How To Be a Good Ally

In this time of uncertainty, when rights are coming under threat, now more than ever it is time to become an ally. But what does it mean to be an ally?  In this episode, Heather discusses the importance of being an advocate and an ally for the LGBTQIA community and people. Uncover the eight ways that anyone can be a good ally. 

Do not miss these highlights:

03:15 – What does it mean to be an ally?

05:27 – Heather defines being an ally for the LGBTQIA community 

08:29 – An ally is not an identity it is a label.

11:10 – Being a good listener is more than being present for the conversation.

15:01 – It is great to be curious and ask questions however be respectful. 

16:27 – Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, it is part of the learning process. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

19:30 – Speak up whether in person or online. Show your solidarity.

24:30 – Beware of Rainbow Capitalism and seek out to support companies that truly support the community.

27:50 – Learn the language, what they mean and how to use them appropriately. 

31:06 – Common questions you may get as an ally and a few suggestions on the ways you can answer them. 

Resources Mentioned

To learn more about being an ally or the LGBTQIA Language, reach out to Heather at

JB Intro/Outro:

Welcome to Just breathe parenting your LGBTQ to the podcast transforming the conversation around loving and raising an LGBTQ child filled with awesome guests practical strategies and moving stories host Heather Hester always makes you feel like you're having a cozy chat. Wherever you are on this journey. Right now, in this moment in time, you are not alone. And here is Heather for this week's amazing episode.

Heather Hester:last episode for Pride Month:Heather Hester:

So I want to start out with a definition of ally, because I love words, you know that. And I thought this would be a great way to kind of get a base understanding of what an ally is. According to Merriam Webster, it is a person or a group that provides assistance and support and an ongoing effort, activity, or struggle. So my addition to that is specific to the LGBTQIA community, it is a straight and or cisgender person who has a genuine strong concern for their well being one who supports and affirms LGBTQIA people, and advocates for equal rights, and is also someone with in the community, for example, a bisexual person who is an ally to non binary people, you may be an expert on your own identity, or your own orientation, and yet know very little about others under the LGBTQIA plus umbrella, or how to be an ally to other marginalized communities. So this really can is for everyone, right? I mean, that's kind of what it boils down to. So I really want you to take a moment right now, you can pause this and really think about what being a good ally means to you. In this moment, what is your definition that you have in your head? I also believe that an ally is one who confronts challenges that LGBTQIA plus people experience and believes that they are societal, for example, heterosexism, or hetero normativity, which is what we learned about a few weeks ago from Chris Tompkins. Right? Such a great learning opportunity, and just so much to think about, but both of those in different ways are the assumption that everyone is or should be straight. Another example of this is by prejudice, harmful preconceived ideas about bisexual people. And I'd also like to add to that false, misinformed, right? At the base of all of this, what is it we all know, fear. In a broad sense, allies can help validate a cause. They can be a cultural bridge, they can model what is possible. However, an ally is not an identity. I want to repeat that, because many think that the a, an LGBTQ i A plus stands for ally, and it does not. Ally is not an identity, it is a label. And I'd actually like to state that, take that one step further. And say it is a verb. When we think of ally ship, in terms of the actions we can take to support an advocate, it automatically removes that ego, right that, that need to have a label or have a like, I am part of this and really just kind of move into that action that doing this is what I am doing to help removes that ego and falls in line with that wise old adage, actions speak louder than words. Furthermore, Ally is just it's more personal. So the big question is, how can we be the best possible ally to our kids, our grandkids or nieces or nephews, our friends, our students, our co workers, whomever right you name it, how can we be the best possible ally

Heather Hester:

so So, as usual, I have found lots of amazing information. And I have, you know, lots of research that I've already done that I've kind of tapped into. And so I thought it might be even though I've expanded a lot on my original podcast episode, I still thought it would be helpful to keep this as more of a, how to be a good ally 101. And let this be information that is kind of a starting point for you. So you can just grab what resonates with you and research more from there run with it. Additionally, for simplicity, I summarize this for you into eight ways anyone can be an ally. And then at the very end, we're going to talk about how to handle or how to answer some really typical questions that you may get as an ally. So, here are the eight ways that anyone can be a good ally.

