I get popped the question all the time. Not the “what do you want for dinner?” or “will you marry me?” kind of question, but more along the lines of: “Hey, member of the LGBTQIA+ community, how can I be your ally?”
First of all, it’s good to dive into just what an ally might be (that can be Ally with a capital A or just ally). An ally has been coined by the LGBTQIA+ community as a friend, family member, or stranger with the respectful intention of allying with the LGBTQIA+ community. They can do this in a number of ways, which can be painting toenails, listening to stories, or walking hand in hand at the next Sydney Mardi Gras.
If you’re an ally and you are looking to up your ally game to the max, here’s a few ways you can do so (with the help of some very appropriate gif content).
Be a friend
Everyone needs a friend, and a reminder that LGBTQIA+ isn’t all just politics. Who doesn’t love a cheeky Nandos trip or a casual bubble tea by the park? Sometimes the best thing about allies is that they are there to do the normal stuff with you, just as much as the extraordinary stuff.
It’s good to keep in mind as an ally the dangers of crossing into the “queer best friend” territory. Nobody likes an ally who brags about their queer best friend like they’re a new handbag. We’re just…. friends!
Lend an ear
Sometimes we’ll have stories about work, school or seeing our ex at a party that we didn’t really want to go to. Otherwise we’ll have stories of some more heavy-hearted stuff, like prejudice, slurs, bullying, humiliation and homophobia.
A good ally may not always know what to say or do to make it better, but having someone listen is more than enough. Having someone supporting you from the sidelines is always a plus, the armour to your shining knight, if you will.
Let queer voices sing
There does come a time where allies should step back and let LGTBQIA+ members take the mic. I’m not talking about letting us bust out some Celine Dion next karaoke night, but letting us speak about our experiences and our advocacy in queer spaces and events. We have a voice that needs to be heard, and there’s some things that allies can’t stand up for on our behalf.
That being said, allies should not be discouraged to backup their queer friends, just let us take the lead and be one step behind.
Be mindful of words
This is for the “You aren’t gay to me, you’re just a person” and the “I had a bisexual phase in high school” and the “Hey, would you date me?” kind of comments. There’s a high chance that we’ve heard them before, and they’re not fun to hear again.
Remember that queer people are first and foremost… people. The whole “words will never hurt me” saying misses quite a few marks, because words do hurt, so please be mindful of what you say. Just think, would you say these things to your friends who are not queer? If not, let’s leave them at the door.
It’s just as important as asking a name, or how many sugars you like before making a coffee. Misplacing someone’s pronouns can feel a little embarrassing for an ally, but don’t let it deter you from asking and using them correctly. Remember to let it be one of the first things you ask and make it a habit for anyone you meet, queer or non-queer.
If you feel a little lost of how to ask, try leading. For example, allies can say “Hi, my name is Jon Snow and my pronouns are he/him (or whatever Jon Snow prefers), did you know winter is coming?” Then whoever you are speaking to can follow too.
Be active in the community
LGBTQIA+ members have a lot of things going on: annual Mardi Gras, drag parades, watch parties, drinks on Oxford Street, rallies, protests, community counselling, fundraising, awareness campaigns, just to name a few. Being an ally is like your very own invitation to these events, so feel free to come and do your part as a supporter for LGBTQIA+ rights.
Granted you are being respectful and a helpful ally within these spaces, you are always welcome to come along as you are!
Get ready to equip these tips and teachings and you’re on your way be the best ally that the queer community can have. We appreciate you!
The University of Newcastle’s Pride Week will take place from the 26th to the 30th of August. Head to the NUSA Queer Collective Facebook to plan your celebrations and make sure you don’t miss a single event.
Feature image by Jean Sabeth via Unsplash