Being An Ally
Awareness: It is Important to become more aware of who you are and how you are different from and similar to lesbian, gay, and bisexual people.
Strategies for developing awareness:
- Conversation with LGBTQI individuals
- Attending awareness building workshops
- Reading about LGBTQI lifestyles and issues LGBTQI individuals may face
Knowledge/Education: You must begin to acquire knowledge about sexual orientation and what the experience is for LGBTQI persons in society and your campus community.
Knowledge and education can be gained by:
- Learning about laws, policies, and practices and how they affect LGBTQI persons.
- Educating yourself about the gay and lesbian culture and norms of this community.
- Contacting local and national LGBTQI organizations for information.
Skills: You must develop skills in communicating the knowledge that you have learned.
Your knowledge can be communicated by:
- Attending workshops
- Role playing situations with friends
- Developing support connections
- Practicing interventions or awareness raising.
Action: Action is, without a doubt, the only way that we can affect change in the society as a whole; for, if we keep our awareness, knowledge, and skills to ourselves, we deprive the rest of the world of what we have learned, thus keeping them from having the fullest possible life.
Adapted from Evans, N. J. & Wall, V.A. (1991). Beyond Tolerance: Gay, Lesbians, and Bisexuals on Campus. USA. ACPA.
Benefits and Risks of Being and Ally
Some Benefits of Being an Ally
- You learn more accurate information about the reality of being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and intersex
- You learn more about how values and beliefs about sexual orientation impact your own and others’ lives.
- You open yourself up to the possibility of close relationships with an additional 10% or more of the world.
- You become less likely to stereotype and give into gender expectations.
- You increase your ability to have close and loving relationships with same-sex friends.
- You have the opportunities to learn from, teach, and have an impact on a population with whom you might not otherwise interact.
- You may be a role model for others. Your actions may influence others and help them find the inner resources to speak and act in support of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning or intersex.
- You may have opportunities to share with others what you have learned, and have a positive impact on the climate in your school or on the attitudes of your friends or family.
- You may be the reason an individual finally decides that her or his life is valuable and that she or he does not need to resort to alcohol, drugs, or other unhealthy behaviors.
- You may make a difference in the lives of young people who hear you confront derogatory language or speak supportively of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and intersex. As a result of your action, they may feel they have someone in which to turn.
- You empower yourself to take an active role in creating a more accepting world by countering prejudice and discrimination with understanding, support, and caring.
Adapted from: Evans N. J. & . Wall V. A (1991). Beyond Tolerance: Gays, Lesbians, and Bisexuals on Campus.
Alexandria, VA: American College Personnel Association.
Some Risks of Being An Ally
(Things that Discourage People from Being Allies)
- Others may speculate about your own sexual orientation. You may be labeled as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (“by association”). This may be uncomfortable for you.
- Allies are often mocked and ridiculed by heterosexuals that view the issue as unimportant. You may become the subject of gossip or rumors.
- You may be criticized or ridiculed by others who do not agree with you or who view the issue as unimportant or unpopular.
- You may experience alienation from friends or colleagues who are not comfortable with the topic of sexual orientation. These people may distance themselves from you in order to avoid conflict or labels.
- Your values, your morality, and your personal character may be questioned by people who believe homosexuality is wrong, sinful, against family values, etc.
- You may become the target of overt or subtle discrimination.
- People who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender may not accept you as an ally. Some may believe that you are really lesbian, gay, bisexual, or trangender but are not ready to admit it.
- Due to some past negative experiences with heterosexuals, people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trangender, questioning or intersex, may not trust you and may question your motivation.
Adapted from: Evans N. J. & . Wall V. A (1991). Beyond Tolerance: Gays, Lesbians, and Bisexuals on Campus. Alexandria, VA: American College Personnel Association.
Qualities of an Ally
- Has worked to develop an understanding of homosexuality and the needs of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and intersex people.
- Chooses to align with LGBTQI people and responds to their needs.
