How to be a Better Ally to the LGBTQ Community
Become a better ally to the LGBTQ community with this helpful resource.
For any major life change, a support system from loved ones is crucial. On Lost in Transition, we've seen the importance of allies throughout the transition journey. You can find ways to educate yourself about how to be an ally to the LGBTQ community. Organizations like Family Equality Council or COLAGEcan provide helpful resources and tips for opening up a dialogue on this topic.
First, learn some of the terms used in the transgender community. This glossary will help you use the right language to communicate responsibly, join the conversation, and even educate others:
- Gender identity - Refers to how you feel, who you know yourself to be; a person's sense of being male, female, or a gender non-conforming person.
- Trans / Transgender - An umbrella term describing anyone whose gender identity or expression differs from their assigned sex at birth. Trans people may identify with many different terms including transgender, transsexual, genderqueer, gender fluid, gender nonconforming, non-binary, and many others.
- Transgender woman- (male-to-female, transwoman, transfeminine) Someone who was assigned male at birth and identifies as a woman.
- Transgender man - (female-to-male, transman, transmasculine) Someone who was assigned female at birth and identifies as a man.
- Transition - A trans person's transition refers to when they shift their outward gender expression to match their inner gender identity. A person can transition socially and/or medically: some trans people medically transition to align their bodies with their gender identity, while some do not.
- Non-Binary, Genderqueer, or Gender Non-Conforming (GNC) - A few terms for people who don't identify as either men or women.Non-binary/GNC people identify outside of the gender binary and may incorporate any number of masculine or feminine traits into their gender expression. Non-binary/GNC people often use gender-neutral pronouns such as "they/them," (as opposed to "he" or "she") to more accurately reflect their gender identity.
- CISGENDER or CIS - In Latin, cis means on the same side of, while trans means on the other side of. A cisgender person is someone who identifies and presents as the gender they were assigned at birth ("on the same side of"). For example-- if you were assigned male at birth and you identify and present as a man, then you are a cis man.
- Queer - A term used by some LGBTQ people to describe their identity. Not every LGBTQ person identifies as queer. It has been and still is used as a derogatory term against LGBT people but has also been reclaimed as a positive and often political term in recent years. May be used to refer to either sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
Then, use these tools to become a more empathetic and action-oriented ally:
- Listen to the pronoun or name that your LGBTQ friend or family member uses to refer to themselves and make an effort to use these correctly. Do not refer to someone with their previous name or gender pronoun, and avoid phrases such as "when he was a she," "when he was still Sarah," etc. Family Equality Council provides some useful strategies here.
- Have candid conversations with your transgender friends, family members, or people in your community about how you can improve as an ally.
- Join an LGBQT friendly Facebook group for allies and ask other allies how to best approach the topic.
- Attend an event in the LGBTQ community, such as a comedy show, pride event, etc. You can get educated and have fun all at the same time!
- Follow your LGBTQ friend or family member's lead. It should always be their decision whether or not they want to tell others or talk about their identity.
- If you make a mistake by using a word or making a comment that doesn't work for your friend or family member, try to apologize without making excuses for yourself or asking them to forgive you. Work to be the type of person who feels comfortable learning and making mistakes.
- Advocate for your LGBTQ friend or family member if you see they're being bullied. If you think their safety may be in jeopardy, get yourselves out of the situation.
There are so many ways to be an ally to the LGBTQ community, but most of these strategies really come down to leading with empathy and taking action. No matter how small, your work as an ally helps to make the world a place where everyone is free to be themselves.