How to be an Ally

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What is an ally?

An ally is any person who upholds the rights of all people regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression. As GLAAD states of allies, “[they] are some of the most effective and powerful voices of the LGBT movement. Not only do allies help people in the coming-out process, they also help others understand the importance of equality, fairness, acceptance and mutual respect” (2007). Indeed, allies are crucial members of the gender and sexually diverse community and a necessary part of a more accepting, affirming world.

How do I know if I am an ally?

You are an ally is you stand up for the rights of people who are part of the gender and sexually diverse (GSD) community.  An ally takes everyday actions towards the creation of a more just and inclusive world. 

What do I have to do if I want to become an ally?

If you want to be an ally, the best way to demonstrate your commitment to being one is to live your life in ways that are supportive of all people, regardless of their gender identity, gender expression, and/or sexual orientation. Speak out against and challenge homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, and heteronormativity.  Be a support for someone within the GSD community.  Be respectful to all people and don’t treat anyone differently because of their gender identity and expression and/or sexual orientation.

Being a Youth Ally

It’s hard enough being a teenager without feeling like you are a target for bullying because of your sexual orientation and/or gender identity and expression.  Being a youth ally means that you pledge to take a stand within your school against homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, and heteronormativity.  This can look like being vocal about the intolerance you see around you, joining your local Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA), or wearing an ally button.  Take a stand, make a difference to your fellow students and become a youth ally!

Being an Adult Ally to Youth

Being an adult ally to youth is very important, especially for those in social and helping professions such as educators, counsellors, coaches, and social workers. GSD youth need support and mentorship in their lives from adults as well as from their peers. Teaching Tolerance’s website has an excellent checklist of ways you can be an adult ally: 

1. Post a “Safe Zone” sign in your classroom and office. It signals to LGBT youth that you’ve got their backs.

2. Confront homophobic remarks, including slights and slurs that you overhear. Many students use terms like “fag,” “dyke” and “that’s so gay” without thinking. Let them know in no uncertain terms that such speech is unacceptable.

3. Seek opportunities to incorporate the contributions of LGBT people in science, history, athletics and the arts into your curriculum 

4. Don’t assume any student is gay—or not gay. If LGBT students do confide in you, thank them for their trust. Follow the student’s lead about what else you should do. Perhaps sharing this information is enough at this point. But if the student needs additional support, you can provide invaluable help by being versed in the LGBT-competent resources available in your school, district and community.

5. Organize or encourage district administrators to arrange an in-service with a qualified youth advocate about how to create a safer school for LGBT students.

6. If your school has a Gay-Straight Alliance, volunteer to act as its faculty advisor, or contribute in other ways.

Visit Teaching Tolerance’s website for more information at:

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