What is an Ally?
Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines ally as:
1 : to unite or form a connection between : ASSOCIATE <allied himself with a wealthy family by marriage> 2 : to connect or form a relation between (as by likeness or compatibility)
An ally can also be thought of as a member of a majority group who works to end oppression -- in their personal and professional life -- through support of and as an advocate for an oppressed group.
Many people in our community and campus grew up with unexamined heterosexist attitudes, assumptions, and behaviors. It takes time to overcome attitudes and behaviors to which people have become acclimated to. We believe that becoming an ally of non-heterosexual people will help in moving from heterosexism to an alliance described below.
- Active Oppression
- Oppression through Lack of Action
- Confronting Oppression
- Growing as an Ally
- Challenging Oppression
- Joining an Ally Support Network
- Challenging Heterosexist Systems
What Can Allies Do?
There are a number of ways allies can show support for LGBTQ people
- Pay attention to the words people use to describe themselves. Not everyone identifies as "gay" and "lesbian," and even fewer prefer "homosexual."
- Use non-gender-specific language. Ask, "Are you seeing someone?" or "Are you in a committed relationship?" instead of "Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?" or "Are you married?" Use "partner" or "significant other" instead of assuming that someone has a husband or wife.
- Do not assume the sexual orientation of another person even when that person is married or in a committed relationship. Many bisexuals, and even some gay men and lesbians, are in heterosexual relationships. And don't assume that someone who is transgendered is gay or that the person will seek to transition in order to appear heterosexual.
- Do not assume that gay, lesbian, or bisexual person is attracted to you just because they have disclosed their sexual identity. If any interest is shown, be flattered, not flustered. Treat any interest that someone might show just as you would if it came from someone who is heterosexual.
- Challenge your own conceptions about gender-appropriate roles and behaviors. Do not simply expect people to conform to society's beliefs about "women" and "men."
- Validate people's gender expression. For example, if a male-born person identifies as female, refer to that person as "she" and use her chosen name. If you are unsure how to refer to a person's gender, simply ask them.
- Speak out against statements and jokes that attack LGBTQ people. Letting others know that you find anti-LGBTQ statements and jokes offensive and unacceptable can go a long way towards reducing homophobia.
- Educate yourself about LGBTQ history, culture and concerns.
- Encourage your group or organization to adopt a non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation. Make sure that it is enforced.
- Help heterosexual students understand that LGBTQ people are a presence on campus and in society. They do not have to accept LGBTQ students, but they must learn to live peaceably with them.
- Support LGBTQ students because they add to the vibrancy of thought, activity and life on campus; not because it's politically correct.
- Display gay-affirming materials in a public location to raise awareness and show support.