Your guide to being the best LGBTQIA+ Ally you can be
Pride month might be over, but that doesn’t mean our support and love for the queer community stops. It’s Pride 24/7, 365/365 at Contiki baby, and it should be for you too. Why? Because that’s what makes a good LGBTQIA+ ally.
But we appreciate that it can be a little bit of a learning curve.Maybe you feel too shy to show up to Pride? What if you accidentally say something wrong?
I sat down with Aisha, Contiki’s LGBTQIA+ Ambassador, and as we’re both part of the queer community we discussed together what we think makes a good ally. From showing up to speaking out and lending a friendly hand or ear, this is your guide to becoming the best LGBTQIA+ ally you can be!
Hey Aisha, I really appreciate you sitting down with me to chat! My first question is: What does it mean to be an ally for the queer community?
“An ally is somebody that speaks for you when you’re not in the room. For me that’s what makes the ultimate ally. It’s also the people who understand exactly what kind of support is needed for the LGBTQIA+ community, and they know that their support isn’t needed just for the short-term but for the long-term as well. Having longevity makes a really impactful ally.”
And how important are allies for the community?
“Being an ally is really important. I think in order to have effective change, no one community can do anything alone. So, allies, they play a crucial role in supporting LGBTQIA+ people, and advancing our movement, especially our Pride movement for recognition and equality.”
“The support of allies is truly needed and not just from any ally, but authentic allies who are willing to do the work for supporting equal rights and staying informed, etc. They become part of the community over time, as well.”
Does privilege play a role in allyship? And is this something that allies should use and be aware of?
“Yes absolutely! A lot of allies tend to be from the straight community, and with that they naturally have a more privileged platform. It’s important to realise that, and use that platform because it really helps when we’re trying to spread the word about LGBTQIA+ issues, as well as amplifying the voices that already exist in our community.”
“You don’t even need a big social following or anything – it’s not about being a famous influencer or actor or anything like that – but even just in your friend groups and your circles. Speaking up and being an ally is about doing that within your own network as well and being a changing factor there.”
“Acknowledging your privilege, whatever it may be, is a good one as well, and it’s often the first step in becoming an ally, not just to the LGBTQIA+ community, but all communities that are in need of support.”
So, Pride Month is of course the time where we celebrate our community and share all our love. But, it’s also a time to discuss the issues that we’re still facing. How can a straight ally be a good ally during Pride Month?
“First of all, I think it’s important for straight allies to know that they’re welcome during Pride Month. Your gender identity and sexual orientation don’t matter at Pride, everyone is welcome, whoever they are! But, please stay conscious and mindful.”
“Certain events are dedicated to specific members of the community and don’t have enough space for everyone. For example, there will generally be spaces dedicated to non-binary and trans people, or for queer people of colour. If you’re thinking of attending one of these events, maybe ask yourself why and would you be taking anyone else’s spot? “
“Another way of being a good ally during Pride Month is thinking ‘how can I actually be of support?’. Showing up and being there is already an amazing first step, but how can you make a difference? Maybe you can pay it forward so that another queer person can attend some festivities.”
“Being a good LGBTQIA+ ally during Pride is about understanding that, although you’re welcome, you’re a guest and we want you here and we want you to show all your love and support, but you have to be intentional, mindful, and respectful of the people and the events around you.”
How can someone be a good ally on a social holiday?
“When you’re in a group of people and you don’t know everyone’s identity or sexual orientation, it’s important to use gender-neutral language to avoid misgendering someone unintentionally. Queer people on social travel do worry about how people will react or speak, so being that person that is mindful helps create a comfortable environment”
“Being an open person in general as well also helps everyone to feel comfortable, no matter what background everyone is from. And then, if a traveller on your journey does come out to the group, show your support! It can really make a difference.”
And what are some things an ally can do in their day-to-day or in their workplace for example to show their support?
“There’s lots of things to do in your day-to-day when we talk about good allyship, but I think the most important one is to stay informed and up to date, do your research and educate yourself. The more that you know about LGBTQIA+ issues, the better you can help.”
