Piece | 8 Steps to Being a Good Ally

This piece was originally published in The Huffington Post.

June is long gone, but pride is something to have year round. The fight for equality doesn't end, and as allies, we have to keep in mind how to best do our part. Allies are essential to any human rights movement, as they help bring more voices and momentum to the issue at hand.

Whether you already consider yourself a good ally or know of someone who could use this information, below are eight tips to being a good ally.

Pass them along, and write any more that you may think of in the comments.
  1. Be aware that being heterosexual and/or cisgender gives you an advantage in this society. In many places you can give affection to your significant other in public without drawing much attention, and you can get married to your significant other and have all the social benefits that accompany this. In 29 states people can still get fired for being gay. Be aware of this privilege, and be sensitive to it.
  2. You don't have to understand it in order to respect it. What someone does may be completely different from what you're used to, or from your lifestyle choices. Remember to live and let live, and to show respect to everyone in the process.
  3. Don't use slurs or words that may be perceived as an insult. Words do hurt, and using a word that is associated with people as a derogatory term is harmful in two ways: 1) it perpetuates the idea that it's OK to use that word in a negative manner, and 2) worse, it has the potential to hurt the feelings of the people who hear it.
  4. Mind your pronouns. If a person is transgender, don't assume that you know how they'd prefer to be addressed. If in doubt, just ask in a kind manner. And for that matter...
  5. Don't assume. Ever. Don't assume that someone is gay, or bisexual, or straight. Don't assume the gender that someone identifies with. Don't assume how someone would like to be treated. Don't assume that all people are the same. Just don't assume.
  6. Ask questions, and do your research. You'll have a better chance of being helpful if you are aware. If you are scared of foot-in-mouth syndrome, you can always Google, but in case you can't find it, just ask.
  7. Don't minimize someone else's struggle. I'm adding this one because I've heard plenty of people say that while they are "sympathetic" to the fight for equal rights for LGBT persons, they get upset when that fight is compared to the black civil rights movement. No, the black civil rights movement is not the same as the gay civil rights movement, nor are the issues that these minorities face the same ones that transgender people face, and so on and so forth, but you are not walking in their shoes, and at the end of the day, oppression is oppression.
  8. Speak up. Yes, it's scary, but it's necessary. If someone around you makes an offensive joke or remark or behaves in a homophobic or transphobic manner, let them know that it's not acceptable. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?' Expediency asks the question, 'Is it politic?' And vanity comes along and asks the question, 'Is it popular?' But conscience asks the question, 'Is it right?' And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right."
How about you? Do you have any tips on how someone can be a good ally?


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