You can find last week’s post on How to be a good ally to disabled people here.
You don’t have to belong to the LGBTQAI+ community to enjoy my content or engage with me on social media, and indeed I have had many wonderful interactions with people who call themselves an “ally” to us. Unfortunately, I have had just as many negative interactions with others who also call themselves allies, where our experiences of being queer or trans are ignored our outright contradicted in favour of their own perspectives. Many harmful misconceptions have originated from people who are genuinely trying to be a good ally, unintentionally, and often queer people are wary of those who call themselves allies just in case their actions contradict the label.
So, if you’re an ally to LGTQAI+ people, how do you make sure you’re one of the good ones?
For me, the biggest red flag when it comes to being an ally to the LGBTQAI+ community is the insistence that the “A” stands for ally. The A actually stands for multiple identities and sexualities such as agender (a non-binary gender that is basically the absence of gender), asexual (a general lack of interest in sexual activities to varying degrees), and aromatic (a general lack of interest in romance and relationships, also to varying degrees). Allies are mostly welcome in queer spaces, but are not LGBTQAI+ and should not define themselves as such.
If you’re in the UK, there is another red flag that always makes me wary of someone’s commitment to queer and trans equality, which (ironically) is the use of the six-striped pride flag as a symbol of appreciation for our NHS. The NHS is undeniably worthy of our gratitude, but there are others ways to show this appreciation that do not include appropriating a symbol used to represent a marginalised community for several decades. Six stripes in the colours red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple represent the LGBTQAI+ community. Rainbow-like patterns with a different number of stripes or different colours can absolutely be used as “thank you NHS” symbols, but the misuse of the pride flag means that in hospitals queer people can no longer be certain that someone wearing a six-striped badge is someone accepting of queer people. Given the issues queer and especially trans people can face in healthcare, this uncertainty carries legitimate risks of illness and trauma.
If you work in the NHS, a great way around this issue is to display the progress flag instead, which is the flag being used in the banners at the head of each section! The additional colours represent trans people and people of colour, both of which are groups that often get excluded from queer spaces.
Another excellent way to demonstrate your allyship to the LGBTQAI+ community is to display your pronouns, if you feel comfortable doing so. You could wear a pronoun badge, state your pronouns when introducing yourself, or include them in your email signature. This simple action loudly and clearly demonstrates that you accept all gender identities, and this in itself indicates that you accept all sexualities as well. It also makes it harder for transphobic people to single out trans people as those who state their pronouns, protecting the trans community from harm.
Finally, and perhaps most controversially, shunning anything to do with J.K.Rowling is a great way to demonstrate your allyship to queer and trans individuals. J.K.Rowling’s blatant transphobia is well-documented and undeniable, but she also appears to be quite homophobic. She has published works under the name Robert Galbraith, a founder of the torturous practices deemed “conversion therapy” that aims to eradicate queer people, and decided that Albus Dumbledor was gay without ever mentioning this in the books. More recently, Rowling responded to a social media post displaying a Harry Potter tattoo that stated “no one should remain in the closet” (a term used to describe queer people presenting as cisgendered and straight to those around them) with an affirmation that some people should actually remain closeted. If that wasn’t bad enough, the books rely heavily on antisemitic and racist stereotypes in the depiction of the bankers, house elves, and Harry’s Eastern-Asian love interest Cho Chang, and the upcoming video game doubles down on these themes. There are plenty of wonderful fantasy novels, films, and video games to be invested in that do not provide funds to such hateful individuals.
If you follow these four, basic rules, chances are you will be a wonderful ally to LGBTQAI+ people. True allies are always appreciated, especially as hostilities towards marginalised groups are on the rise. Even just reading this blog post is a good step towards becoming an ally, and for that, I thank you.