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Stories | 06.26.23

5 ways you can be a better LGBTQI+ ally — all year long

Recent controversies involving Bud Light, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Target have highlighted the fickleness of rainbow capitalism and corporate allyship.

Kahan Sablo, D.Ed., Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Kahan Sablo, D.Ed., vice president of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Add in the growing list of legislation targeting transgender youths, drag shows, and books around the country, it begs the question: What does it mean to offer support and advocate for the LGBTQ+ community?

“Being an effective ally to the LGBTQI+ community requires more than waving a rainbow flag during Pride Month,” said Kahan Sablo, D.Ed., vice president Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Adler University. “It takes a lot of work, humility, a willingness to learn, and the courage to take action.”

Dr. Sablo offers dos and don’ts for those interested in showing their support for their LGBTQI+ friends, family members, and co-workers — not just in June, but all year long.

Allyship is an action.

People often like to proclaim or vocalize that they are an ally. Dr. Sablo counters that it’s important to leave that determination to the LGBTQI+ community based on your actions.

“Be engaged, do what’s right, provide support, call out injustices, and take action,” he said. “Then let the community acknowledge your allyship. Assuming you’re an ally without any sort of affirmation from community members is a problem, as you are speaking for them without license. Sometimes those who think they are a great ally but stays silent when times get tough can also cause harm.”

Speak out, especially in uncomfortable settings.

Among the privileges allies have include being privy to conversations that may not include LGBTQI+ voices.

“Historically marginalized people are not always sitting at the table where decisions are made,” Dr. Sablo said. “That’s when we need allies the most. That’s the time to speak out and advocate for change.”

Avoid designating yourself as a spokesperson for a community.

Although often well intended, when it comes to advocacy on LGBTQI+ issues, avoid speaking on behalf of the community. Straight allies can always return to a position of privilege.

The good news is that you don’t have to be a member of a community to speak against injustices. Wrong is wrong, regardless of who calls it out. Just be clear of the voice from which you speak – your own.

Acknowledge your lack of knowledge.

Whether it’s using the wrong pronoun (misgendering) or making offensive assumptions, mistakes will happen. Also, unconscious bias is real. Learning is an ongoing process.

“Apologize, acknowledge the harm done, initiate restoration whenever possible, and continue to learn so that it does not happen again,” Dr. Sablo said. “It’s important for allies to maintain a sense of humility and remain open to being corrected.”

Take the initiative to learn.

Lastly, when it comes to the “continuing to learn more” portion of allyship, do not make your education a burden on the group you’re looking to support.

“Yes, you can ask respectful questions and be willing to truly listen to friends, relatives, and colleagues about their experiences,” he said. “However, it’s also important that an ally seek out additional resources on their own when taking the initiative to learn more about LGBTQI+ history and the struggles of today.”

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