Over the last few years, a lot of my friends have made active efforts to be allies and be supportive. Yet, there were times I felt awkward and if I’m being honest, tokenized by some of them. It wasn’t until I was talking to one of my other queer friends about these feelings that I realized that a lot of the allies were falling short in some places. While a lot of the straight allies I knew were trying very hard to be supportive, they were oblivious to how problematic and hurtful they could be. Being an ally is all about learning and calling yourself out for those moments of ignorance or problematic ways of thinking.
That’s why when I started writing and article on how to be a good ally I realized what I really wanted to write about was how to be a good ally to your queer and trans friends. So I decided to focus on what I appreciate in the ally’s in my life and the things that have made me feel uncomfortable or frustrated even.
- Be gentle in your support. There is no need to be over the top about how supportive you are just to prove a point that you are supportive. Being over the top can feel like you’re putting on a show instead of being a friend. Gentle and soft acts of support are enough. For instance, my mom sometimes when we go out shopping and she see’s things with rainbows on them she smiles and looks at me. For me that act of support is great.
- Do be aware of the space you take up. Are you planning on going into queer spaces? Are you going into poc queer and/or trans events? Are you taking up too much space at an event meant to support the people of color in LGBTQ+ spaces? Please evaluate why you are going to these events and the space you are taking. It is great if you want to support you friend at Pride and have a good time but don’t just go because it’ a “good time”.
- Don’t wear rainbow or rainbow to LGBTQ+ events if you are straight. Also please stop asking to add ally to the LGBTQ+ acronym. As an ally it’s important to note when you need to take a step back to remember that you play a supporting role, not the lead role in this situation. I remember when I went to my first LGBTQ+ event when I was 18 and one of my friends came with me, solely to support me. I really appreciated her company and comfort.
- Remember that your friends are not your LGBTQIA+ consultants. Don’t ask them questions you can easily google. Being a good ally is about researching things and learning. Don’t ask them questions on what you are allowed to say or do. Don’t make your friend have to do all this work for you. Also please don’t commodify the experiences shared with you for your own benefit. It’s important that you don’t use the friends you have around you for knowledge. It creates a really weird dynamic.
- Please stop asking your queer friends if they ever had a crush on you/ think you’re attractive. Don’t assume that they have some attraction to you just because you might be of the gender they are attracted to. Just don’t do it. It’s cocky. It makes us feel uncomfortable and puts us in a spot where whatever answer we say is wrong.
- Don’t ask your friend to explain to you how they have sex. I’ve had multiple people ask me how two girls have sex, if they can do certain sex positions, and if there’s a dildo involved are they then secretly into guys. I hate being asked these questions. They are invasive, they are for the sole purpose of someone else’s entertainment, and above all putting someone on the spot about really personal questions.
- Remember that gender expression is not something that invalidates someone’s identity. People can express themselves any way they want and it in no way invalidates their identity, sexuality, or their gender. It’s important not to question the way someone identifies just because their gender expression doesn’t line up with your preconceived notions.
- Do be aware of the intersections and different obstacles people of color and especially women of color face within the LGBTQ+ community. On top of homophobia and transphobia (as well as biphobia etc) people of color have to face racism to deal with. Trans women of color are especially at risk for facing violence and cruelty in the world. As ally’s we have to protect our trans poc, our queer poc, and understand that they face so many other layers of discrimination, oppression, and violence. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate spaces for Latinx queer and trans folk But it is frustrating when white folk take over the area and push poc and woc voices out.
- Do use and be aware that people have preferred pronouns. It’s important to use the correct pronouns once you have been aware of them. Don’t misgender or make them justify the pronouns they want you to use.
- Remember that having queer friends doesn’t automatically make you ‘woke’. Having a queer friend doesn’t mean you are not homophobic, having a trans friend does not mean you are not sexist and transphobic, having a non-binary friend does not mean you are well versed on everything wrong with the gender binary. Do not use your friend to prove you are socially conscious. Do the work to be aware of your privilege and the internalized issues you still hold.
Obviously there aren’t any hard and fast ways to be a better ally to your friends, but these 10 things are good to keep in mind. Really what this whole article is about is being aware of your privilege as a cis/straight person and putting in the work to learn. Both being a friend and ally require that you listen to the people around you and what they need. And sometimes, what us queer folk want is for you to do the work to be educated and patient when you do get called out.