How to Be a Great LGBTQ Ally this Holiday Season

Being out, closeted or anywhere in between  can be hard for LGBTQ people during the holidays. It’s easy to feel alone, especially if you face bigotry.

Here are a few ways straight, non-transgender people can show they have their LGBTQ loved ones’ back.

1. Respect them coming out

Coming out can be an agonizing decision for everyone. It can also be hard for some to hear that someone they’re close to doesn’t have the attractions or gender identity they expected. It’s even tougher for the LGBTQ person, who may fear rejection, alienation and misunderstanding.

Care2‘s Miranda P. has a helpful list of reminders if someone you care about comes out. What’s key: Accept that they are still the same person, let them steer the conversation and don’t try to change them.

2. Let them talk about themselves and their lives

So often non-straight people get accused of talking about their “sex lives” whenever they bring up dating, a relationship or LGBTQ activism. Or they get told being LGBTQ doesn’t matter. Maybe they hear phrases like, “I don’t care who you love. People are people.”

This is sometimes less of a supportive phrase and more of a tactic to stop LGBTQ people from talking about their experiences. Note that even if you are accepting, that doesn’t make the world accepting.

LGBTQ people relate to their identities differently. Let them take the lead in talking about themselves, whether they see their identity as a non-issue that they don’t talk much about or a central part of the way they live their lives.

3. Treat their identity as valid

Does your loved one use different pronouns or a name you didn’t expect? Try your best to refer to them by the way they prefer, even when they aren’t present. It’s OK to mess up occasionally though. Just correct yourself, apologize and move on. And do better next time.

Do the same with someone who has different romantic partners than what you expected.

If you’re ribbing a bisexual family member about dating, for instance, think about using gender-neutral language like “they,” as to not imply they need to be dating one gender over another.

The little things you do and say show support that too few LGBTQ people get.

4. Stand up to bullies

When your homophobic uncle starts a tirade, stop him. While picking your battles can be a valuable tactic for keeping peace over brunch, for many LGBTQ people, silence conveys agreementor at least complicity. Even if someone means well, their comments still hurt.

Would you rather appease your uncle or make an LGBTQ person feel less alone?

Non-combative tactics include changing the subject or engaging the LGBTQ person in the room in a pleasant side conversation. Everyday Feminism has some good tips for intervening directly with someone who’s saying something off-base, whether intentionally or not.

5. Don’t tokenize

If you’re reducing the gay man in your life to being “adorable” or just the role of your “gay best friend,” you need to rethink how you show your support. Casual jokes to bisexual people at holiday parties like, “You’re twice as likely to find someone here,” are also frequently in bad taste, not to mention unoriginal.

Unless your relationship relies on that kind of irreverent humor, avoid treating the LGBTQ person in your life as a spectacle.

6. Get educated

Even if you know someone who is LGBTQ, don’t assume you know everything about what everyone goes through. The experience of a lesbian who isn’t transgender is very different from that of a pansexual, non-binary person’s, for example.

If you are unfamiliar with someone’s sexual orientation, do your own research. GLAAD is a great resource, especially for parents of LGBTQ children.

Don’t expect an LGBTQ person to educate you themselves. Also remember, deliberately staying ignorant about someone’s gender identity and sexual orientation, and trying to use that as a shield for your mistakes, is not being an ally.

There are so many ways to show up for your loved ones who need support the most this season; love and companionship are what the holidays are about.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock.

44 comments

Stephanie s
Stephanie s4 days ago

Thank you

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Leo C
Leo C6 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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David C
David C6 days ago

thanks

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Janis K
Janis K6 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Lesa D
Lesa DiIorio6 days ago

thank you so much for the information!!!

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Amanda M
Amanda M6 days ago

thanks for sharing

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Amanda M
Amanda M6 days ago

noted

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Angelika K

Thank you for sharing

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Bill E
Bill Eagle7 days ago

Really good suggestions. All of them help to make things better for all.

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Janet B
Janet B7 days ago

Thanks

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