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Being an Ally


What you should know as an Ally?

As you continue to develop and improve your understanding and awareness about sexual and gender identities, it is important to spend time assessing and reflecting on your progress as an Ally. Below are basic levels of becoming an Ally and several things to consider when working with LGBTQI persons.

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  • Awareness: Explore how you are different from and similar to LGBTQI people. Gain this awareness through talking with LGBTQI people, attending workshops and self-examination.

    Education: Begin to understand policies, laws and practices and how they affect lesbian, gay and bisexual people. Explore the many communities and cultures of LGBTQI people.

    Skills: This is a difficult area. You must learn to take your awareness of LGBTQI issues and communicate your knowledge to others. You can acquire these skills by attending workshops, role-playing with friends or peers and developing support connections.

    Action: This is the most important and challenging step. Despite this challenge, action is the only way to effect change in society as a whole.

  • Have a good understanding of sexual orientation and be comfortable with your own.

    Be aware of the coming-out process and realize that it is not a one-time event. The coming-out process is unique to LGBTQI people and brings forth challenges that are not always understood.

    Understand that LGBTQI people receive the same sociocultural messages about homosexuality and bisexuality. Many LGBTQ suffer not only external homophobia and heterosexism but also internal. Because of this, it is important to recognize the risks of coming out and to challenge internal oppression.

    Remember that LGBTQI people are diverse. Each group within the larger LGBTQI community has unique needs and goals.

    Know at least basic information about HIV/AIDS in order to address myths and misinformation and to be supportive of those affected by the disease. While HIV/AIDS is a health issue for all, those who live with the most fear and have lost the most members of their community are LGBTQI people.


Being an Ally

In today’s world, LGBTQI issues are frequently discussed; however, they can still seem frightening or confusing. For instance, some of these issues may be addressed at home, where the conversation can become intense and emotional. While becoming an ally is an important step toward overcoming fears and confusion, it will be a challenge.

The following guidelines are meant to assist you as you begin your role as an ally.

  • Do not assume heterosexuality. In our society and culture, it is assumed that everyone is heterosexual. People will often hide who they are until they feel safe to come out.

  • Use gender neutral language when referring to someone’s partner if you do not know the person well. Be aware of the gender language you use and the implications of this language.

  • Educate yourself about issues facing LGBTQ people. Many resources are available, including reading lists and websites.

  • Explore ways to integrate LGBTQI issues in your work. Establishing a dialogue and educating yourself about LGBTQI issues in the context of your work can be a valuable process for everyone regardless of sexual orientation. In addition, integrating LGBTQI issues into your work is an important strategy for establishing a safe place where people can discuss their concerns.

  • Explore ways to integrate LGBTQI issues in your work. Establishing a dialogue and educating yourself about LGBTQI issues in the context of your work can be a valuable process for everyone regardless of sexual orientation. In addition, integrating LGBTQI issues into your work is an important strategy for establishing a safe place where people can discuss their concerns.

  • Examine how sexual orientation effects people’s lives and development. Identify how race, class, religion, ability and gender interact with sexual orientation and how multiple identities shape our lives.

  • Avoid using heterosexist language; for instance, do not make statements implying that all people of the same gender date or marry members of the other gender.

  • Respect how people choose to name themselves. Most people with a same sex or bisexual orientation prefer gay, lesbian or bisexual rather than homosexual. "Queer" is increasingly used, especially by members of younger generations, but do not use it unless you know that it is all right with that individual. If you do not know how to identify a particular group, ask. Also, do not expect members of any population that is a target of bias, such as gays, Jews, people of color, women or people with disabilities, to always have expertise with the issues that pertain to their particular identity group.

  • Encourage and allow disagreement on the topics of sexual identity and related civil rights. These issues often create tension and confusion. If every one is in agreement, it probably means people are not listening or are hiding their feelings. Keep disagreement and discussion focused on principles and issues rather than personalities.

  • Remember you are human. Allow yourself not to know everything and to make mistakes. Do not present yourself as an expert unless you are one. Take time to learn the issues, to ask questions and to explore your own feelings. Ask for support if you are harassed or problems surface when you discuss issues relating to sexual orientation. Do not isolate yourself in these kinds of situations; find support and help. Use this opportunity to deepen your understanding of homophobia's and heterosexism's effect on people.

  • Prepare for the change and growth that will come by exploring sexual identity issues, heterosexism and other issues of difference. This can be a painful, exciting and enlightening process that will help you know yourself better.

  • Remember, by speaking out as an Ally, you are making the world a safer, more affirming place.


Guidelines for Referring a LGBTQIA Person to a Counselor

Some of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning people you will encounter are seeking support, advice or information. Occasionally, you may have a person who is experiencing psychological distress. This may be evident in the following contexts:

  • Some of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning people you will encounter are seeking support, advice or information. Occasionally, you may have a person who is experiencing psychological distress. This may be evident in the following contexts:

    A person states they are no longer able to function normally in their classes or work. They may experience a drop in grades, academic performance or work.

    A person can no longer cope with their day-to-day activities and responsibilities. They may no longer be going to classes or may have been late arriving for work on such a frequent basis that they could be fired.

    A person expresses depressive symptoms such as sleep disturbance, sudden weight loss or weight gain, crying spells, fatigue, loss of interest or pleasure in previous enjoyable activities or an inability to concentrate or complete tasks.

    A person presents severe anxiety symptoms such as feelings of panic, shortness of breath, headaches, sweaty palms, dry mouth or racing thoughts. 

    A person expresses suicidal thoughts or feelings.

    A person has no support. They have no family or friends with whom they can talk about their sexual orientation. This person may not need counseling, but they could benefit from a support group.

    A good guideline is if you are feeling overwhelmed or worried about a person, refer them to a mental health professional.

    The Texas State Counseling Center offers free appointments to registered students. To make an appointment, call (512) 245-2208.