- Believes that it is in her or his self-interest to be an ally.
- Is committed to the personal growth required to be an ally.
- Is quick to take pride and appreciate success.
- Expects support from other allies.
- Is able to acknowledge and articulate how patterns of oppression have operated in their lives.
- Expects to make some mistakes but does not use it as an excuse for non-action.
- Knows that both sides of an ally relationship have a clear responsibility for their own change whether or not persons on the other side choose to respond.
- Knows that in the most empowered ally relationship, the persons in the non-homosexual role initiate the change toward personal, institutional, and societal justice and equality.
- Knows that he or she is responsible for humanizing or empowering their role in society, particularly as their role relates to responding to gays and lesbians.
- Promotes a sense of community with the gay community and teaches others about the importance of outreach.
- Has a good sense of humor.
When Someone Comes Out to You
When someone comes out to you, they share the information about their sexual orientation with a keen awareness of the risks involved: the risk of losing their relationship with you, the risk of being rejected, the risk of being misunderstood, and many other risks. Unless you have given some indication of your feelings or beliefs about sexual orientation, they may have no way of knowing in advance whether your reaction will be positive or negative.
What are some situations in which someone might come out to you?
- They may have chosen to come out to you because you are a close friend or family member, and they want to have an honest and genuine relationship with you.
- They may feel you are a person who will be understanding and accepting, and therefore trust you with this very personal information.
- They may not be sure how you will react, but they prefer to be honest and are tired of putting time and energy into hiding their identity.
- They may decide to come out to you before they really know you, in order to establish an honest relationship from the beginning.
- They may come out to you because some aspect of your relationship makes it difficult to continue to hide their sexual orientation.
- They may come out to you because you are in a position to assist them with a concern, provide them access to or refer them to certain resources, or to address a situation that impacts their life.
When someone comes out to you, the news may come as a total surprise, you may have already considered the possibility that this person might be lesbian, gay, or bisexual, or it may not be important to you one way or the other.
How might someone feel after someone comes out to them?
- Not sure what to say
- Not Sure what to do next
- Wondering why the person came out
The way in which a person chooses to come out often reflects how she or he feels about their sexual orientation. The more positive responses the person receives to their news, the more comfortable they will feel with their identity. How you react to a person’s disclosure of their sexual orientation is critical. It can potentially help them out of the closet—or keep them in.
What you should Not say
- You’re just going through a phase; it will pass.
- It’s just because you’ve never had a relationship with someone of the opposite sex.
- You can’t be gay – you’ve had relationships with people of the opposite sex.
- You can’t be a lesbian – you’re too pretty!
- You’re just depressed.
- You’re just confused.
- Maybe you can find a therapist who can help you get over this.
Ways you can help when someone comes out to you:
- Remember that the person has not changed. They are still the same person you knew before; you just have more information about them now. If you are shocked, don’t let the shock lead you to view the person as suddenly different.
- Don’t ask questions that would have been considered rude within the relationship before their disclosure.
- If you would like more information, ask in an honest and respectful way. If you show a genuine and respectful interest in their life, they will most likely appreciate it. Some good questions to ask are:
How long have you known you are lesbian/gay/bisexual?
Are you seeing anyone special?
Has it been hard for you carrying this secret?
Is there some way I can help you?
Have I ever offended you unknowingly?
- Don’t assume in advance that you know what it means for her or him to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, or intersex. Every person’s experience is different.
- They may not want you to necessarily do anything. They may just need someone to listen.
- Consider it an honor that they have trusted you with this very personal information. Thank them for trusting you.
- Clarify with them what level of confidentiality they expect from you. They may not want you telling anyone at all. They may be out to others and not be concerned with who finds out.
- If you don’t understand something or have questions, remember that persons who are LGBTQI are often willing to help you understand their life experiences. However, always be respectful if the person declines to answer all of your questions. Consider checking with them to see if they are willing to speak with you about this.
- If you find yourself reacting negatively, remember that your feelings may change. Try to leave the door open for future communication.
