A straight ally, by definition, is a heterosexual, cisgender person who supports equal rights, gender equality, and LGBTQ social movements. While there are several ways to practice allyship, there is a notable difference between performative allyship and active allyship. A passive or performative ally might support LGBTQ initiatives but isn’t doing anything actionable to help the LGBTQ community. An active ally, however, is someone who witnesses injustice and then actively responds to it.
Being an active, effective ally is more than just listening and learning (although that is a huge part!). As a straight ally, you will have access to spaces that might not be inclusive or safe to marginalized people. You can use your social agency to uplift LGBTQ voices and be an advocate for inclusion and equality.
Statistical Results From The Trevor Project’s National Survey On LGBTQ Mental Health 2020
According to a recent survey on LGBTQ youth mental health from The Trevor Project, safe spaces and social support positively impact the well-being of LGBTQ youth. This study provides critical insight into LGBTQ youth mental health disparities and discrimination regarding housing, healthcare, instability, subjection to conversion therapy, and risk of suicide. This is the largest survey of LGBTQ youth mental health ever conducted.
The results show the resiliency and diversity of the LGBTQ community, especially amongst young people. Affirming someone’s identity has an invaluable impact on overall health and well-being:
Listen And Respect The Experiences Of Others
While there are (not nearly enough) anti-discrimination and equality laws in place across our country, that does not change the culture at the ground level. Straight allies play a crucial role in ensuring LGBTQ people experience safety and equality by actively demonstrating that LGBTQ issues are human rights issues that need to be fought for and protected by everyone, not just those in the LGBTQ community.
An essential and informative first step as a straight ally is taking some time to educate yourself on LGBTQ history. Knowledge is power, and making an effort to learn about the LGBTQ experience throughout history demonstrates active allyship. By doing this, you are coming into a conversation informed with essential background knowledge and not relying on a member of the LGBTQ community to teach you about their struggles. This is a crucial first step in your allyship journey.
Listening is an invaluable skill that is especially important when practicing allyship from a place of privilege. When talking with someone from the LGBTQ community, actively listen to what they choose to share about themselves. For example, you can affirm someone’s identity by using their preferred name and pronoun.
This is an important action that validates and supports their identity. Let go of any previous assumptions or preconceptions about someone’s experience or identity. By listening and giving normalizing and affirming responses, you create a comfortable environment for someone to share about themselves authentically.
Speak Up And Take A Stand
Misgendering--when someone refers to someone else using a name, pronoun, or another identifier that does not match their gender identity--can sometimes happen. It is not always malicious, but even if it is a genuine mistake, it is important as an ally to correct the speaker gently. Reiterate the correct form, which further normalizes it. A key part of this is to challenge assertively and in the moment. If it feels uncomfortable for you as a straight ally, imagine how it must feel to handle these conversations as an LGBTQ person constantly. This is a way to demonstrate and offer support to LGBTQ people you know. If you do see injustice or malicious intent, speak up about it.
Start An Ally Network
Whether at work or on campus, starting an ally network to work with and alongside the community’s LGBTQ network allows allies to work towards common goals while also keeping a safe space available for LGBTQ people to have just for themselves. Part of being a straight ally is also recognizing how important it is for LGBTQ people to have spaces to connect and congregate just for them.
Starting an ally network demonstrates how important allyship is for championing LGBTQ equality across all spaces of life. Whether it is at work, school, or a public place, everyone deserves to be able to live their lives as their most authentic selves.
Remember What Pride Is About
At its core, Pride events are demonstrations of resistance and liberation. These gatherings are an active form of fighting against the marginalization that so many LGBTQ people experience every day. They are a pushback towards the societal enforcement of heteronormativity and gender binary norms.
Too often today, Pride events have been co-opted by capitalistic organizations and public figures who use Pride regalia and symbolism to turn a profit, without actually having any of the conversations that need to be had or doing any of the work that needs to be done.
As a straight ally, you have access to spaces and are privy to conversations that might not happen around an openly LGBTQ person. That is why it is so crucial to be an active ally by using your voice in those spaces to stick up for equality and against further marginalization. Pride is for the LGBTQ community, but every year it seems more and more corporations slap on a rainbow sticker across their logo and expect that to be enough.
Passive straight “allies” use parades and other events as an excuse to try on someone’s everyday experience for a social media like. As a straight ally, you can use your voice to either dissuade other straight cis-people from attending for superficial reasons, straight-centered reason, or even better -- educate them on becoming a better ally alongside you.
Offer Financial Support
By far, the most effective form of allyship is giving direct financial support to someone in the LGBTQ community. Those who identify as LGBTQ are disproportionately likely to experience insufficient healthcare, lack of housing, and police brutality and harassment. There is also a huge income disparity, even more, substantial when examining the intersectionality of identities of many in the LGBTQ community. Supporting a marginalized person’s crowdfunding source is a way to be directly impactful with your money. Another great option is to donate to a queer activist group. By offering direct financial aid, you as an ally are supporting the most marginalized people in our community.
Support your local LGBTQ community members by hosting or attending events that support LGBTQ artists, musicians, and theater. Host or attend panels for queer sex educators, or help create a meet and greet space for LGBTQ people to gather together. The responsibility of creating and fighting for equal rights for those who are oppressed and ostracized too often falls on the shoulders of fellow community members. Real change starts at the ground level.
As a straight ally, show up and celebrate those who are the most marginalized within queer spaces and media, particularly transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming folk, people of color, sex workers, those who live in poverty, and undocumented people. Also, make room on your bookshelves, podcasts, playlists, and queue lists for LGBTQ art and voices. Supporting the work of LGBTQ creators affirms their space in the cultural canon and gives light and space to the representation these voices greatly need.
Recognizing, understanding, and embracing the intersectionality of these identities will only further strengthen your allyship. Take the time to understand the adversity LGBTQ people face daily and how our different identities intersect with each other, and other social issues such as workplace and housing discrimination.
There is so much more to do other than just showing up for Pride Month. Pride represents a call to freedom from an oppressive society, and that starts with stepping back and listening to LGBTQ voices.