how to be an lgbt ally, lgbtq+, gay allies

If you want to actually be an LGBTQ+ ally, you need to stop doing these 25 things

11. Going to Pride once and then using that as some sort of weird entitlement

A lot of people would call themselves LGBTQ+ allies – it’s an easy word to just throw around, right? But the thing about being an ally is, you have to actually actively do stuff to be one. You can’t just say “I don’t think gay people should burn in hell” and then expect a big gold star and a banner proudly proclaiming yourself to be an LGBTQ+ ally. No, you have to actively educate yourself about the queer community, challenge homophobia and transphobia that you witness, and if you mess up and get called out for it, it’s up to you to listen, understand and change your behaviour. Otherwise you simply cannot call yourself an ally.

The thing is, a lot of these self-titled “allies” are actually anything but. They make subtly homophobic “jokes”, assume they belong in queer spaces, and think that having a gay mate and going to Pride once gives them some sort of weird credit. All in all, they do some pretty shitty things that no one who actually respected the LGBTQ+ community ever would.

So if you truly want to know how to be an LGBTQ+ ally, you need to stop doing and saying these 25 things:

1. Letting homophobic jokes slide when you’re just around straight people

If you only actively opposing homophobia (and biphobia, and transphobia, and basically anything else that’s inappropriate, hateful or ignorant) when you’re around LGBTQ+ people, you’re not an ally. If you only recognise this and call it out when you’re around gay mates, but let it slide when you’re with a bunch of other straight people, I have some news for you – you’re not an ally, you’re just performative.

2. Or making homophobic jokes yourself

Just because we’re friends, you don’t get a free pass to make queer jokes or do things like use “gay” as an insult. Sorry, I didn’t realise we were in primary school.

3. Travelling to countries that criminalise LGBTQ+ behaviour

It’s a horrible and sad fact that many countries around the world criminalise queer people and their behaviour. Loads of countries have laws that punish members of the community with imprisonment or even the death penalty. Barbados, Dubai (UAE), Bali (Indonesia), Poland, Japan, the list goes on. If your LGBTQ+ friends don’t feel safe going to these countries, you probably shouldn’t go either – otherwise you’re a pretty shitty ally.

Dubai (via Instagram)

4. Fetishising lesbians

I don’t even need to tell you that girls who like girls are constantly sexualised. “Lesbian” is the most searched-for porn category, and men call us “hot” simply because of who we fancy. I hate to break it to you men, but kind of the whole point of being a gay woman is that we don’t like you – our sexuality doesn’t exist just to turn you on. Straight men think as long as they watch lesbian porn they can’t be homophobic but this just isn’t true.

5. Kissing your girl mates and posting pics for attention

If you kiss your mates and post pics of it all over social media, you’re part of the problem of lesbians being fetishised and you have literally no excuse. Kissing other girls, including your mates, can be an important step for many people realising their sexuality – but the issue is with straight people doing it performatively and putting it all over social media for attention.

Plus, if you do this in such a blasé way you’re being completely ignorant towards actual lesbians, for whom it may be incredibly dangerous to post pics kissing their actual girlfriends on social media. We encounter harassment and homophobia every single day, and if you post pictures kissing your straight girl mates you’re choosing to ignore all this.

6. Assuming people’s partners are of the opposite gender

If you want to find out about someone’s love life – you can just ask them like that. You don’t need to say “so, are you seeing any booooys recently?” just because you’re asking a girl, and vice versa.

Just stop assuming everyone is straight. And if they *do* have a partner of the opposite gender, this still doesn’t mean it’s not a queer relationship.

7. Telling us your opinions on pronouns

If you’re not trans or non-binary you don’t have any right to talk about them. Just shut up, please.

8. Assuming people’s pronouns

Don’t just automatically use the pronouns people may have been assigned at birth. If you’re not sure, just ask. And make sure you remember them once you’ve been told. If someone uses mixed pronouns, use them all!

9. Just ignoring our sexuality altogether

Everyone loves a gossip about the people they fancy, who they’re dating and who’s sleeping with who. We still want to be part of this just because we’re dating someone of the same gender.

Ask about our partners and tease us about who we fancy, treat our relationships the exact same as if we were one of your straight friends. And for the love of god, please don’t call us and our partner “cute”.

10. Calling bi people ‘half-straight’

Bi people aren’t “half” anything – and they’re literally bi, not straight. If you say this you’re biphobic and incredibly ignorant, so just stop.

11. Going to Pride once and then using that as some sort of weird ‘ally credit’

Going to Pride, watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, or engaging with queer culture isn’t a fast-pass to allyship. You can do all of these things but Pride isn’t just an opportunity for a fun Insta story – you need to educate yourself on the history and importance behind it, and actively step up and be an ally in your daily life. You’re not entitled to do anything you want just because you once wore a rainbow top – just doing this doesn’t make you an automatic LGBTQ+ ally.

