How to be a better straight ally to LGBTQ people
For people who are not LGBTQ, it can be difficult to understand what being a straight ally means. Some might think that allies just need to be supporters and nothing more, but there’s actually a lot more that goes into being an ally.
In this post, we’ll break down what it means to be a straight ally and explain why they’re so important in the fight for equality.
What Is A ‘Straight Ally’? Meaning Of The Term
“Ally” describes a person who is “not a member of a marginalized or mistreated group but who expresses or gives support to that group.”
Thus, to be an LGBTQ ally – meaning someone who does not identify as LGBTQ but recognizes the unique challenges faced by members of the community – is to be a straight and/or cisgender person who speaks up for and stands with LGBTQ people against discrimination, oppression, and violence.
What Does Being A Straight Ally Entail?
According to the education organization GLSEN, there is more to being an ally than simply identifying as one. Being a fierce and proud ally, which involves taking on the responsibility to continue growing and learning about the LGBTQ community, entails a lot of hard work – especially today, as LGBTQ people continue to face pushback from conservative groups and legislators.
So, what does “straight ally” mean in the context of 2022?
It’s true that significant progress has been made toward achieving equality for LGBTQ people around the world. Today, same-sex marriage is legal in 31 countries. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In many countries, it is still legal to discriminate against someone on the basis of sex and gender.
In the US, transgender and gender non-conforming people, in particular, continue to face significant discrimination in employment, medicine, and housing. Thus, they are far more likely to experience unemployment, houselessness, mental illness, substance abuse, as well as have insufficient access to gender-affirming healthcare. Today, transgender athletes are also facing bans from girls’ and women’s sports programs in 10 states.
Part of the problem that LGBTQ people face in fighting discriminatory policies and legislation is the lack of representation in the legal system. This is why it’s so important for the LGBTQ community to have straight allies in positions of power who can use their voice and privilege to help enact change.
How Can You Be A Better Straight Ally?
There is a lot of debate on what good allyship looks like. Individuals and corporations have co-opted the LGBTQ movement to lift themselves up and paint themselves as progressive to gain sympathy and bank on “pink money” or the purchasing power of the LGBTQ community.
Take, for example, the dozens of corporations that decorate their company logos with rainbows and project empty messages of equality and support come Pride month – all without doing much else for the community. Another example is celebrities who use LGBTQ imagery in their work, queerbaiting fans by hinting they could be gay without explicitly saying so, and making vague sentiments about acceptance.
Taylor Swift was famously criticized back in 2019 for her music video “You Need to Calm Down”, which features an explosion of rainbows and dozens of LGBTQ celebrity cameos. Critics have panned the video as an act of “performed allyship”. New York Times pop music critic Wesley Morris wrote of “the riot of auxiliary personalities – gay personalities – [being] in the service of her brand and persona.”
As Vox puts it, “There are two kinds of “allies”: those who lift up the queer community, and those who seem most concerned with lifting up themselves.” So, how do you become part of the former group? Here are four tips for becoming a better ally:
1. Be Curious And Open-Minded
If you already know the basic concepts of what it means to be gay, bisexual, transgender, non-binary, asexual, etc., that’s great! But you should also recognize that there is no one way to be any of those things. LGBTQ people have different experiences and perspectives, and things like class, race, sex, gender, disability, and nationality can put can compound one’s experience of discrimination and oppression.
The LGBTQ movement is also relatively new, and many people are only beginning to find the terms and concepts to describe themselves. So, always be willing to learn about new identities and experiences.
2. Learn To ‘Pass The Mic’
Or as GLSEN puts it, “speak up, not over”. As an ally, it’s important to speak up for the marginalized and oppressed, especially if people in positions of power are trying to silence them.
However, it’s also important to let LGBTQ people advocate for themselves and tell their own stories. Thus, the idea of “passing the mic” to LGBTQ people who may feel afraid to speak or who aren’t given the opportunity to do so. Uplift the voices of activists and advocates and give way to them in discussions that concern them.
3. Recognize Your Privilege
As a straight and/or cisgender person, you are inherently more privileged than someone who isn’t. That means you may not know what it means to be denied certain rights, you may have certain safety nets that others do not, and blind spots that you can’t even recognize immediately.
Understanding this allows you to better empathize with others and helps you figure out how to uplift marginalized people without centering yourself in the conversation.
4. Take Action
You can’t just identify as an ally and call it a day. Being nice to LGBTQ people is great and all, but it’s the bare minimum of allyship.
Put your privilege into action by:
- Speaking up against discriminatory remarks or oppressive policies at school, work, or in social situations;
- Calling out your friends for making offensive jokes, even when there are no LGBTQ people around
- Showing up to protests and Pride events. Remember, there is strength in numbers.
So, what does it mean to be a straight ally? It means standing up for your LGBTQ friends and family members, even when it’s not easy. It means using your privilege to help others, and speaking out against discrimination and hate. And it means being there for your queer friends, always.
If you want to be a better straight ally, start by educating yourself on the issues that affect LGBTQ people.