An ally is a term that is frequently used in the 2SLGBTQ+ community. Commonly, it refers to someone who stands up for, supports and encourages the people around them; and in this case it refers specifically to someone who is heterosexual and/or cisgender, but tries to make the world a better, safer place for people who identify as 2SLGBTQ+.
Here are some ways we all can be better allies:
1. Educate Yourself – Be open to learning and listening.
As an ally, it’s important to learn about the 2SLGBTQ+ community and the adversity people in this community have faced – and still face today. Develop an understanding of how the world views and treats them. Listen to their stories and read about the history of the 2SLGBTQ+ community. In order to learn, you need to be willing to truly listen with empathy and compassion.
2. Language Matters
“Inclusive language acknowledges diversity, conveys respect to all people, is sensitive to differences, and promotes equal opportunities,” writes the Linguistic Society of America.
Be aware that even though someone might appear to “fit” a certain definition, they may not personally identify this way. As a general practice, give people the space to share their pronouns or labels; you can even start the conversation by sharing yours. Here are some examples of inclusive language:
Instead of assuming someone’s pronouns use the following:
- “Hey folks”, “Hi all”, “Hi everyone”, “Welcome guests”.
- “They” instead of “he” or “she”
- Spouse “Partner” instead of “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” “husband” “wife”
Words like “sexual preference” or “lifestyle” imply sexual orientation is a choice, which is not the case. Instead use the following:
- 2SLGBTQ+ community
- Marriage and not “same-sex marriage” or “gay marriage”
- Queer person
3. Don’t assume
As a general practice, don’t assume anyone’s gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation – 2SLGBTQ+ people don’t “look/act” a particular way! Someone close to you could be looking for support and by not making assumptions, hopefully will give them the space they need to be their authentic self and to open up to you, in their own time.
4. Confront your own prejudices and unconscious bias
Being an ally means that you confront others to create a more supportive community, but you will also find that you may need to challenge your own internalized bias, stereotypes, and assumptions you didn’t realize you had. Think about the jokes you make or laugh at, the pronouns you use and how, or if you assume someone’s partner is of a particular sex or gender just because of the way they look and act. 2SLGBTQ+ prejudices can be subtle and transphobia and biphobia exist even within the 2SLGBTQ+ community. Becoming a better ally means being open to the idea of being wrong sometimes, or having your own areas to improve, and being willing to work on it.
These are just some of the steps toward being an ally. While some are simple, others take more time to develop new practices and behaviours. The best place to start is by choosing one action to start with and making that an everyday practice. Educate yourself on issues that are important to the community, or check-in with your 2SLGBTQ+ colleagues/friends/family after a particularly bad news day for this community.
At Tridel, our Built for Respect mandate drives us to foster positive health and well-being in a workplace that is diverse, equitable, inclusive, progressive, and safe from any form of bullying, abuse, harassment, or discrimination, otherwise known as ‘BAHD’ behaviours. In 2021, we became a member of Pride at Work, an organization that empowers Canadian employers to build workplaces that celebrate all employees, regardless of gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation.
Through this membership, Tridel employees have access to in-person learning, online webinars, networking, and personal development events where they can learn how to become a better ally who challenges personal and societal biases, uses gender inclusive language, avoids assumptions and dismantles barriers to make space for 2SLGBTQ+ colleagues.
This is one of the many steps Tridel is taking towards becoming an ally to 2SLGBTQ+ communities and we remain committed to creating an inclusive, safe, and welcoming community for our people.
Remember: you really can make a difference in other people’s lives and experiences. We are all capable of empathy and compassion, and we’re all Built for Love.