I love a good ally. An ally that just gets it, you know? It’s almost as comfortable to me as actually interacting with my best queer friends. Straight people have had such a long history of marginalizing us, that it’s so heartwarming when a straight person listens, understands, and uses what they’ve listened to so they can stand by the community. There’s a level of empathy there that gets me to respect them even more as a person, despite knowing that being an ally to the community is the equivalent to basic human decency.
At one point of the movement, allies speaking for us might have been very helpful. Straight celebrities and public figures were more in the limelight, and having them speak on why we should have equal rights might have been more productive. However, with how massive social media has become, how many more of our rights have been legalized, and with more queer individuals taking the spotlight, we’ve shifted more toward speaking for ourselves, with allies boosting the message by saying that they agree. Because of this switch, there are new ways to be a more effective ally, rather than just haphazardly advocating in a way you think is helping, but might actually be having a negative impact.
Being in the queer community myself, as well as being an ally to people I don’t have the same marginalizing experiences with, I’ve learned a lot about how to be a good ally to the communities you want to support. I’m definitely still learning, as a white-presenting, half-Mexican gay male, but I’ve gained a lot of insight along the way that could help people looking to learn how to be better allies queer people, as well as other marginalized communities.
Listen more than you speak
As a straight cis person, you have far more societal privileges than your queer counterparts. Your inherent life experience has less barriers, simply because being cishet (cisgender/heterosexual) is the norm. Because of this, it’s critical that you listen when we’re speaking, and speak for us only in situations where it may be tough for us to do so, or if we’re not present to speak for ourselves.
It’s incredibly nerve-wracking to be fully aware that you’re the only queer person in the room when someone makes a homophobic joke, but no one calls it out. Be the person who’s listened and knows when to speak, because I can guarantee you that your marginalized friends are paying close attention. We’ll know if you’ve been internalizing what we say about our experiences with being marginalized, because it’ll show in how you act, not just how you speak.
Use your voice to boost marginalized voices, rather than speak over them
The problem with allies speaking for us, especially when they may have only heard an experience or two from our community, is that they may not get everything right. While it’s okay to make mistakes if you’re willing to learn from them, it also looks better as an ally to admit that you’re not aware of queer experiences, rather than trying to speak for us without doing the research.
Yes, I did imply that you should do the research, because in order to boost our voices, you should know what you’re talking about.
And that doesn’t mean interrogating your queer friends, especially if they don’t want to be in a position to educate. It’s not their responsibility to do so. That means consuming the plethora of queer content that there is out there, whether it’s opinion pieces, podcasts, books (both fictional and non-fictional, preferably by queer authors), because we, as creators, put these pieces of content out there so people can actually learn from them.
Also, Google is your best friend. It will answer every possible question you could have. I’m not saying we can’t also be your best friend, but we’re the best friend whose job is to live our respective lives. Google’s job is to literally feed you information.
And if you see content like this out on the internet, whether it’s an interesting article you found on Google, or a video, or a podcast, or anything along those lines that documents the queer experience, share it! That’s a great way to boost our voices, and bring more awareness to these stories. Rather than taking it upon yourself to craft a statement that may not be true, or only half true about the community, refer people to something a little more accurate. Not only does that save you some brainstorming time, but it’s significantly more considerate to the authenticity of our experiences.
Include us in the conversation, especially when it matters
It can be horrendously evident when things like TV shows, movies, books, or otherwise were created without a single queer person on the development team. On the same note, conversations around the LGBTQIA+ community with no queer people present, whether they’re in a podcast/radio setting or are just your everyday conversations, can misrepresent what we’re aiming for if there’s not an actual queer person there who can give their own perspective.
When discussing the community, especially if you’re trying to create a novel, TV Show, or otherwise out of it, it’s important to include members of the community in the actual creation process. While it may seem easy enough to do the research and represent us thoroughly, at the end of the day, it’s not a cishet person’s story to tell. Including queer people in situations where that story needs to be as authentic as possible is one of the better ways to be an ally, and shows how much you’re willing to raise up our voices instead of overshadowing it with your own.
Give Us MONEY
The exact moment when you meet a queer person, whip out your wallet and hand us a $20. You’re not a good ally unless you do that every time you see us. Period. I don’t make the rules!
All joking aside, if you can monetarily support the queer content creators, entertainers, and talents of the world, do it! Pay us to be a part of things! Without money, the queer content creators of the world can’t make the content they want to make, which would undoubtedly provide queer representation and perspective. Paying us for our work, especially work where having a diverse set of voices matter, helps us continue to live our lives, and even make the queer content we want to make.
There are also several LGBTQIA+ charities that could use your monetary help! The Trevor Project and Trans Lifeline are two that I recommend, but they are far from the only queer-focused charities, out there. There are so many queer people out there who need our help through organizations like these, and they can’t continue to do this amazing work without the proper funding.
And of course, if money is tight, there are always other ways to help! If you can’t donate to a charity, volunteer! If you can’t purchase a queer person’s art, spread the word about it! Just because you don’t have the funds to give them this support doesn’t mean you’ve run out of ways to help out. We’ll be grateful for whatever you can give.
Acknowledge that the lived experience is ALWAYS different than being educated on it
One of the most important aspects of being an ally is knowing that no matter how educated you may be on the queer journey, nothing will be the same as the actual lived experience. Because you’re not actually living the experience of being a queer person, you will never fully understand what it’s like to live as that identity.
But that’s okay!
Cishet people don’t have to fully empathize with the experience of queer people to still advocate for us. We can still have inherently different life experiences, and you can still be there at our Pride festivals, swing by our gay bars (as long as you’re not treating it like some extraterrestrial spectacle), and be involved in the queer parts of our lives while recognizing that things are just different, for us. We don’t all have the same worries, and though we all are working toward a similar kind of happiness, the paths we take are a little different to get there. As long as you’re still willing to root for us on the sidelines, I’d say that’s alright, with me.
While this is, by far, not a comprehensive list, it’s a huge start to learning how to be a strong ally for the community. While these are sometimes second nature to us, and maybe a little harder for cishet people to internalize, it means so much to the community when allies take the initiative to learn how to advocate for us more effectively. There’s a lot to learn, and it can feel like things are constantly changing. As long as you’re making sure to listen to the community that you want to advocate for, and educating yourself on how to be a better ally, you’re already taking some great steps.