In honor of Pride month, I’m spotlighting the power of allyship and the importance of educating allies. Folks in the LGBTQ+ community usually don’t need to be told why Pride is important. June is one of 12 months of the year I love on my wife, my family and my community. June is a time to celebrate, of course, as well as an opportunity to be there for people in the community who find this month as the one time they can be safe and out. 

Allies, I see you and appreciate you: You walk in the parades. You attend the festivals. But if you’re going to throw glitter and rainbow boas, you need to do the hard things too and do it throughout the year: advocate, volunteer, show up and show out. 

What does allyship mean to you and why is it important? Maybe it means attending a meeting to oppose anti-LGTBQ+ policy. Or being the one person in an LGBTQ+ youth’s school, family or community they feel safe coming out to. Or providing food and shelter for an LGBTQ+ youth who has been kicked out of their house. Or talking to an LGBTQ+ friend, relative or stranger whose mental health is at an all-time low because they are scared to live authentically in a society where folks are still telling them they don’t matter and shouldn’t exist. 

As Out Leadership says in their AllyUp report, being an ally is not who you are but what you do. Their study found that 83% of employees support workplace and state protections for LGBTQ+ individuals who are out at work. Yet that support doesn’t translate into work feeling like a safe space for LGBTQ+ employees.  52% of LGBTQ+ workers channel at least 30% of their time at work into hiding or downplaying their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

What actions can allies take to show up and OUT for the LGBTQ+ community?

Keep your reason for allyship at the core: Do you have a close family member or friend who’s LGBTQ+? Maybe you have a beloved guncle (gay uncle) who has inspired you to do more for the community. Or a transgender friend you’ve supported along their transition journey, who you don’t want to lose their rights or be told they can’t use the bathroom with which they identify. Whoever, or whatever the reason is… know and trust that, and stay true to your “why” in allyship.

Do your research: Will you have questions for your LGBTQ+ loved ones? Sure. But explore information from credible sources to see what you can find out on your own before asking them. Some topics can be very difficult, even traumatic, to discuss. I’m an open book and embrace the chance to educate pretty much anyone who wants to know how they can help the community or learn about my journey. Asking questions can sometimes cause distress. Plus, it’s not your LGBTQ+ friend’s responsibility to act as a spokesperson for or expert on the entire community.

Have conversations to understand the experiences of LGBTQ+ folks. Honor their stories but get permission before you share them. 

Be humble: You may have experienced bias or discrimination but your LGBTQ+ loved ones and others in the community have unique experiences of bias. I am a fervent advocate for anti-racism and work to educate myself, have conversations (including educating other white folks), and speak up in rooms where Black and Brown voices are not heard and work so they are heard. Still, I am a white woman with white privilege, so I will never experience or be able to fully understand what it is like for my LGBTQ+ and allied siblings of color. 

Speak up when you hear something offensive: It’s really that simple, ya’ll.  

Be an ally within the community: As a cisgender gay woman/lesbian, I am a proud ally. The LGB/sexual orientation part of LGBTQ+ has gradually become more embraced and normalized over the years. But the TQ+ folks (gender identity and gender expression) are still facing danger in every aspect of their lives, from parking lots to the workplace. I’m an advocate for my trans, nonbinary and gender nonconforming siblings because we are all human and need community. I use the word siblings to include those who don’t identify as male or female.

As Pride month comes to a close, think about what you can do today, tomorrow and beyond. Small, consistent steps can lead to major impact. It takes ALL(y) of us.  

Resources for LGBTQ+ Allies:

PFLAG’s Guide to Being a Straight Ally

HRC’s Being an LGBTQ+ Ally 

World Economic Forum’s Active allyship: How can you support LGBTQ+ employees?

Out & Equal’s Ally Guiding Behaviors (one-pager)

PFLAG’s ABCs of LGBTQ+ Terms


Jeanie Adkins

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