More than 50 years ago, a tragedy at the Stonewall Inn in New York City galvanized a movement to seek full equality for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
In 2019, the Association of American Universities found that of the more than 180,000 undergraduate and graduate students who responded to their survey, nearly 17% identified as LGBTQ+. That same year, a Harris Poll survey found that most non-LGBTQ+ Americans – 80% percent of them – supported equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community.
Today, allies continue the work to build mainstream acceptance of sexual diversity and speak out against discrimination and prejudice.
“Anyone can be an ally by amplifying voices of those who don’t experience the same kind of privileges,” says Anitra Rivera, interim chief diversity officer at Missouri S&T.
Here are some things you can do to be a good ally to the people around you, says Rivera.
Before standing up for the rights of others, you must understand the rights and privileges that you have and those that others don’t, she says. Individuals in the LGBTQ+ community frequently face challenges like:
“You may not have even thought about some of these challenges, not by any fault of your own, but because you have not had to,” says Rivera.
Know when to allow another person’s voice to fill the room and believe them, says Rivera.
“It’s important not to depend on people in the LGBTQ+ community to educate you,” she says. “Instead, do your own research and learn about the issues that are important to the LGBTQ+ community that need support.” Ways to inform yourself include:
Be aware that just saying that you’re an ally is not enough.
“We want to move from performative allyship and go towards active allyship,” says Rivera.
One way to respect others and create an inclusive environment is by using someone’s correct personal pronouns, says Jessica Gargus, director of Student Well-being.
“Sharing your own pronouns first is a way to encourage other people to share theirs and help make them more comfortable,” Gargus says. “If you’re meeting someone new one-to-one, you might say something like: ‘Hi, I’m Akeem, and I go by ‘they’ pronouns. How should I refer to you?’
“You need to follow up with consistent and authentic actions,” she says. “It is an active process that involves the practice of unlearning and relearning and building relationships with marginalized individuals or groups.”
Don’t approach conversations or situations expecting to know everything or to be better informed than your LGBTQ+ friends, Rivera says.
“Be open to making mistakes, being corrected and moving on,” she says. “Earn trust by seeking and accepting feedback from people within the LGBTQ+ community.”
Rivera adds that it’s important to be empathetic, thoughtful and sincere.
“Show consistency by being available to listen generously and try to empathize with and validate their experiences,” she says. “Show accountability by shutting down discriminatory comments and behavior, and give the person your support in the moment.”
Share with others how they can become a better LGBTQ+ ally, Rivera says.
“Allies can broaden their impact by joining or forming groups of colleagues interested in fighting gender inequality,” she says. “On our campus, we have recently formed the Campus Pride Committee. Push for organizational change. No matter where your organization or department is or where individuals in your group are regarding diversity, equity and inclusion, you can help implement anti-bias efforts that work.”