12. Questioning what people are wearing

Maybe people are gender fluid and switch up what they’re wearing. Maybe men dress “feminine” or women present “masculine”. However we dress or present, and whatever we look like, it’s not for you to comment on or question. Just say we look nice and move on.

13. Or assuming sexuality based on our gender presentation

Just because a woman presents as feminine it doesn’t mean she’s not a lesbian, and vice versa.

14. Assuming you belong in queer spaces

Allies are often very welcome in queer spaces, but if one simply isn’t for you then you need to understand and accept that. Be aware of your presence in these spaces – it’s fine if you’re here but remember they’re not actually for you. I’m looking at you, straight huns who go to gay clubs.

15. And then getting mad when you get hit on in said queer spaces

When you actively choose to go to Pride, gay clubs and other queer spaces, be aware that you are taking up the space of someone who doesn’t feel like they fit in anywhere else outside of those spaces. Don’t think it’s get angry if people think you’re queer in these spaces, and don’t think it’s “weird” or funny if people hit on you. These are one of the only spaces we have to truly be ourselves and feel safe, so just be respectful when you’re in them.

how to be an lgbt ally, lgbtq+, gay allies

16. Dating people who are subtly homophobic

If you’re letting your boyfriend get away with subtle homophobia, you cannot call yourself a true ally. I’m talking the f-slur, “no homo” jokes, “that’s so gay” insults, saying they think it’s “weird” when two men kiss but then sexualising lesbians and asking girls to kiss in front of them. If you actually respected the LGBTQ+ community, you would dump these people.

17. Saying you ‘don’t even see us as gay!’

“I don’t even see you as gay! You’re a person just like me!!!” Okay so when was I ever not a person? And you’re just invalidating me, I am queer and that’s my identity so please don’t minimise it.

18. Not listening when we tell you things

If we’re telling you that we’re scared of being homophobically hate-crimed when we walk down the street or get on public transport, don’t ask us why. Read the room.

19. Getting offended if a queer person calls you out

If an LGBTQ+ person corrects you or calls you out for anything, it’s your job to shut up and listen. I promise you that they know more about this than you do, so take the time to hear what they have to say, apologise and work on how you can change it. We’re just trying to help – don’t get offended or annoyed, and don’t make it about yourself.

20. Saying you ‘wouldn’t date a bi person’

If you don’t understand why this is incredibly biphobic I don’t even know what to say to you.

how to be an lgbt ally, lgbtq+, gay allies

21. Asking us how we have sex

I don’t ask about how you shag your crusty boyfriend, Emily, so back off and stop asking me about my sex life.

22. Calling us your ‘gay best friend’

Saying this literally makes it sound like you have your straight, “normal” best friend, and then us. We’re not a fun accessory for you to cart around, hun x

23. Or for that matter, telling random other people our sexuality or gender identity

If you wouldn’t introduce Tom as “your straight mate”, why would you introduce me as “your gay mate”? You’re making it feel like our sexuality is some wild note-worthy fact (it isn’t, it’s actually very normal). Plus you’re ignoring the fact that we might not want to share our sexuality/gender identity with everyone, and it might be dangerous to “out” us. It should be up to us to share our identities, when we feel it’s safe to do so.

24. Using someone’s deadname

If you don’t know what a deadname is, it’s the name someone was given at birth, which a trans person has changed as part of their transition. Deadnaming someone, telling other people their dead name, or using their wrong pronouns, is just straight-up transphobic and so harmful. It can cause discomfort that could be associated with that person’s old name. It’s not that hard to just use whatever name someone prefers, trust me.

25. Not being aware of your straight privilege

Ultimately, this is what it all boils down to. If you want to call yourself an ally, be aware of your straight privilege and things your LGBQT+ friends may not be able to do. Recognise when you need to sit back and shut up, but know when you should use your straight privilege to call out homophobia. Understand our experiences that we share with you, listen to us when we tell you how you can do better, and actually make those changes.

The Tab’s Pride reporting series is putting a focus on highlighting LGBTQ+ issues and celebrating queer voices across UK campuses.

If you or someone you know has been affected by this story you can contact Switchboard, the LGBTQ+ helpline, on 0300 330 0630 or visit their website. You can also find help through young people’s charity The Mix, and Galop, the LGBTQ+ anti-violence charity. 

If you’ve got a story you’d like to tell us – whether it’s an incident of homophobia on campus, an experience you’d like to share, or anything you think we should hear, get in touch in confidence by emailing [email protected]

Read more from The Tab’s Pride series:

‘I’m stifling myself’: How LGBTQ+ people have to change their behaviour in public

One in three LGBTQ+ students have experienced discrimination and queerphobia at uni

Take this quiz to find out how much you actually know about LGBTQ+ history

You can find all articles from The Tab’s Pride series here

Featured image (before edits) via Josè Maria Sava/Unsplash