When people show support to the 2SLGBTQ+ community, this is called “being an ally”.
An ally uses their position of safety to advocate for 2SLGBTQ+ people. This can look lots of different ways but is generally an ongoing process. We like to say that being an ally isn’t about the title but your actions.
Be willing to talk
Do your research
Don’t assume that everyone you know or meet is straight
Don’t assume that everyone you know or meet is cisgender
Speak up to your teacher, principal, or boss if you notice things in your school or workspace that may cause harm to 2SLGBTQ+ individuals
Reflect on your own assumptions. Most people have homophobic and transphobic thoughts and feelings. Even 2SLGBTQ+ people themselves! Many of us carry these kinds of thoughts because of the society and culture we grew up in. Don’t beat yourself up over this but do work to uncover and unlearn them.
It can be easy to get angry at people who make homophobic and transphobic jokes but part of being an ally is setting your own emotions aside to make the world better for the 2SLGBTQ+ community. It can be exhausting for community members to educate others on the harm of these jokes, so if you can have these conversations, try to approach them with kindness and compassion. You may be able to help the other person on their journey of learning how to respect 2SLGBTQ+ identities.
Don’t give up. Sometimes you will have to have the same conversation several different ways. Eventually, it makes a difference.
Know that when someone comes out to you, it means they trust you a lot
Talk about 2SLGBTQ+ identities and issues openly and often
Supporting Someone Who Comes Out to You
If someone has recently come out to you, try to think about why it might be a big deal and how important your reaction might be to them. We live in a world where everyone is assumed to be heterosexual or straight unless they come out, so when someone shares this it can feel quite important. Take a moment to imagine how it would feel if the situation was reversed and you were the one coming out. How would you feel? What kind of a reaction would you hope for? It takes courage to come out so honour the process and offer your support. Listen more than you talk and never share a person’s sexual orientation or gender identify to others (unless the 2SLGBTQ+ person asks you to). It’s not your story to tell.
When people talk about living “in the closet” it means that they live as a 2SLGBTQ+ person privately but don’t publicly admit it, letting people assume they are straight. While this may be necessary in some situations for safety, it is also incredibly stressful and energy-consuming for this person to do on a regular basis. We hope that one day sexual and gender identity will no longer be an issue but for now, coming out is a life-long process of telling your story over and over again.
Some things you can say if someone shares with you that they are 2SLGBTQ+:
“I’m glad you told me”
“Thank you for trusting me enough to tell me”
“I love you”
“I support you no matter what”
“I appreciate that you told me”
“What kind of support do you need from me?”
“I can appreciate how difficult it must have been for you to tell me this”
If you are surprised during this conversation it is okay to thank the other person for sharing this and ask for a little time to process it before you talk again. This is especially important for people like parents who may need time to digest this information before sharing their own reactions. Sometimes, people are caught off guard and react with shock and disbelief instead of acceptance and support. If this happens to you, apologize and take responsibility for your feelings and reactions. We live in a homophobic world and your reaction signals that you have some reflection and learning to do in order to offer deeper support.