How to be an LGBTQ+ ally
Being an LGBTQ+ ally is about helping to create an inclusive environment where everyone can be themselves. The Stonewall 2018 LGBT in Britain - Work Report found that more than a third of LGBT staff (35%) have hidden that they are LGBT at work for fear of discrimination. The Stonewall 2018 LGBT in Britain - University Report also found that two in five LGBT students (42%) have hidden their identity at university for fear of discrimination.
People perform better when they can be themselves. We want you to help us make Imperial a place where everyone can bring their best selves to work, and a place where all our students feel safe and included.
If you’re straight and cisgender, you can be an ally to the LGBTQ+ community.
Read on for our suggestions on how to be an LGBTQ+ ally and support our LGBTQ+ students and colleagues.
We’ve also created separate webpages about how to be an ally to bi people and trans people (see below for links), because bi and trans people sometimes face discrimination from within the LGBTQ+ community, and they also encounter unique challenges. We would encourage everyone who isn’t bi to be a bi ally, and everyone who isn’t trans to be a trans ally.
Be a bi ally and a trans ally
What you should do as an ally to LGBTQ+ people
Listen to what LGBTQ+ people are saying. Follow LGBTQ+ people on social media and consume content created by LGBTQ+ people.
If someone comes out to you, let them set the tone for the conversation. If they are bringing it up in a casual way, respond in kind. If they are being more serious, make it clear that you support them.
Take note of what words a person uses to describe themselves and their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. You should not apply labels to a person if you have not heard them use those labels for themselves.
Educate yourself and stay informed
Follow LGBTQ+ topics in the news to keep up to date on the current issues for the LGBTQ+ community. Read blog posts and news articles written by LGBTQ+ people. PinkNews for example is a UK-based LGBTQ+ news site.
Recognise that language evolves and be open to new concepts and ideas. Look up words you are unfamiliar with. The Stonewall glossary of terms is a great place to start.
Learn about pronouns: what they are, why they matter and how you can be an ally by introducing yourself with your pronouns.
Be visible in your support
Imperial 600, the College LGBTQ+ staff network, welcomes allies to become network members. By attending network events, wearing a rainbow lanyard, and talking about LGBTQ+ news in a positive way, you can show those around you that you're an ally.
If you are visibly showing your support and having conversations about LGBTQ+ inclusion, this will create an environment where more people feel safe and comfortable to be themselves and out at work.
Be mindful about confidentiality and "outing"
A LGBTQ+ person should always have control over who they come out to and how they do it. Do not assume that because someone is out to you, they are out to everybody. You should never out a person to others.
If someone comes out to you, you might want to check how open they wish to be at work and whether this is something you can refer to in casual conversation (e.g. asking about their partner) while other members of your team are present, for example.
Not everyone you meet is straight and/or cisgender. Avoid using gendered language where these assumptions are implied, e.g. instead of asking someone about their girlfriend/boyfriend or husband/wife, ask about their partner.
Speak up and challenge homophobia, biphobia and transphobia
If you hear people make homophobic, biphobic or transphobic comments and jokes, call them out.
Imperial offers a general Active Bystander training workshop, to empower staff to challenge poor behaviours and bring about cultural change.
Support LGBTQ+ charities
A good way to find out more is to engage with LGBTQ+ charities (some suggestions are listed below). If you follow their updates and activities, you can easily find out about opportunities to volunteer or take action, for example by writing to your MP about a certain issue.
You may also wish to take a further step to support these charities financially by donating.
Uplift the most marginalised voices in the community
Remember that to be an ally to LGBTQ+ people, you must be an ally to all LGBTQ+ people: this includes LGBTQ+ people of colour, trans and non-binary people, and disabled LGBTQ+ people, whose voices are not heard as often.
Consider whether you are making room for these voices when you are thinking about LGBTQ+ inclusion.
Learn more from these videos
What Is A True Ally?
5 LGBTQ people share what a true ally looks like
This is how you can be a true ally: "Show up on a local palpable level for the people in your life who matter to you. A good ally is someone who knows how to speak, how to be heard, but also how to listen."
Students on what makes a good LGBT ally
Students at US colleges offer examples of when allies helped them
Students at three US colleges offer examples of when allies helped them and provide ways for people to become better allies to the LGBT community.
How the world learned to say LGBT
Activist and diversity trainer explains why it makes sense to use inclusive language
Activist and diversity trainer, Fahad Saeed, explains why it makes sense to use inclusive language, why minority rights should concern the heterosexual majority and how words that can seem complex, can help set you free as well.
Black Pride: Queer people of colour on how to be an ally
Queer activists of colour share why Black Pride matters to them
Six queer activists of colour share why UK Black Pride matters to them and how white people can be better allies.