Source: Northern Illinois University Safe Zone Program Ally Handbook
Strategies for Effective Allies
- Assume that issues of prejudice and discrimination are everyone’s concern, not just the concern of those who are the targets of prejudice and discrimination.
- Assume that the elimination of prejudice and discrimination based on sexual orientation will benefit everyone in our society.
- Assume that LGBTQI people want heterosexuals to be allies.
- Assume that LGBTQI people who seem to reject you as an ally or who seem not to trust you are doing so because of past negative experiences with heterosexuals. Learn to appreciate their caution, and not to expect immediate trust.
- Assume that people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex are experts on their own experience, and that you have much to learn from them.
- Assume that it will take some time to bridge communication gaps and develop an understanding of the experiences of people who are LGBTQI.
- Take responsibility for your own education on issues related to sexual orientation. Take the initiative to become as knowledgeable as you can on issues of concern to people who are LGBTQI.
- Assume that making mistakes is part of the learning process of becoming a more effective ally. Acknowledge and apologize for mistakes; learn from them, but do not retreat.
- Avoid trying to convince people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and intersex that you are on their side; just be there.
- Graciously accept any gratitude you may receive from LGBTQI people, but do not expect gratitude.
- Remember that actions speak louder than words.
- Create opportunities for allies to join together in coalition to reduce heterosexism and homophobia.
- Be an ally 100 percent: no deals, no strings attached.
Adapted from Shervor-Marcuse, R. (1990). Working assumptions and guidelines for alliance-building. Presented as part of an Ally Program at the annual ACPA Conference, Atlanta, GA.
Being a Culturaly Proficient Ally
Cultural proficiency is not an end state, but an ongoing process. A culturally proficient person acknowledges both individual and group differences. She or he does not walk around wondering or complaining, “Why can’t they be more like us.” Rather, people striving towards cultural proficiency welcome and embrace opportunities to understand themselves as individuals, while at the same time embracing the opportunity to learn.
Think of the process of striving towards cultural proficiency as being along the following continuum:
- Cultural Destructiveness: the elimination of other people’s culture, either on an individual level or on a group level. Extremes include genocide and enslavement. Yet, English-only policies or ‘renaming’ a student because you can’t pronounce his or her name are culturally destructive.
“This is America, and everyone should speak English.”
- Cultural Incapacity: the belief in the superiority of one’s own culture and behavior such that it disempowers another’s culture. Restrictive immigration laws, overt biases, and discriminatory hiring practices are culturally incapacitating.
“She catches well for a girl.” Or “I didn’t know he was gay. He doesn’t act gay to me.”
- Cultural Blindness: acting as if the cultural differences one sees do not matter, or not recognizing that there are differences among and between cultures.
“When a student walks in, I don’t see color or ability or gender. I only see a student.”
- Cultural Precompetence: an awareness of the limitations of one’s own skills or an organization’s practices when interacting with other cultural groups. This can happen when underrepresented groups are recruited for a campus/company/organization, but no support is extended, nor is there an effort made to learn more about the differences between groups.
“We need a Korean vice principal to help us with the Korean students.”
“During Black History month, we have ‘soul food’ day.”
- Cultural Competence: interacting with other cultural groups using the following-
- Acceptance and respect for differences
- Ongoing reflection on one’s own culture, and cultural beliefs.
- Model culturally inclusive behaviors (i.e. using Spanish pronunciations)
- Adapt one’s values and practices to acknowledge culture.
“Let’s really look at how this school event might impact handicapped persons, gay men and lesbians, and those students with no group representatives.”
- Cultural Proficiency: the culturally proficient person…
- Values diversity.
- Assesses one’s own culture, and the impact of one’s culture on others.
- Manages the dynamics of difference, thru more effective conflict resolution styles.
- Incorporates and integrates cultural knowledge into one’s practices, and educates others on the damage created by stereotypes, prejudices, and cultural ineptitude.