Heather Hester:

First, be a good listener ASAN be present, see, and hear the person who is speaking to you. Now, I know you hear that and you think you got it, you say that all the time. Hi there. And we all have the intention of listening, right? We think we are listening. But really being able to be an active listener, present and a conversation takes effort. And, and it takes being quite intentional, which, for those of you who can do this naturally, bravo. I know, for me, it took a lot, a lot of work. And there are still times where I'm like, Oh, I'm so tired. But it is really super meaningful. When you can be present, when you can see and hear that person who is speaking to you, when you can really create that space between the two of you where there is true, deep understanding. So of course, this takes work, right? This is, in some cases work, getting to the place where you believe that all people, regardless of sexual orientation, or gender identity, should be treated with dignity and respect. But do the work, do the work. Another part of this is knowing what to say, and what not to say when someone comes out to you. So I'm just gonna give you a few examples. And these might be quite obvious. And I would like as I'm doing this, I'm sure you can think of a bunch more as I'm saying them, but these are the ones I just felt this was kind of an important thing to say and why. So when someone comes out to you, here are a few things you can say that are wonderful to say. Congratulations, I'm so happy for you. Or you can say thank you for trusting me enough to let me know the things that you don't want to say. And I share these because you know which ones of these I've done. First and foremost, are you sure you know the reasons why. Just don't do it. Another one not to say is this might be a face. Again. As with Are you sure the person who is sharing this information with you has likely been thinking about this for weeks, months, years. They are sure it is not a phase, regardless of their age. And the final one is when did you decide this? Again with this one it's the word decide. Not a decision. It would be like me asking anyone out there who is straight when did you decide to be straight? When When did I decide to be

Heather Hester:

You know, a cisgender, straight white woman, not something I decided, right? So, likewise, someone who is sharing with you their sexual orientation or gender identity, not a decision. So I'm sure you can add your own to this. And, you know, we could of course, probably spend an entire episode on that. But to keep moving. I want to encourage you to not be afraid to ask questions. It is good to be curious and to want to learn. And in that curiosity, just remember to be respectful. And asking your questions and being curious and and think about, you know, your wording, think about your audience, think about your where you are at the time that you are asking these. Additionally, in this work, challenge stereotypes, as well as your own unconscious bias. Educate yourself on LGBTQIA, history, issues, policies, adversity, have conversations with LGBTQIA plus people and learn about their experiences. Do not be afraid of making mistakes, it's gonna happen, it's going to happen, you are human, and it's part of the learning experience. This is something that Connor always reminds me that it is much better to make a mistake while trying than to just stay silent. And trust me, I still make mistakes on a daily basis. And I've just gotten better at picking myself up and continuing to move on. So, the next point and this kind of leads into the next point which is get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I know I say this one a lot, it applies here too, you are learning all new information. If you are the type of person who is working to shift your mindset, or if you are confronting your own previously held prejudices or biases, this education is going to be uncomfortable. That is okay. Breathe through that discomfort and allow yourself the space and time to process what you are learning embrace that you will make those mistakes you are human, the goal is not to be perfect. It is for all to be free to live authentically. The next one is to hold shared secrets meaning do not out people or share their orientation or identity with others. It is not your story to share. To build on that one a little bit of in case it's not super clear. If someone has confided in you their sexual orientation and or their gender identity. That is they are trusting you with that information. That is not your information now to share with someone else that is your information trusted and information to hold on to. And it can be in the case of having a child share this information with you. Such as when Connor came out to us. Many, many conversations. And it's a great conversation starter for thank you for sharing this with us. And then as we moved, you know, days and weeks and months, you know Who do you want to share this information with? Who would you like for us to share this information with? Who do you want us to be there with you know, with you when you share the information. So it just opens you know, opens the door for really great conversations as well. The next one is a big one. It's speak up online, in person. Speak up.

