Did you know that one in six U.S. Gen Z adults (adults born after 1997) consider themselves part of the LGBTQ+ community?
As the equal rights movement gains momentum, more people feel comfortable coming out, or exploring and embracing their sexuality and gender identity openly. While we’ve made great progress in cultural inclusivity for the LGBTQ+ community, this does not mean that discrimination and biases don’t still exist.
If you want to support the LGBTQ+ community but don’t identify as a member, you might consider your role as an ally.
There are a lot of different definitions of what an ally is. In this article, we’ll use the definition provided by the Diversity Style Guide: an ally is someone who makes the commitment and effort to recognize their privilege (based on gender, class, race, sexual identity, or other unique positions of power) and works in solidarity with oppressed groups in the struggle for justice.
To further break down what it means to be an LGBTQ+ ally, we rounded up some tips and takeaways about allyship, inspired by conversations with SonderMind employees.
Do your research
“Even though same-sex marriage is legal in the United States, discrimination still exists, in legislation and elsewhere. Do some research and talk to people within the community, and you’ll understand the importance of allies.”
If you’re a new ally, learning key terms and acronyms is a good place to start. The good news is, the internet has made it extremely easy to learn about the changing language and terminology affecting the community.
Before Googling anything, be sure to check your sources — don’t just believe anything you read online. Sources like GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, and university and government programs can usually be trusted for accurate and up-to-date information.
Next, take time to educate yourself on the history of the LGBTQ+ community in the U.S. Become aware of issues like prejudice, discrimination, and violence that affect this community at a rate of nearly four times more than non-LGBTQ+ people.
Lastly, follow the news so you can be aware of how the LGBTQ+ community is currently being affected, both locally and nationally. A good resource for national news is the ACLU. The ACLU updates its website regularly with house and senate bill numbers that will affect the LGBT community if passed.
What action can you take? ✔️
Familiarize yourself with key terms and concepts. We recommend using this resource.
Hold space for others
“Allies won’t know the full experience of being queer, but they do create room in every space for queer people to speak their truth... Don’t just feel bad for people who are dealing with constant discrimination; allow those people to feel respected and heard. Sometimes it’s as simple as saying, ‘I can’t even imagine what that would be like, but I’m here for you and love you.’”
While it’s impossible to know exactly how someone’s personal experience feels, there is data around mental health and the LGBTQ+ community that is important to be aware of. Lesbian, gay, or bisexual adults are twice as likely as heterosexual adults to experience a mental health condition, and transgender individuals are about four times as likely as cisgender individuals to experience a mental health condition. In addition, LGBTQ+ youth are more likely to report symptoms of depression or suicidal thoughts.
Here are a few ways you can hold space for your LGBTQ+ friends and family:
- Be an active listener. Active listening means that you refrain from interrupting, and you give plenty of time for the other person to think and respond throughout the conversation. You’re not distracted or on your phone, you are focused on what the other person is saying. You may even restate what they say or ask open-ended questions if the other person feels comfortable with that.
- Be inclusive. Creating a community that fosters psychological safety often doesn’t happen overnight. But it starts with inclusivity. Celebrate each other’s differences and create opportunities for openness. Don’t assume someone’s sexuality or gender identity. Even your words have the power to make people feel included or excluded. Small changes, like using a gender-neutral term (think “Hi everyone” versus “Hi guys”), can make a big difference.
- Be willing to have dialogue and apologize if you make a mistake. Part of being an ally means being held accountable for your own shortcomings. If someone has taken the time to call attention to the way your actions have impacted them or others, you should also take the time to reflect on what was brought to your attention and how you can create a meaningful change moving forward. Identifying the root cause of a mistake can help you explore areas of continued education and your commitment to your allyship.
What action can you take? ✔️
Add your pronouns to your social media bio or email signature. Adding your pronouns to your digital communications normalizes discussions around gender identity in an increasingly online world.
Advocate every day
“Being an ally means understanding your privilege as a straight person and using it in a positive way to help our community. Stand up for those who are being judged. Make it clear to your friends and family that offensive language about the LGBTQ+ community won’t be taken lightly. It’s an everyday thing to be an ally. Every. Single. Day.”
One of the most important aspects of being an ally is being an advocate. When people think of “advocates,” they might think of protestors taking to the streets or lobbyists in D.C.
Those are both important forms of advocacy, but often, advocacy starts on a much smaller scale — like using corrective language when you see or hear something offensive in your workplace, family dinner table, or with a friend. And as one SonderMind employee put it, being an ally means advocating for LGBTQ+ people, even when there is no one from the community in the room: “When you witness homophobic remarks, having the courage to correct this behavior and advocate for our population, even if no queer people are there to witness it."
Allies who are advocates are well equipped for difficult conversations. Because they have educated themselves about LGBTQ+ history, the current news, and learning from their friends and family’s lived experiences, they have the power to be clear communicators who can challenge others' biases and prejudice.
What action can you take? ✔️
Use this resource to find a local LGBTQ+ center that you can get involved with in your community.
If you or a loved one finds themselves in a mental health emergency:
- GLBT National Hotline* | (888) 843-4564
- GLBT National Youth Talkline* | (800) 246-7743
- The Trevor Project (LGBTQ+ Crisis Hotline) | (866) 488-7386
- The Trevor Project LGBTQ+ Online Chat
- Trans Lifeline* | (877) 565-8860
*not monitored 24/7
If you or a loved one are experiencing a mental health crisis, do not use this site. Instead, call 911 or use one of these emergency resources for immediate help.