without being defensive, sarcastic or threatening.

Do's and Don'ts

Be supportive

Explain that many people have struggled with these issues in the past. Admit that dealing with one's sexual or gender orientation can be a difficult and confusing process. Recognise, too, that "coming out" can bring relief and excitement. There are no easy or fast answers Keep the door open for further conversations and help. If you are feeling uncertain, or don't think you can be supportive, refer them to someone who can be.

Don't be surprised

Respect their confidentiality; they have placed a trust in you.  A breach of this confidence can be devastating.

Don't put words in their mouths

It is not our job to tell people what their issues are, but rather to help them deal with the issues they present.  If a supportive environment is provided, people who would like to talk about issues of sexuality or gender orientation will know that this is all right.  Allow them to define their own issues.  Listen.

Remember that everyone is a complex and unique individual

Sexuality is only a part of the whole person.  Other factors; such as race, culture, socio-economic status, family history, geographic location and many others may also be important components of an individual's identity.

Supporting LGBTIQ people in the workplace

  1. Include LGBTIQ people in mission statements, affirmative action statements and policies.  Create policies that explicitly state that harassment of LGBTIQ individuals is unacceptable.
  2. Use fliers, brochures, posters and handbooks that take into account differences in sexual orientations.
  3. In your office, have LGTBIQ friendly posters, buttons and books visible.
  4. Devote equal training time to LGBTIQ issues.
  5. Assume that there are LGBTIQ people (patrons, co-workers) who are wondering whether your workplace is safe for them.  Provide safety by making clear your support of LGBTIQ people.

Benefits of being an Ally

  1. You become less locked into sex role stereotypes.
  2. You increase your ability to have closer relationships with same-sex-attracted friends.
  3. You have opportunities to learn from, teach, and have an impact on a population with whom you might not otherwise interact.
  4. You may make a profound difference in the life of someone.

Source: Counselling Centre University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (LGBT Ally Training Manual)