Following Pride Month celebrating the full spectrum of LGBT+ identities, I thought it would be helpful to give you my top tips on how to be an effective and supportive ally to LGBT+ people in your life all year round.
I hereby name it the “Ally Toolkit” with three simple steps:
Challenge yourself and others: This is my number one. I urge you, to challenge stereotypical thinking. whether it's conscious or unconscious, and whether it's your own or someone else’s. It's important to remain open minded and try not to pre-judge a person’s sexual preference by looks or mannerisms alone. As an LGBT+ individual, it’s a breath of fresh air for me when an ally calls out unconscious bias before I even get the chance to open my mouth!
Here’s an example of an effective use of this ally tool in a conversation in a workplace:
- Person A (Innocent well-meaning but incorrect colleague): “So, what does your boyfriend do?”
- Person B (colleague who is exercising their new found ally skills during Pride Month): “Yes, do you have a partner? If so, what do they do?”
- LGBT+ colleague: [proceeds to answer the second, more open question to both Person A and B]
The important thing here is to not be overly confrontational and make Person A feel bad. It’s about being supportive, open and correcting people subtly (99.9% of the time, Person A in this scenario simply didn’t think about what they were saying, and we have all been that person once upon a time).
Education, education, education: People often ask why we still need Pride when we live in the UK where, actually, the majority of people are accepting of whoever you want to be. Answer: in many ways, we are so very lucky here in the UK, but there is still so much more to do and so many reasons that Pride is important outside of what we may see day-to-day. So when anybody asks you “why is Pride still important?”, perhaps you can answer...
- to raise awareness of more than 70 countries where being gay is still a crime (with punishments as brutal as death by stoning) and the 15 jurisdictions which implore ‘disguise’ laws, to criminalise transgender people expressing their true selves (here's a map of all of these countries).
- to make people feel seen. Visibility is the absolute buzz word here. I think, and I would expect, a lot of my LGBT+ peers would agree, that June is the absolute best month of the year among the community. Never underestimate the power of feeling seen and heard and, in some spaces, feeling like the majority rather than the minority for once. There’s a lot in the press about ‘rainbow-washing’ etc by some companies and we will all have our opinions on this, but ultimately we have to remember that anything that boosts positive visibility of the LGBT+ community is something to be celebrated.
Normalisation: the more that LGBT+ families, films, TV shows, media, culture, art etc becomes part of our everyday lives, the less ‘different’ anyone needs to feel. Pride Month is a time where the LGBT+ community come together in huge numbers (even from tiny places where people may be used to being the only LGBT+ individual in their village) and are visible in a way that they just aren’t for the remainder of the year.
Show up: My personal favourite and the most fun of all of these top tips, is to show up. LGBT+ quiz in your town hall? Go and win that Drag Race box set! Your kid’s nursery is running a session on inclusive families? Great, where do I sign up? Your place of work is offering free rainbow lanyards to any ally who signs up within Pride Month? What are you waiting for?! (this one’s actually real, too). Having spoken at events, attended panels, fairs etc over the years, my biggest takeaway has been that often the people who you want to be speaking to aren’t in the room to listen. People have the best intentions, but life just gets in the way, right? Well I promise you that the biggest and best thing you can do this year and next Pride Month is to turn up (and bring a friend). Numbers are power and they make people feel heard.
I hope that the above has given you some food for thought following on from Pride Month. Because Pride isn’t just for LGBT+ individuals, it’s for all people.