“Maybe you can offer your services to some charities or smaller grassroots organisations in need, as well. For example, if you’re a graphic designer, can you volunteer a few hours of your time to an organisation that doesn’t yet have the funding for a full team? This in turn will help them to set up their events and educate others on how to be an ally and things like that.”
“Likewise, if you’re an ally, it’s important to work for a company that supports the same values as you. You know, if you work for a company that treats the LGBTQIA+ community badly or a company where all your queer co-workers are unhappy, then that’s a sign that something’s wrong. Some choices we make can impact our allyship and being aware of those is important as well.”
The topic of privilege is interesting, even within the community. For example, I’m bisexual, but I’m currently dating a man, so I’m ‘straight-passing’. How can members within the LGBTQIA+ community be good allies for each other?
“That’s a great question, and it’s true that everyone’s queer experience is different. Again, I think it’s a question of acknowledging your privilege and being aware of it, and also educating yourself on the different identities and their experiences. You’ve got to show up as well, for yourself and for others, and speak up where you can.”
What are the best ways for allies to educate themselves?
“Definitely just reading about the topic. Read news articles so you can stay up to date, and read books written by queer people about their struggles, their identities, their experiences. I think it’s important to stay informed on all the issues, but it’s also important to stay informed with the positivity that still shines through.”
“I manage the Common Press which is an intersectional queer bookshop café in London, and we have hundreds and thousands of books that I like to recommend. I recommend people come in and have a look if they’re interested. You should also have a look on different associations’ websites as well, like Mermaids or UK Black Pride. They have pride events throughout the year and lots of great resources online.”
“If you have queer friends or family members, don’t be afraid to be open and honest and ask questions as well! But just remember that it isn’t a queer person’s job to educate you, so if you do ask make sure they actually have the time to give you an answer and discuss with you.”
“But really, educating yourself to become a better LGBTQIA+ ally is about looking at all the different communities, taking their needs into account, and starting quite broad then zeroing in. Just ask yourself what the easiest place to begin is, and start there. It’s not a race, so just do what you can when you can.”
Are there any common mistakes that allies make that they should be aware of?
“I think the most common one is that a lot of people seem to really worry about pronouns and getting them wrong. The best way to avoid this is not to assume and just ask in the first place. It avoids creating an uncomfortable atmosphere for everyone, so that’s an easy tip.”
“Learning to understand the nuances within the community also. Like we said, not every member of the LGBTQIA+ community has the same experiences, so it’s important not to assume and instead to listen and let the information come to you.”
“This is something that I think brands sometimes do, as well as individuals: often people try to be supportive, but they end up not including the right people in their conversations, or actually taking the time to understand. It’s like when some companies capitalise on Pride during Pride Month, but it comes across as inauthentic because they haven’t taken the time to educate themselves. So, it’s to not speak up on everything right away as it’s happening, because sometimes you need to do more research before you can fully form your opinion – and that in turn makes your support that much more valuable and impactful.”
What are some small steps that someone new to their allyship can take to become a better ally? And how can they help their friends become allies as well?
“It’s about being open with your support. Talk to people, approach the queer people in your life that you know, or even LGBTQIA+ businesses that you like, artists, etc. and let them know you’re available to support them.”
“Oftentimes this will open up a natural discussion on how you can better support the community as well, and all that information, you can pass on to your friends as well. Though, I would always prioritise first-hand sources, whether that’s conversations in person with queer people, or reading books and finding resources written by queer people.”
“I would highly recommend straight allies to pass along the knowledge to their straight friends who want to be allies as well. This is a really effective way of carrying on the message, because it’s difficult to expect queer people to cover all grounds. Allies are that extra root, then, that creates change.”
Do you have any more tips for our audience out there on the first steps of becoming an LGBTQIA+ ally?
“Recognising something isn’t right is the first step, it’s about no longer being a bystander. And it’s also understanding that you don’t have to be part of the community to support the community, you know? You don’t have to be trans to support trans people, you don’t have to be black to support black people.”
“To support other people you just need to be a person with a heart, realise that something is wrong, that someone needs help, and to make yourself available to provide that help.”