beginners' guide to lgtbq+ allyship
By Seth McIntyre
Published September 18, 2021
In the age of awareness we find ourselves in today, one can’t help but wonder what there is left to say on LGBTQ+ topics. In fact, it is said all too often that we’ve entered into a new society wherein queer awareness is everywhere, and the days of homophobia/transphobia have gone and passed. All it really takes is one glance into this supposed “socially evolved” world to realize just how much further we have to go. Drastic steps have been taken indeed, but far more drastic steps are still waiting to happen as well. Perhaps you can hear what one homo has to say on the topic, then be on your way to get that ball rolling with what you may learn in this guide to LGBTQ+ allyship.
It is majorly important to note before continuing that this text is being written by a white, cisgender gay man. It is obvious to say that I will have a different look on things than maybe a black trans woman would. The white and cisgender privilege I possess affects not just my identity at large, but my standing in the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. The intersectionality this author lacks that someone like famed activist and actress Lena Waithe possesses is something that will affect the content of this text. You are listening to a voice that has seldom been suppressed. That’s why I urge anyone reading to first, or additionally, listen to what less visible groups have to say on this matter. Since the dawn of pride, intersectional figures (consisting largely of queer black women) have led the LGBTQ+ community. White and cisgender individuals in the community owe our wholes to these soldiers, and yet, it’s intersectional voices that are never passed the mic. Great figures such as Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, Abhina Aher, or the staff behind such organizations as the Sylvia Rivera Law Project and the Audre Lord Project are ones to indulge in that can provide important intersectional perspectives and initiatives that I may not.
The Jobs of Individuals
It is all of our responsibilities to contribute to the furthering of justice and equality for the LGBTQ+ community. 69 countries currently enact laws that criminalize being queer, 12 of which sentence death. In the U.S. alone, there are countless anti-trans and homophobic orders still under law. This is all separate from the queerphobia of civilians present in every corner of the globe, still massively present in even the most accepting areas. To understand being an ally, you have to first understand how urgent the situation is. There’s no time left to talk about how accepting things are nowadays when LGBTQ+ people are still getting killed. This is the first and most important step, because if one doesn’t comprehend how bad circumstances are, one cannot effectively make an effort to change anything.
Individuals should actively support queer communities everywhere, as well as queer people in their own sphere of life. If you can’t support the everyday homo you see at work every day, you are the problem. That is not to say every straight and cisgender person should go flocking to LGBTQ+ people with remarks of “I love all my gay friends!” and “Queer rights for all, everywhere!” This may shock you, but queer people don’t usually want to hear your take. A straight and cisgender person’s job is to do the work, but know their place. This is where we dip into the straight/cisgender savior complex, comparable to the white savior complex you’ve probably heard of once or twice. A savior is someone who constantly praises themselves through their interactions and connections to the LGBTQ+ community, picturing themselves as the straight or cisgender person whom queer people can adore. An ally is someone who makes contributions to the progression of justice for the LGBTQ+ community and doesn’t brag on it, nor make jokes or take actions that would trivialize the queer community. You wouldn’t want to be the person who unclogs the toilet then walks around shoving the plunger in people’s faces in an attempt to display your accomplishment, so don’t be the person who makes humor out of the queer people who have experienced the oppression that you’ll never be able to comprehend. When someone comes out to you, courtesy is to let them know they are fully accepted by you of course, and you are always there for them. When someone is experiencing queerphobia, courtesy is to see if they want you to get involved, and step in when appropriate. Don’t watch your trans friend get spat on, and don’t insert yourself into a situation wherein the victim would rather you step out. When an LGBTQ+ person has something to say about their sexual or gender identity, be it a joke or lamentation, don’t think you have the right to make your own joke in return about their identity or explain their own sexuality/gender to them. Yeah, we’re gonna make gay jokes, and frankly, your job is to laugh (uncomfortable as you may be) and carry on. All of these previous things I’ve listed are examples of what straight and cisgender people do all the time to queer people. No, we don’t want to hear your joke about how gay we are. No, you can’t sit idly by while your trans friend is being attacked OR punch the transphobe in the face when the victim asks you to just leave it alone. Boundaries are an important concept, as queer people have put up with micro-agressions and casual queerphobia for too long now.
As for what you can do to support the LGBTQ+ community beyond the people in your life, there are endless possibilities of contributions to make. Spread awareness about queer news. Support LGBTQ+ organizations and individuals. This means (if you have the means) making donations to queer nonprofits and initiatives, or donating to people trying to afford top surgery. If you cannot pay yourself, pass on the information of these organizations and people to friends who maybe can support them. Join the movement to put an end to queerphobic laws. TAKE ACTION! Below are great queer organizations that you can support in some format, or learn more about by searching their names: National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network and The Okra L.
Thank you for reading and thank you to Seth McIntyre for sharing your perspective!