Being an Ally

lesbian couple married with a child in their arms


What is an ally?

An ally is a person who works to end a form of oppression that gives them privilege(s).  Allies listen to, and are guided by, communities and individuals affected by oppression.  An ally can encompass those within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning, two-spirit, intersex, asexual, pansexual, gender queer, etc. (LGBTQ2S+) community who support each other (e.g. a lesbian who is an ally to the transgendered community) as well as non-LGBTQ2S+ allies. 

How can I be an ally?

Be honest

Admit and come to terms with your own feelings. Be honest with the person who came out in your life - acknowledging you aren't an expert, asking them what's important to them, seeking resources to better understand the realities of being an LGBTQ2S+ individual so that you can be truly informed and supportive.


Listen to the LGBTQ2S+ people in your life and community, be aware that they may have experienced (and might still be experiencing) things you don't understand or have not lived, and offer support in any way you can. Use your voice to influence change but listen to the needs and wishes of others and let them decide what's best for them.

Stand up and be the person who stops and challenges homophobic, biphobic or transphobic comments and language. Acknowledge (when it happens) that you don't appreciate insults and "humour" that demeans LGBTQ2S+ people.

Be reassuring

Explain to someone who came out to you that their sexual orientation or gender identity has not changed how you feel about them, but it might take a little while for you to digest what they have told you. Tell them that you still care for and respect them as much as you ever have or more. Reinforce that you want to do right by them and that you welcome them telling you if anything you say or do is upsetting.

Choose your words

Use language that includes everyone and doesn't make assumptions (e.g. refer to "partner" versus girlfriend/boyfriend; use the pronouns "they" or "their" or ask which pronoun a person prefers). Learn about pronouns and why they are important.

Consider the space you take up 

Do not take up space that should be occupied by members of the community that you champion. Step back.

Send gentle signals

Being open with your support is important and very easy. Many people don't realize that LGBTQ2S+ people watch for signs from their friends, family and acquaintances about whether it is safe to be open with them. It can be as subtle as having an LGBTQ2S+-themed book on your coffee table or a rainbow sticker in your door or at your desk.

Understand that despite our best intentions, we can do harm

As an ally, you might get it wrong sometimes - but it’s an opportunity to learn and to do better. Think about how to react when you realize you may have got it wrong and learn how to respond in a way that shows respect and does not increase the harm (9 Phrases Allies Can Say When Called Out Instead of Getting Defensive).

Understand your own privilege

It is important to understand that in our society, heterosexuality gives a person privilege. Individuals who experience alignment between the gender they were assigned at birth, their bodies, and their personal identity also experience privilege. This means that these people experience benefits by being (or being perceived as being) heterosexual that are denied to LGBTQ2S+ individuals (see Heterosexual Privilege Checklist). This may trigger feelings of guilt or defensiveness, but what is important is to take stock of our privileges and take responsibility for how we use them by trying to offset the power imbalance they reinforce.

Let your support inform your decisions 

Seek to break down walls of prejudice and discrimination:

  • Become familiar with the Ontario Human Rights Code and how it gives everyone equal rights and opportunities without discrimination in areas such as jobs, housing and services
  • Be familiar with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms section that includes sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Challenge practices in your workplace and community that do not foster diversity and promote inclusivity
  • Support your workplace to be an affirmative, safe and inclusive environment and seek out positive space training (view our LGBTQ2S+ Positive Spaces & Other Training to see how)
  • Make LGBTQ2S+ friendly resources and information available in your organization
  • Support businesses with anti-discrimination policies
  • Learn about where political candidates stand on issues that have an impact on the LGBTQ2S+ community
  • Write to and lobby municipal, provincial and federal government representatives on issues that support LGBTQ2S+ rights

Raise inclusive children 

Educate children to be open, inclusive adults by supporting inclusive, welcoming school environments and curriculum, challenging gender stereotyping, addressing family diversity and reading LGBTQ2S+-inclusive children's books

Have courage 

Just as it takes courage for LGBTQ2S+ people to be open and honest about whom they are, it also takes courage to support your LGBTQ2S+ friends or loved ones. Being an ally means that you are willing to risk investments (e.g. friends, jobs) that conflict with your values. We live in a society where prejudice still exists and where discrimination is still far too common. Knowing this and giving your support to that person will take your relationship to a higher level and is a small step toward a better and more accepting world.

Do I need training?

There are many opportunities for learning. It is important that you feel comfortable providing support. Sometimes the support people need is more than what you can provide. It is important to know your limits. It is a good idea to know some places that you can refer people to if you are not able to help. View our LGBTQ2S+ Positive Spaces & Other Training to know where the safe spaces are in your community.

Positive space training helps people learn the definitions of the words we hear in the community. It also helps to raise awareness of the issues that exist and it helps us to look at ourselves and our organizations to see how we could provide better services to the LGBTQ2S+ community.  If you have the opportunity to attend this kind of training, it may help you to become a better ally. If you think this would be a good thing for your workplace, as an ally you could ask for this training to be provided. Visit our Positive Spaces and Other Training page to learn more.

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