Proud to be an Ally

By: Sadie

What does it mean to be an ally?

You may have heard the term “ally” mentioned from the acronym, LGBTQA, which stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Asexual or Ally. The “A” in LGBTQA can also stand for Aromantic, Advocate, or All. My personal definition of an ally is someone who not only supports homosexuality, but someone who supports people of all diverse backgrounds. An ally stands up for the rights of any individual, focuses on diversity and inclusion, and displays mutual respect and personal safety for people of all backgrounds. An ally is not so much of an identity, but a behavior. It is more about what you do than how you identify. Most importantly, being an ally means being a friend, a supporter, and a voice for those who can’t always speak up for themselves.

Why am I an ally?

My freshman year of high school, I joined the Gay, Straight, Alliance Club. I was asked by my best friend, who wasn’t out at the time, to join because he was too afraid to go to the first meeting of the year by himself. He wanted to meet new people and I was hesitant at first, not really knowing what this club would do for me, but I went anyways to support my friend. Looking back, joining the GSA club turned out to be one of the best experiences I had in high school. The club educated us on multiple topics, created a safe space for students, and served as a positive, inclusive organization at our school. This is where I first learned what it meant to be an ally.

After attending weekly group meetings, I really got to know the people who were once strangers to me. They told their stories, taught me how to listen, how to break down those judgmental barriers, and how to truly understand how it feels to be different in the world.

What are some things you can do to be an ally?

  1. Attend an event on campus that is diversity related, or something you wouldn’t ordinarily think about going to! Here is UMD’s Multicultural Center Events Calendar: http://www.d.umn.edu/mlrc/ocd/calendar/
  1. Take a class that touches on topics of race, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities, religion, etc.
  1. Join a club, maybe something out of your comfort zone that you would like to know more about! Here are all of the different types of organizations offered here at UMD: https://umd.collegiatelink.net/Organizations

Of Possible Interest: 

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LGBTQ in the Workplace

By: Meg

So you’ve decided what you want to do, finished college, and are now qualified for the work you think you’ll be doing for a while. Now comes the hard part: Finding a job you’re comfortable with. For members of the LGBTQ community, this can be the hardest part of all. There are some things that can make the search easier, however. Before you do anything, know your rights. They differ depending on the state, your specific situation, and even the market. Do some research. Find out about the market you’re going into. This can help you figure out how Out you want to be.

LGBTQ in the workplace; rainbow flag

When you’ve tested the temperature of the overall market, start researching individual employers that you might apply to. Find out about office culture, any problems they’ve had in the past, their harassment policies, and the courses you have to make a complaint, should an issue arise. In addition, inquire about benefits. Once you’ve found out about an employer, you can make your final call as to how Out you want to be. In an interview, ask questions. Make sure you get a good feel for the place. Sometimes reports don’t match up. Remember: if they don’t hire you simply because you were asking questions, you definitely wouldn’t have been comfortable there. If you have a situation, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

For Allies, the situation is a bit different. Instead of finding an accepting environment, your job is to create one. This can be something as simple as asking about your coworker’s partner. There are many things you can do to support the LGBTQ community in your workplace.

Some steps to helping create an inclusive environment:

  • Be known as an Ally. Depending on your workplace, you can put up a rainbow flag, mention queer-friendly events that you’ve been to, or just be friendly.
  • Let them come out in their own time. If they’re not out at the office, there may be a reason.
  • Be sensitive to their needs.
  • If applicable, use their preferred pronouns.

Ask questions, just not inappropriate ones. Don’t overstep boundaries. If the person you’re talking to seems uncomfortable, don’t push. Do, however, push to make your office more inclusive if you can.

Resources for both on-campus and off:

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Photo Source: Unsplash | Sharon McCutcheon