Congratulations on meeting the basic standards of human decency. Now here are a few things you can do to make your allyhood more meaningful. I’m sure I’m far from the first person to say these things, but there are plenty of people who haven’t heard them yet, so I will go ahead and explain them in my words.
1. Don’t expect praise for being an “ally”
Calling yourself an ally is not enough to make a difference, so members of our community probably won’t shower you with friendship simply for not hating us.
2. Realize that you don’t have to be a raging homophobe to perpetuate homophobia
Here’s the thing about cisheteronormativity (the assumption that everyone agrees with the gender they were assigned at birth and will always be exclusively attracted to the “opposite sex”): it’s really fucking stealthy so even the littlest things that reflect that sentiment can be harmful to people who do not fit the “norms”. If I had a dollar for every time I heard a straight person say “but I’m an ALLY“, “But I have gay friends”, “but I would NEVER judge someone because of their sexual orientation”, or any variation thereupon when called out for saying something ‘phobic I would not have had to spend the last three months working long hours at an amusement park to save up for my semester abroad. THOSE THINGS DO NOT MAKE WHAT YOU SAID ANY LESS HARMFUL. If someone tells you that you said or did something harmful, just try your best not to do it again. Don’t try to justify it by claiming what a good person you are.
3. If You Have Kids or Ever Plan on Having Them, do not Push Gender Roles and Heterosexuality on Them
And most straight people do it more than they think they do. If you “have no problem with gay people but would be upset if your son was gay” guess what, you DO have a problem with gay people. If you jokingly tell your relatives that your 6 month old baby is going to be a “real ladies’ man when he grows up,” you are broadcasting your assumptions when it is far too early to tell if your child will like ladies or even grow up to be a man. Hell, even saying things like “I can’t wait to dress up my daughter in pretty dresses and take her to ballet class,” or “sweetie, when you’re older and start to like boys…” is forcing roles on them. Compared to a lot of my friends, I got lucky in the parents department. My parents made it very clear that they supported gay rights since I was a little kid, but because they also assumed that I would be straight I was afraid to come out to them. Don’t give your kids any reason to be afraid to come out to you.
4. Remember That the A Doesn’t Stand for Allies
A lot of times you might see an A in the big alphabet soup and people might have told you that it stands for allies. It doesn’t. Your support does not make you an honorary member of the community. The A stands for asexual, sometimes called “ace” for short. If your new to this whole allying thing, those are people who experience little to no sexual attraction to anyone. They are a group of people who get thrown under the bus pretty often by allies and people who fall under the other letters alike so please also keep their issues in mind.
5. Don’t Forget the Intersex People Either
Not everyone can even have a binary gender accurately assigned to them at birth because of abnormalities in their X and Y chromosomes that lead to ambiguous genitalia. People with these conditions are collectively known as intersex and are also often forgotten about because the gender binary is so rigidly enforced.
6. Think Intersectionally
It’s easy to picture Kurt and Blaine from Glee or Neil Patrick Harris’ family as the main image of our community, but that can be damaging to members who are not upper class, cisgender (that’s if you agree with the gender you were assigned at birth, as in not transgender), good-looking, white men who have conventional relationships. We come from all genders, races, social classes, family structures, countries, and subcultures and we all experience oppression differently and all deserve your acknowledgement.
7. Don’t Talk Like Gay Marriage is the Be-All, End-All of our Rights
Yeah, it’s great, but consider the following. “Corrective rape” is still a common act of violence done to control lesbian women. Gay and gender non conforming teenagers are made to feel unsafe at school. Bisexual women suffer the often violent consequences of the stereotype that we will literally have sex with anyone. LGBTQ youth are living on the streets because their parents kicked them out of their houses. Black trans women are arrested for simply walking down the street because police officers often assume that they are sex workers. Asexual people are thought to simply not exist. In several countries simply existing as an openly LGBTQ person in punishable by death. Gender non-binary people can’t even mark their genders on most types of paperwork. People die from in violent attacks by people who perceive them as anything but cisgender and heterosexual. The people who we are supposed to trust with our health are often surprisingly clueless about us. All of these issues and the myriad of others will not magically go away if we are granted the right to marry our partners if we want to.
8. Don’t Expect us to Always be Willing to Educate You
That is not our job. It’s exhausting and there are plenty of resources available to do your own research.
9. Support LGBT+ Artists and Media that Positively Represents us
Listen to a gay music artist. Read a book by a lesbian author. Go see a movie with a transgender character who is played by a transgender actress. Watch a TV show with a sexually/gender identity diverse cast. Read a book with a genderqueer character. Read a comic with a bisexual character. Recommend all of these works that present the characters without harmful stereotypes to your friends. Representation matters and we need to prove to the people in charge of what media is brought to the mainstream that there is a demand for it.
10. Don’t ‘Splain
Do not EVER tell someone of a minority group that you aren’t part of that it “can’t be that bad” if they’re talking about their lived experiences. Sure, you may never have heard about that certain thing happening to anyone else, but that does not mean that the person is exaggerating. Undermining the significance of a problem only makes it worse. Also, do not equate it with something that happened to you. I highly doubt that it’s the same thing and taking someone’s problem and making it all about you is probably one of the most selfish things you can do.
11. Strike Anything that Sounds like “Hate Just Breeds More Hate” From Your Lexicon
We have every right to be angry about our oppression. Most of us know damn well that changing ourselves to be more palatable to straight people hurts us more than it helps. And yes, our anger might make you uncomfortable sometimes, but that just alerts you that you are part of the problem and need to fix that. “Straight people need to stop _____” is more powerful than “Homophobes need to stop _____” because the latter makes it easy for people who ____ but do not think of themselves as homophobic to not acknowledge that they ______ and need to stop _____ing. If you are straight and you haven’t ever ______ed then don’t worry about it. And remember that our criticisms are not just as bad as the oppression we face because homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, asexual erasure, non-binary erasure, pansexual erasure, et cetera all of the part of a system that is rigged against us. Heterophobia and cisphobia are not real and if you use those terms unironically you are just embarrassing yourself.
12. Call out Your Friends on Their Shit
Friends don’t let friends perpetuate heteronormativity.
13. Know That This List is not all Inclusive
There is no formula to being the perfect ally. In fact, being an ally is about always being willing to learn more things you can do to help. This is also where I invite any LGBTQ+ individuals who have read this list to add their own suggestions.
Now go forth and be a meaningful ally