What is an LGBTQIA+ ally, and how can I be a good one?

As well as tagging each other in memes and going out for food, being a good friend also sometimes means being an ally – and that’s a whole different story.

An ally is someone who stands up for, supports and encourages the people around them. It’s a term that gets used a lot in the LGBTQIA+ community. In this case it refers to someone who is heterosexual and/or cisgender, but who tries to make the world a better place for people who identify as LGBTQIA+.

how to be an lgbtqia ally infographic

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Being an ally means:

  • supporting equal rights for everyone – regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender or religion

  • doing what you can to call out discrimination and to fight for equality

  • trying to make the world a better place for anyone who identifies as LGBTQIA+.

So, how can you be a good ally? Here’s how to get started!

Learn about issues that are important to the LGBTQIA+ community

Talk to people who identify as LGBTQIA+, read books and other publications, listen to podcasts, and visit businesses or websites run by people from the community. Immerse yourself in their world as much as you can, and get a sense of what it’s like to live in their shoes.

It’s important to also know the key differences between gender, sex and sexuality when understanding the LGBTQIA+ experience. This article explains these key differences in an easy to understand way.

Being an ally means being a visible supporter

This means going to rallies and events, calling out homophobia, transphobia or queerphobia wherever you see it, and supporting businesses, charities or other initiatives owned or operated by LGBTQIA+ people.

An ally supports the important people in their life

Whether it’s friends, family, classmates or workmates, keep an eye on the people you know who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Part of being an ally means being there for people when they need you. Offer your shoulder to cry on, give them space to vent or rage, or spend time with them doing something they enjoy, to keep their spirits up.

Check out this person's experience with a great ally in the Online Community - 'It's bittersweet how your immediate family is very conservative and anti-gay yet your extended fam is so open and accepting. So moral of the story; celebrate and be grateful for the allies in your life that make it easier to exist as a queer person.'

Allies should be mindful not to take up space

If people ask you questions about the community or for your opinion on an issue, recommend LGBTQIA+ books, magazines, podcasts or social media accounts they can follow. This allows everyone to hear the people in the community speak for themselves.

Support those around you in being an ally too

The great thing about being an ally for one group of people is that it can open your eyes to be an ally for everyone. People don’t fit into just one box. ‘Intersectionality’ is a term used to describe all the different identities or social categorisations a person has. If someone who identifies as LGBTQIA+ is also a person of colour or also lives with a disability, they might be discriminated against because of each of these identities. So, when you stand up for one marginalised group, you’re standing up for them all.

To be an effective ally, we have to be intersectional – which means we can’t just fight for the rights of LGBTQIA+ people. We have to be fighting for equality for everyone, regardless of their race, gender identity, disability or sexual preference.

You now know more about how to be an ally, and the steps you can take to become one. Try choosing one action to start with: go to a rally or an event, educate yourself on issues that are important to the community, or check-in with your LGBTQIA+ mates after a particularly bad news day.

Remember: you really can make a difference to other people.

What can I do now to be an ally?

  • Hear how other young people support their friends in the ReachOut Online Community.

  • See how joining an inclusive rugby team helped four young guys to accept their sexuality and Brisbane Hustlers on inclusive rugby.

  • Read the first-hand stories and experiences of young gender diverse Australians.

  • Support those around you by sharing this list of Australian LGBTQIA+ support services.