- Adapts to diversity, by developing cross-cultural skills and striving to understand the dynamics of cross-cultural differences.
Adapted from Lindsey, R. B., Nuri-Robbins, K., & Terrell, R. D. (1998). Constructing Culturally Proficient Educators. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Creating an Inclusive Environment
Although most people don’t realize it, the societal assumption that all people are heterosexual reveals itself in our communication and interpersonal interactions all the time. These guidelines provide some suggestions for creating a work or social environment that is more open, comfortable, respectful, and welcoming for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and intersex.
- Treat the topic of sexual orientation as you would any other human difference.
- Use inclusive, non-gender specific language that does not assume heterosexuality in coworkers, colleagues, or students. For example, consider as appropriate:
- Using inclusive terms such as partner, spouse, or date, instead of wife, husband, boyfriend, or girlfriend.
- Using inclusive terms such as committed relationship instead of only using the term marriage.
- Using pronouns that are neutral and do not assume the sex of someone’s partner, such as person, someone, anyone
- Ask individuals what terminology they prefer when you are referring to them or talking with them. Be sensitive about words to use and not use based on individual preferences.
- Avoid making assumptions about people’s sexual orientation based on their appearance or behavior.
- Don’t assume all unmarried people are single or have opposite sex relationships. Don’t assume all mothers and fathers are heterosexual, or that all children live in families consisting of a male-female couple.
- Learn the definitions of words associated with the LGBTQI community. Don’t use slang in a pejorative or derogatory manner to describe someone’s sexual orientation.
- Make efforts to be inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and intersex coworkers’ or colleagues’ family lives, partners, or social activities in casual conversation.
- Discourage others from telling jokes about people who are LGBTQI, and refrain from telling them yourself. Do not joke or tease someone for nontraditional gender behavior.
- Refuse to tolerate derogatory or anti-LGBTQI remarks, actions, jokes, or name-calling.
- Refrain from using judgmental language that will create barriers.
- If you want to know something about someone’s sexual orientation, ask him or her directly, rather than asking others. Understand that some individuals may be defensive or shy due to past negative experiences or fears related to telling people about their sexual orientation. Respect their individual right to privacy if they choose not to answer.
- Remember that while people who are LGBTQI share the experience of being different from the societal norm in their sexual orientation, there are many differences within the community. Consider the different cultural, racial, ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic groups with which an individual may identify.
- When someone shares information with you about their sexual orientation, clarify with them whether or not this information should be kept confidential. Do not disclose a person’s sexual orientation to others; let them decide with whom they wish to share details about their life.
- If others ask you about someone’s sexual orientation, ask them to speak to that person directly.
- Don’t assume that the sexual orientation is the most important aspect of that person, or the only topic they will want to talk about. Remember that everyone is a multi-faceted human being.
- Ways you can be sensitive about sexual orientation and gender identity to enhance workplace communications. The Gay and Lesbian Community Action Council of Minneapolis. Retrieved online from www.oha.doe.gov/doeglobe/dealornt.htm on Feb. 19, 2003.
- Materials adapted from Northern Illinois University Counseling and Student Development Center.
What message are you sending?
- What books are on your shelves?
- What posters are on your walls?
- Can someone assume from looking at those materials that this is a place where LGBTQI students are welcome?
- When social activities are planned, are people invited in a way that allows gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered, questioning and intersex people to feel comfortable bringing a same-gender guest or partner?
- What buttons and t-shirts do you wear?
- What seminars do you present?
- On which committees do you serve?
- Which issues do you discuss/support in your daily conversations?
- How often do you include examples using gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered, and intersex people in all of your seminars and classes?
- Do you often assume students and staff are heterosexual?
- What journals does your office order and have available in the waiting area?
- What comments do you confront? Which do you leave unchallenged?
- What articles or event information do you circulate?
- What educational activities do you encourage?
- Which campus programs do you attend, and whom do you invite to join you?
- What sort of policies would make a difference in your institution?
