I know that there are many cishet people out there who want to be good LGBT+ allies but aren’t sure how to do so. I don’t speak for the whole community but I’m going to write about what I personally feel are things that a cishet person can do to be supportive of the community. This blog is somewhat directed at cishets but I’d love to hear other LGBT+ people’s feelings on it.
Before we get started, some good terms to know
Cishet- Cishet means someone who is cisgender, heteroromantic, and heterosexual. A person who isn’t LGBT+
Cisgender- Someone who identities with the gender/sex they were assigned at birth.
Cis- short for cisgender
Heterosexual- a less casual term for straight
Heteronormativity- straight being seen as the normal/default sexuality
MLM- men loving men, a man who is attracted to other men
WLW- women loving women, a woman who is attracted to other woman
Okay now that we’ve got these down let’s get started!
The number one thing that I think someone can do as an ally is to listen. Listen to what we (meaning LGBT+)have to say about our experience. Cishet people don’t get to decide what’s homophobic or transphobic and if an LGBT+ person says something is homophobic/transphobic you need to listen to them and believe them. Even if it doesn’t make sense to you it’s not your place to decide. Listen to the voices of all sorts of LGBT+ people, not just cis white gay men. Listen to trans people, LGBT women, and LGBT people of color. Listen to what people have to say about what they want from allies. The best person to learn about LGBT issues from is a person who has lived through them.
Be an ally even when we aren’t here. If you can safely do so call people out if they make homophobic or transphobic remarks. It might not directly hurt anyone around but it doesn’t make it okay. When you call it out you are being really helpful and being a good ally. If you’re only an ally when an LGBT person is around that’s a somewhat performative allyship. Your actions towards the LGBT community matter even when none of us are around.
Shipping isn’t activism. I often see straight people acting like they are allies because they ship a lot of mlm ships. Often this is not the case and these people are objectifying/infantilizing gay men. This happens to other groups of people, not just gay men. Many things that can seem like allyship are not even if they have good intentions. Positive stereotypes are harmful because people consider those who fit them to be less valid. It sets an expectation for the behavior of people based on their sexuality and/or gender identity. Nothing should be assumed about a person’s interests or personality based on their gender identity or sexuality. LGBT+ people don’t have to fit in a certain stereotype that we didn’t create to be valid. We are just as diverse and different as cishets.
Write about LGBT people in your stories but don’t tell our stories for us. Representation matters and it’s always nice to see yourself in stories but there are certain parts of being LGBT that you can not understand as a cishet person. I can not stop you from writing something like a coming out story but it doesn’t mean that you should even if you can. Coming out isn’t something a cishet can understand because you will never experience it. It’s very likely it’s not something you’ll be able to represent well and poor representation is harmful rather than helpful. When writing LGBT characters you need to do your research to avoid writing characters based on harmful stereotypes.
Respecting people’s pronouns is a simple and important part of being an ally. When someone tells you their pronouns then use those pronouns. If you mess up the apologize but don’t make a huge deal about how your horrible or how it’s hard for you. Just apologize and try to do better in the future. This also applies to name changes. The only case where you shouldn’t use someone’s preferred name and pronouns is when you are asked not to. Otherwise, you have no excuse not to do so.
When someone comes out to you make it about them. Tell them you support them. Don’t make it about how you had no idea or how you always knew even if it’s true. It makes it about you instead of about them and their coming out is not about you and shouldn’t be. Don’t tell anyone who doesn’t know about this person coming out. That’s not your place to decide who gets to know.
Actively work on not being heteronormative. Don’t assume everyone is straight. Don’t assume a boy and a girl being friends means they have romantic feelings for each other. Until someone tells you how they identify you don’t know.
Now that you’ve read this blog you hopefully know a little more. My last piece of advice is going to be my first piece of advice. Listen to us. I’m just one lesbian and I can’t tell you everything about how to be an ally. Listen to what other LGBT people have to say. Read books by LGBT authors, read LGBT stories. There’s always more for you to learn as an ally.