(Straight ally flag)
I have lived LGBTQ+ adjacent most of my life. I have family members, friends, and colleagues who identify by these labels. And over the course of my life, I’ve been trying to suck less as an ally.
Being straight, cisgendered, white, and male has granted me several privileges. There are too many to list, but here are some examples of both my white and straight privileges. I never worry if the way I look harms my career prospects. Before a date, I have never texted a friend asking them to check on me later and make sure my date didn’t harm me. And my parents have never disowned me based on who I love. My life has been easy. But I’ve known people who did not have such privileges. LGBTQ+ people can often use support from people like you and me. So if you want to help, but aren’t sure where to start, here are some tips:
When talking with LGBTQ+ people, be conscious of how much you are talking versus how much you are listening. If they are spending their valuable time teaching you, treat them with the respect you would a professor. They are the experts. You are not. Just nod quietly, ask questions politely, and remember that they are human beings.
2. They Don’t Owe You Anything
If an LGBTQ+ person takes time to explain their life to you, great. It’s nice that you get to learn something new. But if you ask good-natured questions, and your LGBTQ+ buddy replies, “Thanks for the curiosity, but I’d rather talk about movies,” or “I’m more than just who I love,” or, “Please stop asking me such personal questions,” take that as your cue to shift topics. LGBTQ+ people are not your tour guides to the magical land of queerness. If they don’t wanna talk about it, they don’t have to.
3. Use Your Power to Make Space for Others
If you’re white, cis, male, or the whole trifecta, this applies especially to you: use your privilege to lift marginalized voices. If an LGBTQ+ person you know is being ignored in a group, help direct conversation back to their concern. If LGBTQ+ issues are on the ballot in an election, vote for candidates who respect their rights. And finally, champion LGBTQ+ causes to those who need their minds changed. If you have privilege, you probably have a lot less to lose when you support LGBTQ+ people than they do. Certain LGBTQ+ people do not have this freedom, because if they were to out themselves, they could be shunned by their families, berated, or physically hurt. Remember: the most common way people are oppressed is by not being taken as seriously as equals. When you speak up for LGBTQ+ equality, you make their world safer.
4. Read a Book, Watch a Movie
Always good advice, right? Stories help us see things from different points of view. They also help us learn without having to pester LGBTQ+ people with questions they may get asked all the time. So watch some movies, read a few books, and then go directly to experts who can tell you how to be the best ally you can be.
We can’t fix the world all at once. And while we’re trying, we will all make mistakes. But by doing your best and putting others first, you can make the world feel a little bit more like home for your LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters.
(Editing: Elyse Mark)
(Translating: Wei Chen, Lian Tsai; Editing: Alexis Goh)