- What would a gay-positive institution look like?
When to refer a Student to a Mental Health Professional
Most of the Students you will encounter will be seeking support, advice, or information. Occasionally, you may advise a student who is experiencing a good deal of psychological distress. This may be evident in the following ways.
- When a student states they are no longer able to function in their normal daily capacity.
- When a student can no longer cope with their day-to-day activities and responsibilities. A student may state they are no longer going to classes or they have been late for their job and may be fired soon if this continues.
- A student 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, and/or inability to concentrate or complete tasks.
- A student expresses severe anxiety symptoms such as: feelings of panic, shortness of breath, headaches, sweaty palms, dry mouth, or racing thoughts.
- A student expresses suicidal thoughts or feelings.
- A student’s problem is outside your range of knowledge and comfort.
- A student appears reluctant to discuss the issue with you.
- A student continues to struggle with the problem, and it doesn’t get better.
- A good guideline to use if all else fails: If you are feeling overwhelmed or worried about a student, referring them to a mental health professional would probably be appropriate
Trust your instinct. It’s usually right!
How to Refer a Student
Referring a student should be done in a constructive, positive way.
- It took a lot of courage for a student to come to you in the first place so support them
- Encourage them to speak with a counselor. Tell them you don’t have all the answers but you can help them find those who do.
- Communicate that you are not abandoning them, invite them to return any time.
- Help them make appointments, if necessary.
- You may want to walk them to Counseling and Psychological Services.
- Speak in a straightforward manner
- Do not try to deceive or trick the student
- Provide student with CaPS information
- Offer for the student to call from your office.
- The student has the right to refuse.
- Be sure to convey that counseling is a tool for their use and that it doesn’t indicate that something is wrong with them.
What to Do in the Event of an Emergency
- If there is an immediate danger, call campus police (562-985-4101)
- There are on-call counselors available M-F 8am – 5pm for emergency situation.
- Bring the student to CaP
Counseling & Psychological Services
Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) helps students meet the personal challenges associated with identifying and accomplishing academic, career, and life goals. Student Services Offered include: Individual and group psychotherapy, Crisis intervention, Referral services, Training and supervision, Outreach and program development, Consultation, and Program evaluation.
Office Location: Brotman Hall, Room 226
Phone Number: (562) 985-4001
Hours of Operations: Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Phone: (562) 985-4101
Main Building: Brick building south of the Student Recreaction and Wellness Center
Police Substation: University Student Union on the second floor - outside level next to Wells Fargo and the Union Weekly
Information adapted from Abilock, T. (2001). USF Safe Zone Ally Manual, unpublished document.
49 Ways a 49er can Support LGBTQI Individuals at the Beach
1. Have a non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and gender identity.
2. Value everyone’s perspectives and opinions in your residence halls, your classrooms, and your committees.
3. Don't tokenize LGBTQI individuals.
4. Assure everyone’s safety.
5. Acknowledge the LGBTQI presence on campus and in society publicly, at high levels, and often.
6. Attend LGBTQI events once in a while.
7. Help non-LGBTQI students understand that LGBTIQ individuals are a presence on campus and in society whether they like it or not. Non-LGBTQI students do not have to accept LGBTQI students, but they must learn to live peaceably with them.
8. Support LGBTQI students because they add to the vibrancy of thought, activity, and life on your campus; not because it's politically correct.
9. Take the time to examine your own personal feelings about LGBTQI individuals.
In the Classroom
10. Include information about LGBTQI people who made significant contributions in the past.
11. When discussing current events, include LGBTQI issues.
12. Use examples of LGBTQI individuals in lectures and discussions so they are not marginalized.
13. Be clear with your students that homophobic and heterosexist comments and actions are not acceptable and will be addressed in an educational, informative, and non-threatening manner.
In All Student Services Departments
14. Include LGBTQI individuals in examples in classes, workshops, and presentations.
15. Ensure that publications are written in such a way that LGBTQI students will feel included in the audiences; avoid heterosexist language and assumptions.