Heather Hester:

Social media, of course is one way to do this. Probably the easiest way to show ally ship. You can also do it by volunteering, you can volunteer online, you can volunteer in person, and you can show solidarity online as well as in person but I have a few ways that you can volunteer. Show that ally ship by volunteering and again this can be done in person, or online, I talk about a lot of these organizations a lot, but they are a great place to get started, and can even help guide you if you're looking for something that is more specific to your community, what your community might have available. If you cannot find something outright, starting with one of these larger organizations may help you find something may help you even start something. So here's my list. And you can find all of these on my website if you want more information. But I laid off with the Trevor Project, you know how much I love them. Gilson is another one, and I don't talk about them enough. But what their mission is, is to create safe and affirming schools for everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, their gender identity or their gender expression. Another wonderful one is the Tyler Clemente Foundation. And then of course, HRC, which is the Human Rights Campaign, PFLAG, it gets better. And sage, which is one that I sometimes forget about what I'm talking about, but is a really, really important one because it is a national organization that offers supportive services and consumer resources to older LGBTQIA people and their caregivers. So really lovely one there to check out. Showing up as an ally in real life is a privilege. And it can also feel really uncomfortable. But it is something that is so important to do and the more that you do it like anything, the the easier it's going to get right the more that you'll find your what wording you'll find your footing. But here are a few situations that you might find yourself in or a few ways that you can really show up as a great ally. In situations where someone is using slurs or insensitive language, speak up. It doesn't have to be an argument. It can be very calm, it can be calmly saying that's not okay. Please don't use that word. Or please don't use that phrase. Again, I know this can be awkward, especially at the beginning. But making others aware that their words can be hurtful is a step toward effecting change. Another one and kind of similar is respectfully correcting others if they miss gender, someone. So this can be done very much with sincerity, it can be done with the spirit of educating others. And I really, truly believe that people want in a general sense, there are more people who really want to be kind and just don't know any better. So by offering this information, and a kind way, and a gentle way, not only shows the person that you're with, that you have their back, that you are a solid, trustworthy ally. It also shows the people that you are talking to that this can be done very respectfully. And learning doesn't have to be scary or crazy or radical or whatever other words you want to use, right. be inclusive, be aware of opportunities to increase connection and decrease isolation, which is something that's been really big over the past few years. This is also a really important skill to instill in your children as they learn to connect with others and be aware of others. promote diversity in your workplace. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is rightly becoming very important to many companies. If your company already has a D AI group, find out how to get involved if they don't see what you can do to start one.

Heather Hester:as we are ending Pride Month:Heather Hester:

Another way that you can just be aware, or you may hear this going on around you, especially from your kids. It's this is something I learned first, of course from my kids, which was a few years ago, Connor started using the word y'all. Now, we're from the Chicago area. We don't use that word here. Not that I have anything against it at all. In fact, I quite like it. I think it sounds very warm and inviting. But that's just not how we speak up north, right? We have always used the words like you guys or ladies and gentlemen. So I finally asked him, you know why he switched and started using that? And he said, because it's inclusive of everyone. I was like, Oh my gosh, of course. That makes so much sense. So kind of putting all of that together. I've always had this like it sounds inviting. Right It sounds welcoming and it's inclusive. So you can use y'all, and no one is going to feel left out. So if you don't already use y'all, it's going to take a little work, I still go and say, you know, you guys or whatever. But I am slowly making the shift. And it's worth it. And it's actually quite fun. So I highly recommend this. Finally, offer financial support, if you are able, any LGBTQIA plus nonprofit would be delighted with your support. And believe it or not a $5 donation does make a difference. So consider hopping on the website before the end of this month especially and supporting your favorite favorite nonprofit.

