June means Pride month, and not only is that a time for LGTBQIA+ people to celebrate, but for everyone to reflect and make changes on how they can be a better ally to the community.
What’s an ally?
An ally is someone who supports equal civil rights, gender equality and LGBTQIA+ social movements but identifies as heterosexual and cisgender themselves. They’ll work to challenge homophobia, biphobia and transphobia and do what they can to support and uplift LGBTQIA+ people.
A great example of an ally is Princess Diana. At the height of the AIDS crisis, when many people still wrongly believed that HIV and AIDS could be passed by hugging or shaking hands, Diana deliberately removed her gloves to shake the hands of those living in a residential unit for people with AIDS. She used her prominent position to educate and plead for acceptance while still allowing gay people’s voices to be heard.
How can you be a better ally?
- Learn and Educate
The first step to equality is always education, and it’s important to understand the history of pride and the struggles LGBTQIA+ people have faced. There’s also a lot of terminology people use, which we’ve done a handy breakdown of.
- Listen and Ask Questions
If you’re not sure about something - ask! As long as questions are asked respectfully, people are always happy to share stories and educate. When people do explain, listen carefully as the lived experiences of every LGBTQIA+ person are different.
- Adjust Mentality
We’re all born into a heteronormative society, meaning being straight and cis-gendered is seen as the standard and everything else needs an explanation. Try to adjust your mentality around this with small steps like not asking if someone has a boyfriend or wife but using gender-neutral words like partner.
How About Pronouns
Another easy step you can take to help break down heteronormativity is adding pronouns where you can. In the last year, LinkedIn and Instagram have both added an option to add pronouns after your name. This helps break the stigma that you can assume someone's gender by their name or appearance and stops you from accidentally misgendering someone. By all people doing this, not just trans or non-binary people, it helps break down barriers that only LGBTQIA+ need to be explaining their gender, instead, we can all show our preferences of what we like to be called.
If your workplace hasn’t added pronouns to email signatures, why not suggest it! It’s a simple change that can make a big difference to people’s comfort levels.
No one is born the perfect LGBTQIA+ ally, and growing up in societies where homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia are prevalent, we all have internalised stigmas that we have to work to break down. Never be afraid to admit that you’re putting the work into bettering yourself and your understanding. It’s always better to make a mistake, apologise, learn and move on than to live in willful ignorance.