16. When possible, include openly LGBTQI students as members of the student work force.
17. All student service departments should participate periodically in structured dialogues with LGBTQI students. The purpose of this dialogue would be to raise awareness of the nature and extent of homophobia/heterosexism within the university and the particular unit, and to explore avenues for the problems related to the access and quality of services for lesbian and gay students.
18. Ensure that handbooks and contracts have a statement regarding non-discrimination as it relates to sexual orientation. Indicate where students should report if they feel harassed.
19. Orientation programs should address LGBTQI issues and make new students understand that LGBTQI students are a welcomed part of campus life.
At the Career Center
20. Display information about local career resources, such as gay-affirmative employers, for LGBTQI clients.
21. Provide staff with training about the social and political impact of LGBTQI issues in the workplace.
22. Be open to discussing LGBTQI issues with students as these relate to career choice, resumes, interviews, determining the policies of a company, and coming out at work issues.
23. Maintain a list of people who can be used as resources for LGBTQI students.
24. Know which employers interviewing on your campus have non-discrimination and domestic partner policies for LGBTQI people and offer that information to students.
25. "Employers should be required to affirm in writing that they do not discriminate against any classes protected against discrimination by university policy.... If legal interpretations tie the university's hands regarding Federal governmental agency access to placement services, the university should formally express its disagreement of employment discrimination against LGBTQ students and call for a change in agency policy."
At the Financial Aid Office
26. Ensure that staff has training on how the impact of a student's "coming out" at home can affect parents' financial support.
In the Residence Halls
27. If assigned roommates refuse to live with an LGBTQI student, give the LGBTQ student the options and give them freedom to choose.
At the Health Center
28. Make sure your professional and paraprofessional health educators are comfortable with phrases and concepts such as "continual condom usage" and "anal intercourse."
29. Make sure your gynecological physicians understand that "sexually active" does not necessarily mean "needs birth control."
At the Counseling Center
30. Include sexual orientation and coming out issues in the paperwork as options for discussion.
31. Include a variety of partner status options in the paperwork.
32. Display some gay-affirming materials in the center, including LGBTQI magazines and newspapers in the waiting area.
33. Include LGBTQI material in publicity for the center.
34. Don't automatically assume clients are heterosexual. For example, don't ask a female client if she has a boyfriend.
35. Use inclusive language.
36. Insist there be a "coming out" support or discussion group at least once per school year.
37. Identify a counselor who has some understanding of LGBTQI issues who can serve as a confidential referral to students.
At the Activities Office
38. Make sure the LGBTQI student organization has adequate professional staff support and an advisor. If there is no one on the staff or faculty to take on this role, assist the group in identifying a local alum or local community member for the task.
39. Know their organization's name, acronym or letter in the proper order (even if they change it once in a while).
40. Insist that the student government allot the LGBTQI student organization some reasonable funding. If they refuse, assist the group in finding alternative sources of funding.
41. Insist that fraternal organizations have a discussion on how they would deal with one of their members "coming out."
At the Athletic Department
42. Ask the director of Athletics to have a discussion with coaches about how heterosexism and homophobia affect athletes.
Make official statements condemning assault.
43. When LGBTQI students complain, take them seriously.
44. When they are verbally assaulted, make loud, personal statements in public venues condemning such action. Empower others to do the same.
45. When their belongings are vandalized, make loud, personal statements in public venues condemning such action. Empower others to do the same.
46. When they are beaten up, make loud, official statements condemning such action. If you know who the aggressors are, punish them judicially.
Support LGB faculty and staff.
47. Give equal benefits to their partners.
48. Value their perspectives and opinions on staffs and committees.
49. Endorse an association for LGBTQI faculty and staff.
Adapted from Gilberrt, T. (2002). 51 fabulous ways to support LGBT students on your campus.
Retrieved online from http://www.students.vcu.edu/counsel/safezone/51ways.html on Feb. 19, 2003.