Heather Hester:

So here is just here are I should say a few questions that you will probably get as an ally. And, and just a few suggestions on ways you can answer them. I know it can be tricky. It can be again, it can be uncomfortable, but kind of knowing ahead of time what might be coming your way. You know, really thinking about why it is you believe what you believe and why it is that you are an ally, will really help you form your answers and help you come up with the words that sound the most like you. But I thought I would throw these out there for you just to give you just to kind of get you started. So the first statement is, I thought we were in a good place with LGBTQIA plus rights and inclusion. So depending on where you live, this may seem like a fair question or a fair statement. Or it may seem like it's very far from the truth, right. This is a very geographical type statement. Here is why it is actually the latter and why allies are desperately needed. LGBTQIA plus individuals do not have legal protection on a federal level in the United States. And many states there are still widespread discrimination, meaning you can lose your job, you can not qualify for housing funding or lose your housing. You can have service refused to you at a restaurant or retail store. And the examples go on and on. And other countries around the world being LGBTQ i A plus is a crime punishable by prison. And in some cases, death. It can also be helpful to approach this statement by showing examples of what a straight cisgender person can do that are often exponentially more difficult for an LGBTQIA person. So using myself as an example, I can go to the bathroom pretty much anywhere I am, I have no problem finding a bathroom, I can hold hands with my husband in public and nobody bats an eye. I can go to any er anywhere and receive respectful medical care.

Heather Hester:

And I can see representation of myself and books and stories in history that is taught in movies and other media, right. So think about that. The next one that you might hear or be asked is I treat everyone the same. What's wrong with that. So while this one is really frustrating, I do actually believe that it's coming from a place of kindness and a lot of cases it's just one that needs gentle education. There are two ways to help people understand why this is at best, not helpful. And at worst, incredibly offensive. The first way is educating others about the difference between equality and equity. The most effective way to show this is by using personal stories your own personal All right. But defining the term also works. So here you go. equality means everyone is getting the same. But this only works if everyone has started in the same place. And or everyone has the same needs. Equity means every individual has or is given what they need to succeed or live happily to the difference. The second way to illustrate this is more conversational, discussing how all humans have different identities, different beliefs, different abilities, different life experiences, and different needs. And they don't necessarily want to be treated the same as everyone else. There's a lot of different in there, right? So this becomes more about seeing people on an individual or human level, and recognizing and respecting needs. And there are so many ways you can illustrate this. But you know, one that is just very common is thinking about how you might respect someone coming into your home, who has a food allergy, right? You have someone coming over for dinner, you're having a dinner party, and one of your friends has a peanut allergy. Now, would you serve peanut chicken for dinner? Probably not. Right? It is the same thing. It is the same thing. So it's just respecting individual needs. The next one I'm that I'm going to share is a little bit triggering. For me, it's a little bit hard, but I know that it's one I've seen pop up dozens of times this month, and I just really felt that it was important to address and that is, why isn't there a straight pride parade. So this one is the reason it is triggering as because it is part of one of the final conversations I had with my brother three years ago. And that is a story for another day. But it kind of falls into that cat same category as questions like, where's my special safe place? Or why should LGBTQIA plus people get special rights? And so on? So here's a few ways you can answer these type of questions. First, straight pride happens every day. Meaning straight and cisgender people see themselves represented everywhere, all of the time, in art, and film, and corporate write life, and awards and inventions. An LGBTQ i A plus child can go through a typical K through 12 curricula, and think that no LGBTQIA person has ever done anything of note or contributed to society in any way. And as we all know, there are those who are unfortunately, actively working to make sure that never happens. There's answer number one. Number two LGBTQ LGBTQIA people are not seeking special rights. They're seeking human rights.

Heather Hester:

The rights that many take completely for granted, or worse, abused to keep themselves in power. Human Rights. The next when a child or teenager is bullied about race or religion, they typically have their parents to turn to for support and helpful suggestions because their parents have probably been through similar situations, right. However, parents and family members can sometimes be an additional source of stress or harm for an LGBTQIA plus child or teenager, leaving them with no one and no place to go. As we all know and have talked about many, many times the rates for suicide and suicide attempts are significantly higher for LGBTQIA adolescents, teens and young adults than they are for their straight cisgender peers. Having even one safe person or Safe Place for LGBTQIA plus children, or teens literally saves lives. Remember that being an ally is both a noun and a verb. Education and shifting take time. You will make mistakes and those around you will make mistakes. But it is far, far better to make those mistakes and keep moving forward than to not try at all our kids and the LGBTQIA plus community need us. Thank you so much for being here today and listening in. If you would like more information about my LGBTQIA language workshop, click on the link in the show notes, and I will make sure that you get on the list. Until next time.

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