Being an Ally to LGBTQI+ People
Pride is about celebrating and honouring *LGBTQI+ people, as well as recognising those who have fought and continue to fight for their rights to live freely.
1. Know why we need LGBTQI+ allies
LGBTQI+ have few to no allies from a young age, but it’s never too late to step up and become one. In Canada, 62% of 2SLGBTQ+ felt unsafe at school and in Europe only 13% of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people aged 25 to 39 had someone who supported or defended them at school.
LGBTQI+ people are subjected to exclusion, discrimination and violence throughout the world. It’s time to do your research, for yourself and to help you advocate for others.
Some questions to consider:
- Can same-sex couples marry or adopt children where you live?
- Do trans people have to go through sterilisation to have their gender identity officially recognised?
- Are LGBTQI+ people protected against discrimination in all areas of life?
2. Learn to recognise exclusion of LGBTQI+ people in work settings
A good place to practice your allyship skills is the workplace. 21 % of LGBTQI+ people in Europe feel discriminated against at work and one in four (26 %) hide who they are. 21% in China and 30% in the Philippines report being harassed, bullied or discriminated against at work because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, expression and sex characteristics .
Have you heard a colleague saying telling someone “they don’t look gay”? Refusing to use someone’s pronouns? Or maybe making negative comments about Pride Month? These are called subtle acts of exclusion (or micro-aggressions). Often unintentional, they carry biased opinions about LGBTQI+ people and can be hurtful.
Next time someone tells you subtle acts of exclusion are “not a big deal”, inform them that, according to neuroscientific research, social pain (the pain we feel when we are excluded) activates the same regions of the brain as physical pain.
3. Be an ally and take action
Now you know why LGBTQI+ people need allies and what to look out for, it’s time to take action.
When witnessing problematic behaviour, we may not always know what to do, however you do not have to be a saviour to be an ally. In fact, there are many other things you can do known as ‘Bystander Intervention’.
The 5Ds of Bystander Intervention
1) Direct: the well-known tactic of interfering in a situation to make it stop.
How? Address the person committing the act of exclusion and ask them to stop whatever they are doing. Speak from your own viewpoint, rather than on behalf of another e.g.: “What you are doing is unacceptable / this is making me uncomfortable / I don’t believe this behaviour has a place here”.
2) Distract: divert the situation to prevent escalation
How? Find an excuse to interfere in the conversation or interaction. Pretend you forgot something in the room, drop an object to draw attention towards you, ask the person who is experiencing the unwanted behaviour to come with you to go out for air or pretend there is an emergency (“someone is looking for you urgently”)… Be creative.
3) Document: keep track of what you have observed.
How? Take notes on your phone, in a notebook (safely stored), take screenshots of messages or emails, you could act as a witness. Beware of recording and filming: keep in mind that you may be in legal difficulty if you share videos, photos or recordings without the consent of the people in them.
4) Delegate: find someone who can take action.
How? If you are witness or experience discriminatory behaviour on the spot and do not know what to do you can contact someone like your manager, your HR team, or diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging manager in your organisation.
5) Delay: check-in with your colleague.
How? Find them after the event or problematic behaviour, ask them how they are and what you can do for them.
Ask Yourself: What is My Allyship Style?
Are you confident enough to step in and interrupt a conversation because it’s going in the wrong direction? Or are you more comfortable with checking-in with people? Or maybe looking for expert advice on how to move on?
What if I make a mistake?
As an ally, you will make mistakes. And as long as you commit to do better, it’s okay. Learn to craft a heartfelt, good apology and continue your journey.
- Use the Equaldex Map to see the progress of LGBTQ+ rights across the world
- Free online trainings on the 5Ds of bystander intervention by RightToBe
- The Guide to Allyship by Amélie Lamont
- Stonewall’s list of LGBTQ+ terms
- Videos: Being transgender at work, Being an LGBT ally, LGBT experiences at work, What It’s Like To Be Intersex.
What are your tips on being an ally?
*LGBTQI+ is a globally used acronym to refer to the community as a collective. This term may differ depending on the country or location you’re in (e.g. 2SLGBTQI+in Canada).
A full list of Keywords Studios’ 2023 Pride activities and initiatives is available here.