The world is a beautiful place, filled with people of different age, race, religion, economic class, able-bodied status, gender, sexual orientation, etc. These infinite identities, in their various combinations, are the ones that make our everyday experiences unique and powerful.
In the case of gender and sexual orientation, over time, our ideologies have become conditioned to be more accepting of familiar binary identities while often disapproving those who identify beyond the binary. Identifying differently is not something that is up to choice and is simply the way they are. It is nothing uncommon and there are ample examples of non-binary identities throughout history and even mythology.
While there has been a slow and growing acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community, they continue to face different forms of prejudice. This often forces the community into living a fearful and closeted life. Everybody, regardless of their choices deserve to live a life that is free of discrimination, which is why becoming an ally and standing up for what is right is of great significance and importance. An ally is a person who is genuinely concerned about the well-being of the LGBTQ+ community and strongly advocates for equal rights and fair treatment. While there is no such thing as a perfect ally, here are a few tips on how to be a good ally.
1. Understand Gender, Sexual Orientation and Gender Expression
- Do not confuse sex, gender and sexual orientation. Recognize the range of identities that a person can associate with. To know the difference between sex, gender and sexuality and to learn more about the various identities, please check out our blog article, Infinite identities – understanding sex, gender and sexuality.
- Try to do your own research. It is unfair to ask the LGBTQ+ community to justify their identity for your better understanding.
- Always use the appropriate pronoun to address people. If you are unsure of what to use, ask the person how they might want to be addressed. Also, get to know when/where it is safe to use the chosen pronoun. ( e.g. In front of the family / at their workplace)
2. Do listen when a person talks about their identity
- Talk inclusively about sexualities in your everyday conversations, to make it easy for someone to know that you’re a safe person to share their identity with.
- Be aware of the process of opening up about one’s identity and realize that the process is not a one-time thing and is unique to each person. It is okay to ask questions but make sure they are posed in a sensitive way.
- Appreciate them for having the courage to tell you, do not judge them, and most importantly respect their confidentiality.
3. Speak up for the Under-represented
- Speak openly about the LGBTQ+ people in your life, if they have opened up and are comfortable with it. Again, be aware of when/where it is safe to do so.
- While social media is a wonderful tool for education and building community, take online activism further into real-life scenarios. Anti-LGBTQ comments are very hurtful. If you find yourself in a situation where such discrimination happens, speak up and say that you find them offensive.
- When people speak up, it helps educate others and also reduces instances of intolerance from repeating again in the future. It will also give others the courage to stand up against discrimination.
4. Check yourself whenever you’re “performing” as an ally
- We have to acknowledge that we can still do harm, even when we’re trying to do good. Remember that it’s okay to make mistakes while getting to know the LGBTQ+ community.
- If you mess up, do not beat yourself up for it. What is more important is to learn from them and move forward. Apologize for your actions and aim to do better next time.
Being an ally is about embracing the differences and looking past them to create a better world. It is choosing to strip down all the different labels and to remember that we are all human. It is about being Otis to Eric  and Captain Holt to Rosa . While one person by themselves cannot change the world or undo the past, one can do their best and that’s good enough.
Here is a list of other resources, that you can refer to help you become a better ally:
- The New York Times’ The ABCs of L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+ (a quick-read primer on basic identities)
- PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays)’s National Glossary of Terms (goes deeper into gender topics)
- Conscious Style Guide’s Gender, Sex, and Sexuality Guide (great resources for journalists, reporters, anyone who’s writing about sex and /gender)
1 From the Netflix show, “Sex Education”
2 From the Netflix show, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”
LGBTQIA Resource Center: https://lgbtqia.ucdavis.edu/educated/ally-tips