Mental Health

What is an LGBTQI+ Ally, And How Can I be a Good One?

There are two kinds of “allies”: those who actually support the queer community, and those who only care about tokenism. Follow this quick guide to be the perfect ally to your LGBTQI+ friends, relatives and co-workers.

By Adarsh Soni
03 Dec 2021

Being an LGBTQI+ ally is about helping create an inclusive environment where everyone can be themselves. But what is allyship to begin with? The first thing that comes to mind is World War II and the whole Ally VS Axis situation. However, there's one definition that accurately fits what we're discussing: "a person who helps and supports somebody who is in a difficult situation." For the LGBTQI+ community, an ally is a heterosexual and/or cisgender person who supports and advocates for their rights. Often, allies come together at Pride events, for instance, to uplift and strengthen the community—particularly more vulnerable groups like trans-women, who face greater threats of violence.

And while there is no one-size-fits-all approach to being an ally, doing so requires action, advocacy, education, and a desire to learn. Don’t know where to start? We’ve got you covered.


Where to start?


Recognise your privilege

For most people, it is hard to understand what a particular minority group is going through without having to come face to face with their hardships. And we’re not talking about elaborate situations—simply existing as a cisgender person can be a privilege in itself. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, one in four transgender people lose their jobs due to workplace discrimination. The first step is to recognise that you have it easier than them, and then to use that energy in a positive way.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions—respectfully

While the LGBTQI+ community has existed ever since the dawn of time, it wasn’t until recently that it became a part of the cultural zeitgeist in a big way. You might not be well acquainted with the current issues and there’s no shame in admitting that. If you have a friend or a co-worker that belongs to the community, respectfully ask them to educate you. From the history of their collective struggle to something as simple as pronouns—you can ask them about anything as long as it doesn’t bring back any past trauma. This is going to be like walking a tightrope, but with time and patience, you can learn everything.

Stand up for the community—both online and offline

So now that you’re well versed in all things LGBTQI+, the next step is to use your newfound knowledge for the greater good. These days everyone has an online presence, which means one thing—the bullies and trolls have also found an easy way to target vulnerable groups. If you ever come across someone being cyberbullied, use your voice to defend them. Report the troll and reaffirm the victim that you have their back. Simple acts of kindness like these can have a surprising impact on someone’s life.

But you must remember that online activism is not enough. If there’s someone in your family, friend circle or even in your office that’s struggling, reach out to them. Let them know that you’re there for them in case they need any help. If you want to take your activism a step further, then you can also volunteer and donate to organisations that are helping the LGBTQI+ community across the nation.

Related Story: The Best Queer-themed Books, Podcasts, Movies and TV Shows for Pride Month and Beyond


Organisations you should be supporting


Naz Foundation

The Naz Foundation has been around since the 90s—a time when only a very few people were openly discussing queer rights in India, working towards educating people about sexuality and sexual health. The Delhi-based organisation’s vision, as laid out by their founder Anjali Gopalan, is to create a just and equitable society by transforming individuals from socially and economically excluded communities into agents of change. Playing a crucial role in the battle against the notorious Section 377, they also run a helpline number that provides counselling sessions to members of the LGBTQI+ community.

Humsafar Trust

Founded in April 1994 by journalist Ashok Row Kavi, to reach out to LGBTQ communities in Mumbai Metro and surrounding areas, Humsafar Trust became the very first openly gay community-based organisation to be allotted space in a Municipal building in Mumbai. The Trust began its activities by inviting gay men and lesbian women to attend its workshops on Fridays, on HIV/AIDs and human rights issues, at its drop-in centre. Today, the trust organises advocacy workshops for health care for law enforcement agencies, judiciary and legislators, politicians and political parties, media and student bodies.

Sappho for Equality

You would be surprised to know misogyny prevails even within marginalised groups. And Sappho for Equality is all about uplifting queer women and trans-men—a group that is often ignored by mainstream media. Sappho is an emotional support group for lesbians, bisexual women and female to male transpersons. It’s also the only one of its kind registered in Eastern India. In the 17 years it has operated out of Kolkata, they have worked towards creating a bridge between the normative and non-normative communities, through a large number of services: from counselling to crisis intervention, film festivals to a biannual bilingual magazine called Swakanthey.

Sahodari Foundation

Now coming to an organisation that works exclusively towards the betterment of the transgender community, Sahodari Foundation is a pioneer association in India that has been voicing for transgender and non-binary groups since the late 2000s. The association is a family, a movement, and a group of youthful trans individuals that was established by artist, transgender rights activist, and writer Kalki Subramaniam.

The foundation was legally registered in 2008, but it follows a rather peculiar association. Instead of a defined set of offerings, they like to tackle specific issues as they rise.

Over the past decade, they have been hugely successful in educating the nation about transgender rights.

Seven simple ways to show your support

  • Don't assume that all your friends and co-workers are heterosexual. Someone close to you could be looking for support in their coming-out process. Not making assumptions will give them the space they need.
  • Correct people if they misgender someone, even if that someone isn't in the room.
  • Anti-LGBT comments and jokes are harmful. Let your friends, family and co-workers know that you find them offensive.
  • Promote diversity in the workplace. Update your email signature/social media profile to include pronouns.
  • Use your free time to research the current issues and stay up to date with what’s going on around the world.
  • Accompany your LGBTQI+ friends and coworkers to pride events.
  • And most importantly—listen, talk, and use your privilege to amplify their voices.

Related Story: The Whispers of Fatherhood: Where are India’s Gay Dads?


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