You might think being an LGBTQ+ ally means attending colorful Pride parades and sharing your support on social media. But it is much more than that.
If you are a cis-gender straight person wanting to be an LGBTQ+ ally, remember that your experiences in life differ from someone who doesn’t identify as cis-gender and straight. For example, they might face serious issues like discrimination on a daily basis. This creates an emotional toll on them that you can never fully understand.
When a friend or family member comes out to you as identifying as LGBTQ+, they’ve probably been thinking about it for years and are just now opening up to you. You might feel caught off guard or unsure of how to react. But most likely, they’re hoping you will be patient and accepting and continue to love them as you always have.
Here are some tips and resources to be more than a sideline supporter for Stark County’s LGBTQ+ community.
StarkMHAR has resources on mental health, bullying, suicide prevention and more that could help allies better support their friends and family who identify as LGBTQ+.
Whether it’s a family member coming out to you or a friend telling you about a recent struggle, listen to what they’re saying. If you’re being respectful by listening, they’re more likely to be honest and open. And you should be honest and open in return.
If a friend or family member is coming out to you, you shouldn’t run and tell someone else what you just heard, even if your intentions are good. Outing someone as being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender can hurt their feelings and make them feel exposed if they’re not ready for others to know. It could also negatively affect their safety, employment, family situation, and more. During the conversation, be sure to ask who you can talk to or if they’re okay with others knowing.
Subtle signs of support like displaying an equality sticker on your laptop or sharing tweets about LGBTQ+ issues and events can show others that it’s safe to open up to you. As a cis-gender straight person, you might be afraid to show public support because you think others will assume you don’t identify as cis-gender and straight or you will be confronted by those who don’t believe in equality. Remember that those who identify as LGBTQ+ have similar fears that they live with on a daily basis. It will probably take much less courage and energy for you to openly support your friends and family who are LGBTQ+.
When someone comes out to you, they’ve likely been thinking about and living with their LGBTQ+ experience for a long time. Once you find out, that could be the beginning of your knowledge of their experience. Because of this, you might feel confused or afraid, but ask them to be patient. Also reassure them that what they’ve told you doesn’t change how you feel about them. There’s a good chance you might say or do the wrong thing. Ask that they point it out, and either have a conversation about why it wasn’t right or take the time to learn more on your own.
A lot of the attention for equality goes to national policies that affect how LBGTQ+ people can live and work. These are important pieces of legislation that can affect them and the people around them. Stay on top of what’s happening, and support policies that push further toward equality.
On the other hand, there are smaller instances of inequality that happen every day around you. If you notice something like harassment from strangers, family rejection, discrimination at work, or someone feeling ashamed of their LGBTQ+ identity, find out how you can offer support. Sometimes something as simple as a listening ear or a helping hand will make the biggest impact.
Pronouns are what you use when talking about other people, such as “she,” “them,” or “his.” Many people in the LGBTQ+ community have preferred gender pronouns. You can’t always assume you know someone’s preferred pronouns based on their appearance, so you should ask what they prefer.
Once you know someone’s preferred gender pronouns, use them. If you don’t, it can be disrespectful, alienating, embarrassing or a whole host of other negative feelings that can create tension and issues in communication.
Asking someone, “What are your preferred pronouns?” might feel awkward, because you’ve had the privilege of others correctly assuming your pronouns your whole life. Yet those few seconds of awkwardness are better than assuming the wrong pronouns for someone else. If you later make a mistake, simply apologize.
A word to the maybe not-so-wise: Never use “it” or “he-she” when referring to someone in the LGBTQ+ community. These slurs are offensive to those who are trans and gender non-conforming.
You might feel that you’re not biased against the LGBTQ+ community. But once you start learning more about the LGBTQ+ community, you could find you have preconceived ideas that you weren’t aware were prejudices against them. This realization can be uncomfortable, but you have to work against it in order to become a better ally.
Do not assume that someone in the LGBTQ+ community will teach you everything you need to know. It’s not their responsibility. Seek out resources online and in your community to educate yourself on what it means to be an LGBTQ+ ally. If you’re reading this, this page and the resources listed are a great starting place.
Remember: Being an ally is a verb. You must do the work to be a true ally.
Learn the dos and don’ts for working with students of color in the LGBTQ+ community.
Find safe communities and learn about State policies throughout the U.S.
Demystify the secret to becoming an ally for the LGBTQ+ community.
Learn about the world of people who are transgender and become a trusted ally.
Support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ+) youth and their allies.
Comprehensive cultural competency training and technical assistance to service providers, community organizations, and law enforcement agencies across Ohio.
Online community offering resources and support for LGBTQ+ youth and their families.
Advancing equality in Akron, Ohio through its mission of support, education and advocacy.
Support group in Wayne County for LGBTQ+ allies.
Encouragement for members of the Northeast Ohio transgender community.
Peer support group for transgender people and allies.
A transgender support group that holds regular support group meetings in Cleveland and Akron that are open to everyone.
Promoting acceptance of all individuals by defending human equity.
Celebrating and accepting all individuals regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.
Bringing awareness, education and knowledge of the LGBTQ+ community to the general public in order to eliminate prejudice and discrimination.
Festival, events and parade to celebrate LGBTQ+ pride in Columbus.
Supporting the LGBTQ+ community through awareness, education and celebration.
An annual area celebration of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex and allied (LGBTQ+) community.
Local festival to show support for local members of the LGBTQ+ community.