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People who do not identify as being LGBTQ+ but are supportive of them and their causes are called allies. Allies play a very important and diverse roles in the LGBTQ+ community. Members of the LGBTQ+ are often allies to other groups they don’t personally identify with. Becoming an ally can be a daunting thing when you make the decision to stand with your friends or classmates who are LGBTQ+.
Allies also go through a coming out process after they realize that they may be an ally and are learning about what it means to be one. This is one of the barriers allies face and needs to go through before they can be truly supportive. While they may be willing to be an ally, they may have people in their life—it could be family, friends or their employer—who would not approve of their being an ally so they cannot safely be open about their being an ally. Just like with LGBTQ+ people, it is important to know if the person is out as an ally and you should never make assumptions and out them.
Overcoming Your ‘Baggage’
Part of the coming out process, just like for those in the LGBTQ+ community, is acknowledging your biases, if there are any, and working to understand and overcome them. And, acknowledging what you learned growing up and accepting that this training guide and other things you may read, hear and watch will undo some if not much of that learning.
The opportunity to learn about the LGBTQ+ community is everywhere. There are books, movies, documentaries and the Internet. All of these allow you to learn at your own pace and without anyone knowing you’re doing it if you’re not ready to be out as an ally. There are YouTubers, bloggers, magazine writers, comic artists, Tumblr members and professionals offering valid information about those in the LGBTQ+ community and the issues they face.
You can also learn from members of the LGBTQ+ community. This, however, can be a double edge sword. While some are going to be willing to talk about their experiences and how they got to where they are now but not all will, and many may be tired of hearing the same questions over and over again:
”How did you know you were gay?”
“Have you always known you were transgender?”
“Why do you like men and women?”
If you have questions, ask the person if they would be willing to answer some questions and respect their answer. They are not required to answer your questions. Where you learn is as important as the desire to learn. Anything that is more than seven to ten years old is probably not very helpful other than for historical purposes. The more recent it was published, the better. The changes in how those in the LGBTQ+ community see themselves, the way they’re seen and treated by medical professionals and by the government, and how they are perceived in society are constantly evolving (and, in some places devolving). It can be difficult to keep up with if you’re in the community, much less if you’re looking at it from the outside.
Members of the LGBTQ+ community also need to be allies for others in the community. Those who are gay or lesbian need to support those who are trans or bisexual and vice versa. Together we are strong!
Allies (PFLAG) — website
Athlete Ally Q&A — website
Questions and answers on how to be an ally as an athlete.
Being an Ally (Youth Engaged 4 Change) — website
Coming Out as a Supporter (HRC / PFLAG) — website
A PDF or digital version of the guide is available.
How to be an Ally (HRC) — website
Straight Ally Spectrum (Straight for Equality) — website
Teen & Student Allies (GLAAD) — website
Ten Ways to Be an Ally and a Friend (GLAAD) — website