In his or her most general sense, an Ally is "a person who is a member of the dominant or majority group who works to end oppression in his or her personal and professional life through support of, and as an advocate for the oppressed population." (Washington and Evans, Becoming an Ally) Allies to racial, religious and ethnic minorities have been remarkably effective in promoting positive change in the dominant culture, and only recently has their instrumental position been extended to the area of sexual orientation. The past few years have witnessed the development of heterosexual Ally organizations which have attempted to make the culture of a campus or workplace more aware and accepting of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered individuals.
An Ally strives to...
- be a friend
- be a listener
- be open-minded
- have his or her own opinions
- be willing to talk commit him or herself to personal growth in spite of the discomfort it may sometimes cause
- recognize his or her personal boundaries
- recognize when to refer an individual to additional resources
- confront his or her own prejudices
- join others with a common purpose
- believe that all persons regardless of age, sex, race, gender, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation should be treated with dignity and respect
- engage in the process of developing a culture free of homophobia and heterosexism
- recognize his or her mistakes, but not use them as an excuse for inaction
- be responsible for empowering his or her role in a community, particularly as it relates to responding to homophobia
- recognize the legal powers and privileges that heterosexuals have and which GLBT people are denied
- support the Ally program of his or her university or workplace
As important as it is to define what an Ally is in a positive sense, it is also helpful to understand the boundaries of an Ally's role.
An Ally is NOT...
- someone with ready-made answers
- necessarily a counselor, nor is he or she necessarily trained to deal with crisis situations
- expected to proceed with an interaction if levels of comfort or personal safety have been violated
Taken from the HRC Foundation "What is an Ally" Web page.
What You Can Do...
- Don’t laugh at or tell offensive, anti-homosexual jokes.
- Don’t make fun of people who don’t fit traditional gender stereotypes.
- Don’t verbally or physically harass people perceived as homosexual.
- Don’t be indifferent by passively accepting acts by other that demean people from diverse cultures or homosexual people.
- Don’t ignore the topic of homosexuality.
- Avoid oppression through lack of action by recognizing homophobia in others and being uncomfortable but refusing to say anything – condoning with silence.
- Avoid oppression by not participating in activities or programs because people might think you are gay or lesbian.
- Assume that in any group GLBT individuals may be present – or may have family members and friends who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.
- Confront politely when approached with racially offensive or anti-homosexual jokes, slurs, use of demeaning terms and labels.
- Mediate between people with differing opinions.
Use the term “sexual orientation” rather than “alternative lifestyle” or “sexual preference”.
- Use terms such as “significant other” or “partner” rather than “girlfriend” or “boyfriend”.
- Use “committed relationship” rather than “marriage”.
- Be proactive to educate yourself about cultural diversity and GLBT issues.
- Recognize the efforts of others to confront inappropriate behaviors and effect change.
- Encourage, reward, and support colleagues, students, and employees who are inclusive and respectful of differences among people.
- Appreciate differences among individuals within groups.
What To Do...
- Educate oneself regarding cultural diversity issues.
- Support GLBT events, programs, and services.
- Encourage non-discrimination departmental and institutional policies.
- Assist in developing and publicizing GLBT and cultural diversity resources.
- Inform students what they need to do if they feel harassed.
- Avoid heterosexist language and assumptions.
- Listen non-judgmentally, with respect.
- Offer assistance, make appropriate referrals, and provide accurate information.
- Provide confidentiality (within the limits of reported sexual harassment).
HOMOPHOBIA HURTS EVERYONE
Homophobia locks all people into rigid gender-based roles that inhibit creativity and self-expression. Homophobic conditioning compromises the integrity of heterosexual people by pressuring them to treat others badly, actions contrary to their basic humanity. Homophobia inhibits one's ability to form close relationships with members of one's own sex. Societal homophobia prevents some GLBT people from developing an authentic self-identity and adds to the pressure to marry, which in turn places undue stress and oftentimes trauma on themselves and their heterosexual spouses and children. Homophobia is one cause of premature sexual involvement, which increases the chances of teen pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Young people, of all sexual identities, are often pressured to become heterosexually active to prove to themselves and others that they are "normal." Homophobia can be used to stigmatize, silence, and on occasion, target people who are perceived or defined by others as gay, lesbian, or bisexual but who are in actuality heterosexual.
For GLBT people in the closet hurt comes from: Having to lie and pretend. Thinking they are the only one. Thinking that something is wrong with them. Feeling panic about being found out and feeling like a coward or dishonest.
For GLBT people coming out hurt comes from: Rejection from friends, family, work and other interests. People refusing to accept their sexual orientation, seeing it as a phase, trying to get the person to change – “see a psychiatrist” or attend reparative therapies”, such as ex-gay ministries. Having to deal with fear and anger toward them from nearly everyone, including those who have been their greatest supporters in the past. Losing their job, living space, and financial support.
For those already out of the closet hurt comes from: Dealing with put-downs, jokes and being talked about by others. Not getting jobs or into groups or organizations. Being made into a special case – as “good” or “different” gay, lesbian, or bisexual person. Not having guaranteed civil rights protection to grieve discrimination. Having outright legalized mistreatment by having children taken away, being denied access to their partner, not getting benefits that are given to opposite sex partners. Dealing with people’s misinformation and AIDS fear.
Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays (PFLAG)
Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays (PFLAG) is a national non-profit organization with over 200,000 members and supporters and almost 500 affiliates in the United States. The parents, families and friends of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons at PFLAG celebrate diversity and envision a society that embraces everyone, including those of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. Only with respect, dignity and equality for all will we reach our full potential as human beings, individually and collectively.
PFLAG promotes the health and well-being of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons, their families and friends through: support, to cope with an adverse society; education, to enlighten an ill-informed public; and advocacy, to end discrimination and to secure equal civil rights. Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays provides opportunity for dialogue about sexual orientation and gender identity, and acts to create a society that is healthy and respectful of human diversity.