7 tips to Become the Best LGBTQ Ally You Can Be
Whether you’re a new friend of the queer community or just starting to explore your gender or sexuality, you might be overwhelmed by all the words, acronyms, terms, and phrases LGBTQ people use to describe themselves. Resources like our Grindr Glossary and the NLGJA’s Stylebook on LGBTQ+ Terminology are great places to start learning the queer lexicon.
One concept that might seem easy enough to understand is allyship. Your history teacher probably taught you about the alliance between America, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union during World War II. You watched the Bitter Old Lady Brigade play out on RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Black Widow Brigade on Survivor.
But the meaning of “ally” in the LGBTQ context is complex. So what exactly is an LGBTQ ally — and more importantly, what does it mean to be a good ally?
What does it mean to be LGBTQ?
Before you can become an effective ally, you have to understand what it really means to be LGBTQ. “LGB” stands for lesbian, gay, and bisexual, which are all types of sexualities. T stands for transgender, which is a type of gender identity. You’ll sometimes still see our community referred to as LGBT, but leaving off the Q, which stands for queer or questioning, excludes people who are bicurious, nonbinary, or any number of other identities or sexualities that don’t fit in with the “norm.”
In an attempt to make the acronym even more inclusive, you’ll sometimes see it expanded to LGBTQIA (meaning LGBTQ plus intersex and asexual) or even LGBTQQIP2SA (meaning LGBTQIA plus pansexual and Two-Spirited, someone from an Indigenous North American community who takes on an identity or role that doesn’t fit the gender they were assigned at birth).
Accepting and understanding the many different gender and sexual identities is important. But no matter how you personally identify, don’t assume another person’s gender identity or sexual orientation (or their pronouns) until they choose to share that information with you.
What is an ally?
Broadly speaking, an ally is a person or group that provides assistance and support in an ongoing effort, activity, or struggle. The label is often given to people and organizations that support a marginalized or mistreated group without being a member of the group themselves.
By this definition, you might assume all LGBTQ allies are heterosexual. But allies can be straight, lesbian, gay, pan, cisgender, trans, nonbinary, intersex, queer, questioning, or any other number of identities and preferences. If you help and support LGBTQ people who don’t identify the way you do, you’re an LGBTQ ally, full stop.
Why allyship matters
Conservatives like to spin queerness as a modern “problem,” a byproduct of the so-called “woke culture.” But the first American gay rights organization started all the way back in 1924, and the country’s first lesbian rights group followed about 30 years later.
When these groups formed, homophobia was already a widespread problem. But over time, homophobes became even more vocal and dangerous. By 1950, nearly 5,000 homosexual Americans had been “purged” from the military and government jobs in what was known as the “lavender scare.”
It all came to a head in June 1969, when cops in New York City raided the Stonewall Inn, one of the few safe spaces for drag queens and other queer people to gather. But this time, the community met violence with violence, resisting arrest and launching bricks through windows to loudly and proudly announce that they were ready to fight back.
Chicago, San Francisco, New York City, and Los Angeles celebrated the first anniversary of Stonewall a year later, holding parades that would become the tradition we now know as Pride Month. But while the heroes who threw bricks that summer night in Greenwich Village bravely started the liberation movement, it was a fight they couldn’t win on their own.
Allyship matters because the people who live alongside members of the LGBTQ community have a direct impact on the rights and acceptance of queer people. They hold office, enacting laws that can harm or protect LGBTQ people. They vote for or against the politicians who enact those laws. They determine whether a workplace or neighborhood is accepting or hostile to people from different communities. They pass their beliefs on to their children and influence the opinions of their friends and loved ones, for better or worse.
The social issues we’re still fighting
We’ve come a long way since Stonewall. But it’s been less than a decade since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. And the battle for acceptance and equal rights is far from over. Here are some of the issues we’re still fighting against:
- Transphobia and anti-trans legislation
- Homophobic and harmful gay conversion therapy
- Discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations
- Hate crimes and violence
- Bullying and harassment in schools and online
- Mental health issues, including higher rates of depression and suicide
- Lack of access to healthcare, including gender-affirming care
- Stigma and discrimination within families and communities
- Intersectional discrimination, including for LGBTQ people of color, those with disabilities, and those who are undocumented
How to be a good ally
There’s a difference between tolerance and allyship. Acceptance is a crucial piece of the puzzle, but being a good ally means going beyond passive support and taking action to create a more inclusive society.
1. Educate yourself
Seek out information about the experiences, struggles, and history of the LGBTQ community to better understand their needs and challenges. Stay informed about ongoing legislative attacks on LGBTQ rights.
2. Listen to LGBTQ voices
Listen to the stories and perspectives of LGBTQ individuals to better understand their experiences and needs.
3. Speak up
Use your voice and social media platform to promote equality for LGBTQ people. Speak out against stereotypes and queerphobia. Just be sure not to talk over those who actively live the discrimination you’re fighting against — you’re here to be their champion, not steal the spotlight.
4. Donate and volunteer
Make your advocacy official by supporting LGBTQ organizations and causes with donations of time, money, or whatever resources you have available that can help activists and support groups advance their work.
5. Attend LGBTQ events
Attend Pride parades, LGBTQ film festivals, and other queer events to show your support and solidarity with the community.
6. Support LGBTQ-owned businesses
When possible, shop at queer-owned local companies and online retailers. Spending money at a business owned by a Black trans person will do a lot more good than adding more padding to Jeff Bezos’ pockets.
The rights of queer people in states like Florida and Tennessee are under attack, and being gay is still a crime in 64 countries. Research candidates at the local, state, and federal levels to be sure you’re voting for people committed to helping us continue moving forward instead of back.
Find your community
Allyship is most effective in large numbers, and Grindr is a great place to meet people like you who know what it’s like to fight for the right to be themselves. Get the Grindr app, or browse hands-free with Grindr Web — the same Grindr you know and love, now available on your laptop or PC with no download required.