Coming out is a very personal experience, and the support needed will look different for each individual. There is no one right way to be a great ally, but here are some ways in which you can become a more supportive friend, loved one, or colleague.
1. Be open to learn, listen and educate yourself
Part of being supportive to your LGBTQ+ friends and loved ones means developing a true understanding of how the world views and treats them. It sounds obvious, but to learn, you need to be willing and open to truly listen. Listen to your friend's personal stories and ask questions respectfully. Take it upon yourself to learn about LGBTQ+ history, terminology, and the struggles that the community still faces today.
2. Check your privilege
Most of us (including those of us within the LGBTQ+ community) have some type of privilege - whether it's racial, class, education, being cis-gendered, able-bodied or straight. Understanding your own privileges can help you empathise with marginalised or oppressed groups.
3. Don't assume
Don't assume that all of your friends, co-workers, and even housemates are straight. Don't assume someone's gender or pronouns. LGBTQ+ people don't look a particular way and someone's current or previous partner(s) doesn't define their sexuality (yes, bisexuals, pansexuals and queer people exist!) Someone close to you could be looking for support - not making assumptions will give them the space they need to be their authentic self and open up to you in their own time.
4. Think of 'ally' as an action rather than a label
It is easy to call yourself an ally, but the label alone isn't enough. Oppression doesn't take breaks. To be an effective ally you need to be willing to be consistent in your support of LGBTQ+ rights and defend LGBTQ+ people against discrimination.
5. Confront your own prejudices and unconscious bias
Being an ally means you will often find that you need to challenge any bias, stereotypes, and assumptions you didn't realise you had. Think about the jokes you make, the pronouns you use and if you wrongly assume someone's partner is of a particular sex or gender just because of the way they look and act. Being a better ally means being open to the idea of being wrong sometimes and being willing to work on it.
6. Know that language matters
We form human connections through language. The majority of us respect when someone changes their nickname – accommodating LGBTQ+ people’s names and pronouns are no different. If you are unsure of someone’s pronoun or label, just ask them respectfully.
7. Know that you will mess up sometimes – breathe, apologise, and ask for guidance
Accidentally assumed someone’s label? Having a conversation about someone who is trans or non-binary, and unintentionally used the wrong pronoun? It happens - don’t panic, apologise, and correct yourself. Likely, the person you are talking to will know that this process of unlearning is new to you and will appreciate your honesty and effort!
At VANRATH diversity and inclusion is a core part of everything we do. We fully recognise the challenges that surround this and we ensure there is always a supportive and secure environment within our team. If you've ever thought about a career in recruitment, or are considering a move, get in touch with us on 028 9033 0250.