The Pride festivities are over for this year, but just because we’ve put away our rainbow flags and glitter until next year doesn’t mean those of us in the LGBTQ community have put away who we are.
For those of you who consider yourselves allies to the LGBTQ community—or any marginalized community for that matter—you know being an ally is also a full-time job. If you are an ally or want to become one, here are some good tips to practice allyship all year-round.
- Do your homework. If people in your life are willing to talk to you about their personal experiences, that’s wonderful, but it is not their job to tell you about the entire history of the movement with which you are allying yourself. Check out books, documentaries, films, articles on reputable websites, etc., so you can learn more about the subject or movement.
- Speak up for minorities; don’t speak over them. Now that you have this education under your belt, it may be tempting to present yourself as an authority on a subject with which you have no lived experience. Resist the urge. When someone is speaking of their own experience, it is the job of a good ally to listen and reflect. However, there are times when someone from a minority group may not feel comfortable speaking out, or they may not even be present. For example: If your straight friend makes a homophobic joke in front of your gay friend, they may not feel comfortable calling out that behavior as problematic lest they risk confrontation. A good ally will stand up for their minority friends whether that friend is present or not.
- Remember minorities are not a monolith. Just because your lesbian friend is okay with you telling a certain off-color joke, it doesn’t mean others within the same minority group will also be fine with those same things. If you are ever unsure, it’s always good to ask.
- Learn from your mistakes. There will be times you mess up. We are all human, and making mistakes contributes to our education. The true test of character comes with how you react when a mistake has been pointed out. It may be uncomfortable for you to hear criticism but avoid getting defensive. It is your job to apologize and correct the behavior moving forward; it is not the job of your minority friends to make you feel better. When something makes you uncomfortable, sit with that feeling. Ask yourself why you are uncomfortable and use that as an opportunity to grow. Do the work of confronting your own prejudices and biases, even if you don’t think you have any.
- Get Active. Join groups that are fighting for equality and donate to organizations helping minorities. Sometimes activism can become tiring but remember that as an ally you always have the option of stepping back from a situation and going about your life—that is what it means to have privilege. People from minority groups cannot simply ‘turn off’ their status and quit being a minority until they are rested and ready to resume. Practice good self-care so that you don’t become burnt out. Remember it’s important to stay engaged when things get tough.
If you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community, FiftyForward offers a monthly Peer Support Group for adults 50 and older, where we socialize, share, receive encouragement and ideas, and build a community with each other. If you would like to join this group, have questions, and/or need more information, please contact us at 615-743-3417.
We hope this shortlist of ways to be a better ally becomes a jumping-off point for you to explore more steps you can take in your allyship journey. We highly encourage you to do more research on your own. Ultimately, your actions speak louder than your words. Thoughts and prayers are appreciated, but a true ally will back those up with how they treat marginalized people. Allyship is incredibly important to our agency, because at FiftyForward we see and celebrate the differences in every person. Together, we are creating a responsive community that is open, engaged, and accepting of all.