What does it mean to be an ally? An ally is someone who advocates with and/or on behalf of a historically marginalized group of which they are not a part of. Some say that “ally” is a verb; in other words, being an ally is more than passively saying we tolerate, accept, or even support individuals who hold oppressed identities. It takes work - listening, critical reflection, and education - to move become a better ally. While it may seem like a no-brainer that allies should avoid harming historically marginalized communities, sometimes the most well-intentioned allies can say or do things that are harmful - even dangerous - for individuals and communities. Here are some helpful hints to avoid putting your LGBTQIA+ friends in harm’s way:
- Don’t out them. This is about respecting their agency and privacy, and not disclosing on the behalf of others. Keep in mind, this can go beyond simply saying, “Kai is trans.” Here are some other comments to avoid:
- “Back when Brandon was a girl…”
- “I’ve known Jamal since he was Jessica.”
Check out our Trans 101 page for more affirming language.
- When someone is newly transitioning, or if you’re unsure, ask them what spaces they feel comfortable using their new name and/or pronouns.
- Ask people how you can be an ally to them.
- Check in with folks - if someone feels safe enough to share their authentic self with you, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they feel safe to share their authentic self in other spaces.Correcting others’ misgendering could possibly out someone if they are not out in that particular space. Check in with them.
- Using “they” pronouns - when we use they pronouns instead of making assumptions about he/she, we do not assign gender, and give folks the opportunity to share what pronouns they want you to use.
- Respect other people’s dignity and privacy by avoiding invasive questions. Asking people who are transgender about their bodies, to see old photos, or what their name “used” to be can be offensive. These may seem like innocent questions, but they are actually quite personal. If someone is comfortable sharing this information with you, they’ll probably do so in their own time. But remember, just because one friend might be comfortable, it doesn’t mean others will be.