Here at Aspiring to Include, we believe that everyone deserves an ally. We believe that allyship is a key aspect of supporting the LGBT community and, in this blog, we are going to talk a little more about it and how to do it.
The definition of an ally is:
- Someone who helps and supports someone else, and
- Someone who helps and supports other people who are part of a group that is treated badly or unfairly, although they are not themselves a member of this group
Allyship has been an important part of the queer community since the dawn of time. Straight allies are able to help, support, and encourage people from the LGBTQ community more than they may even think. There is no successful LGBTQ community without allyship.
At work, this is a crucial dynamic too. Allies at work, or lack thereof, can drastically change the experience an LGBT person has at their job. Unfortunately, LGBT discrimination still exists in the U.K. workforce and we would be naive to think that this isn’t the case.
In fact, statistics show that 1 in 5 LGBT staff members have experienced negative comments or conduct from a work colleague in the last year, and 35% of LGBT workers in the U.K. have hidden their sexual orientation at work for fear of discrimination.
Being an ally couldn’t be more important.
Here’s how to do it.
How to be a Good Ally
There are many ways to be a good ally and we can’t possibly say that our steps are the be-all and end-all. However, if you follow this process, you have a very good chance of getting things at least mostly right for most people.
Ultimately, as long as you are doing your best and you have good intentions, that is what matters most.
Step 1: Know Why You Want to be an Ally
The very first step in becoming a good ally is knowing the context behind it. Is this something you want to do to check a box on your end-of-year review? Is it for social media or LinkedIn? Is it just a trendy term?
Being an ally is something of genuine importance. It isn’t about fashion or attention and it is really important to know that.
If you want to be a good ally to LGBT colleagues, it requires effort and commitment. It isn’t simply something you say in order to look good. Sometimes it even leads to uncomfortable situations where you have to put yourself out there and take a stand. If you aren’t fully committed to it then this won’t happen, and that isn’t allyship.
Make sure your heart is in it first.
Step 2: Educate Yourself
Growing up as a heterosexual person means you probably don’t know as much about queer issues and history as those who have lived it. That’s ok, it just means you need to do a little extra to educate yourself on important matters.
Luckily, we live in a time where it is easier than ever to gain access to information. There are lots and lots of resources online that can help you learn about queer issues. Whether that is gender reassignment, same-sex parenting, non-binary identities, or any topic under the LGBT sun.
If there is something you don’t know about yet, simply look it up. It is important not to task people within the LGBT community with educating you. This shouldn’t be something that becomes a chore or obligation for queer people.
Use your time to do your own research instead and it is guaranteed that this will be much more appreciated.
Step 3: Be a Visible Ally
It isn’t enough to simply be an ally and not show it visibly. True allyship is visible and proud.
Some ways you can be visible with your allyship include talking about it openly with others, using your pronouns in email signatures/bios, and speaking up for the LGBT community.
We should all be working on making the LGBT community as visible and normalized as possible within the workplace. The more that we talk openly about things and the more that we adopt inclusivity into our everyday practices, the easier it is for LGBT people to live their authentic lives.
A big struggle for the LGBT community at work continues to be stereotyping, negative comments, and “jokes” that are not jokes at all. Being visible with your allyship at work means taking an obvious stand against these behaviours whenever you can. It might feel unsafe for an LGBT member of staff to do so. Using your privilege for good here is a great allyship practice.
Make your voice heard, it helps.
Step 4: Involve Others
Being a good ally means recruiting other allies and spreading the word. If one or two people in a workplace are allies, this isn’t really enough. We need a big majority to be accepting and inclusivity before LGBT members of staff can feel included and safe.
One great option you can try is to run ally training and allyship events at work. Spreading your knowledge and point of view with other people in the office can help everybody be better towards their LGBT colleagues.
Starting a train of better behaviour is an incredible thing to do.
Step 5: Stay Involved but Don’t Take Over
Lastly, it is key that no matter how involved you get with LGBT allyship that you don’t take over and dominate queer voices.
Being an ally is a critical thing for the LGBT community but it doesn’t make you queer yourself so try not to take up space that should be dedicated to queer people.
For example, running an ally workshop is an amazing thing to do but as a heterosexual person, you should try and involve LGBT members of staff to co-run the event with you. This way you can gain their perspective and first-hand insight into the matter.
Being an ally means being a strong supportive hand but it doesn’t mean taking centre stage. Trying to find the right balance is crucial.
How We Can Help at Aspiring to Include
Being LGBT isn’t always easy at work, however, it should be.
Finding the right place to work can be the answer to a lot of your problems. Working for a Diversity-Positive and inclusive employer can make things better, safer, and happier for you at work.
To find those employers and job opportunities with them, check out our list of company profiles and our jobs for gay people. We also have sections for LGBT jobs in Birmingham as well as LGBT jobs in London. There, you can find the best opportunities across the U.K. in working environments where you can be your true self.
You deserve the best, so go and find it.