Allyship is a lifelong journey of listening to, engaging with, and advocating for members of the LGBTQ+ community. While the desire to be a good ally may come very easy, taking steps towards becoming one in a thoughtful and intentional way may not be second nature to those outside of the community.
Fortunately, there are few action items that allies can adopt that will help set them on the right course. It’s also important to note that it’s ok for allies to make mistakes while they’re learning, and as long as they remain open minded and willing to listen, these errors can quickly be corrected without causing long-term harm.
To help allies get started, here are some beginner steps towards allyship. This is by no means a comprehensive guide, so stay tuned in the coming months for more in-depth discussions of these three action items.
Listen and Learn
The first thing to know about allyship is that it isn’t possible to know everything there is to know about how to be a good ally automatically. First, allies need to listen to those in the LGBTQ+ community who have lived experiences so they can develop a basis of understanding for those experiences.
Allies first become good allies when they recognize that they don’t fully understand what it’s like to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Initially, this is where Google (and the North Shore Pride website) can come in to help allies create a framework for understanding their friends and family members who are part of the community.
But before allies ever seek out an LGBTQ+ identifying individual for their insights, they need to make sure to do their own research and get up to speed on some of the basics. This prevents the burden of allyship education being needlessly placed on community members.
A good place to start is right here on the North Shore Pride Blog as there will be new posts on these topics each week.
Engage and Empathize
Once an ally is able to understand the basics of things like sexual orientation vs. gender identity, pronoun usage, and the existence of micro-aggressions, they are well on their way towards beneficial allyship. It’s one thing to know the many, many challenges members of the LGBTQ+ community regularly face, it’s another thing entirely to empathize with those experiences in a way that allows those individuals to feel heard and valued.
An example of engagement and empathy could be something as simple as providing a safe space for those in the community to talk about their challenge and help them process them. In these spaces, it’s important for allies to be able to say things like, “I may not fully understand what you’re going through, but I’m going to try, and if there’s anything I can do to help or support you through this just let me know.”
Advocate (for) and Aid
One of the biggest problems that arises in allyship is skipping the Engagement and Empathy step and going straight to Advocacy and Aid. This leads to allies guessing or assuming what would be helpful to the LGBTQ+ community without fully understanding the nuances of those community challenges or potentially doing something that would cause harm.
So if an ally is not completely sure about what would be helpful, they should do their own research first, and then engage with the community to confirm that they’re doing the right thing.
Once that step has been taken, advocacy becomes a lifelong process. Advocacy can look like:
- Showing up for forums or attending programs that center around the experiences of LGBTQ+ community members
- Attending Pride Parades, Festivals, and Protests as an ally to show support, solidarity, and a willingness to learn about the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community
- Donating to Pride organizations who are active in the community
These are just a handful of ways that allies can aid and advocate for LGBTQ+ community members. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more examples of allyship and for actionable ways for you to take part in supporting members of the LGBTQ+ community on the North Shore.
North Shore Pride also invites you to join us for our next North Shore Pride Community Forum: Violence Against the Transgender Community on Thursday, August 27 @ 7:00 pm. Everyone is welcome to attend.