6 Ways You Can Be a Better Ally to the LGBTQIA Community

When you learn that someone you know or love is LGBTQIA, it can be challenging to figure out the “best” way to react. You may want to ask a bunch of questions, or express your support, or disapprove of the intolerance that those in this community face on a regular basis. Or you may feel emotions ranging from honored to confused, and have no idea what to do or say next.

Either way, it’s vital to remember that LGBTQIA people are not an anomaly. They are human beings, just like you and me, who also hold the roles of friends, daughters, uncles, sisters, sons, co-workers, mothers, brothers, fathers, and cousins. Being an ally means to value the importance of equality, acceptance, and respecting all—regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Here are 6 ways you can support the LGBTQIA community.

1. Really listen.

The number one most helpful thing you can do to support someone who is LGBTQIA? Listen.

Your job as an ally is to believe the stories of marginalized people—such as those in the LGBTQIA community—without bias or presumption. And one of the most helpful ways you can do that is to listen with an attentive, open mind.

Pay attention to what the person is telling you, whether they are officially coming out, or describing a new relationship, or sharing details related to personal experiences of the head, body, mind, and heart. It’s OK to be quiet; you don’t have to immediately chime in with a story about your gay friend or declare your love for queer people to “prove” your compassion. Listen first, and then ask questions that express a desire to learn more about the person you are talking to. Questions such as, “How are you feeling?” and “What can I do to support you?” and “Could you tell me more?”

You see, your job as an ally is to believe the stories of marginalized people—such as those in the LGBTQIA community—without bias or presumption. And one of the most helpful ways you can do that is to listen with an attentive, open mind.

2. Check your privilege, then use it.

I’m a heterosexual, white, cisgender person. That means I’ve literally never had to be concerned for my safety by holding hands with someone I love in public. I’ve never had to worry about how to present my gender, or struggle with feeling like I’m in the wrong body. I don’t think twice about if I can access my husband in the case of an emergency, and experienced zero barriers in my desire to marry him in the first place. Nobody asks me if I’m “sure” about being straight, or questions what straight sex “is like.” Everywhere I turn, I see normalized examples of my orientation and identity.

This is called privilege. Name it. Own it.

Because if you have privilege, you have power. Don’t spend a ton of time feeling guilty about being privileged; instead, put that time and energy toward constructive action to support those who aren’t privileged in the same way. Be acutely aware of your privilege, so you can check it and use it to support the LGBTQIA community.

As an ally, your ability to speak up for queer people to other privileged people is incredibly valuable. You don’t have to position yourself as a savior or anything, but you can absolutely work within your spheres of influence to make change. Use your skills and talents to speak up and step up. Are you a writer? Help trans people share their stories. Are you an artist? Make art that celebrates love and diversity in all forms. Have extra cash or free time? Volunteer at or donate to organizations like GLAAD, the GSA network, the Human Rights Campaign, and the Trevor Project. Are you politically minded (which we should all be!)? Call your legislators, know where they stand and ask them to publicly support the LGBTQIA community in word and action.

If you have the luxury of privilege, then you have the ability to put it to positive use on behalf of LGBTQIA people.

3. Don’t put people in a box.

Just like there are many, many ways to be a straight person in the world, there are many, many ways to be a queer person in the world. My friend Steve puts it this way: “We are not all the same, so treat us as you would want to be treated. We are not all the promiscuous type who want to hit on every girl/guy we see. A lot of us want a lasting marriage, children, success and the ability to live with the freedoms straight people are afforded.”

Be acutely aware of your privilege, so you can check it and then use it to support the LGBTQIA community.

Media representation of LGBTQIA people tends to be unrealistic; it positions them as stylish, witty, sassy, ambitious, hilarious, and righteous as well as falling into worn stereotypes: lesbians always look ____, gays talk like ____ and trans people are ____. (Fill in the blank however you prefer.) Even the most well-intentioned straight people are susceptible to these expectations when they act completely fascinated by, let’s say, going to a gay bar.

Another friend of mine described his experience of coming out like this: “I noticed that many straight folks treated me like a novelty rather than a whole person. I had to break off some casual friendships. I remember my words at the time were, ‘I can’t be friends with someone who puts me under glass like a museum exhibit.’ That’s the best metaphor I could find at the time, but it felt accurate.”

Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t be curious about getting to know the LGBTQIA people in your life. All people have interesting nuances, complicated backgrounds, and compelling traits. Embrace and explore that reality just as you do with anyone who happens to be straight.

4. Recognize queer identity as valuable.

As a straight person, one of the most enlightening statements I’ve read regarding how to be an ally came from Vox video producer Carlos Masa. He said, “If I had a nickel for every time I heard a well-meaning friend say some version of ‘I don’t even think of you as a gay, I just think of you as a person,’ I could pay so many parking tickets. Every queer person relates to their queerness differently. For some, it’s background noise. For me, it’s full orchestra doing a Celine Dion medley at max volume in my head at all times. Either way, telling someone that you don’t acknowledge or think about their queerness is not kind or enlightened. At best, it makes a significant part of our identity feel like a footnote. At worst, it can make us feel like you think of our queerness as something that’s better left unsaid.”

The urge to “normalize” marginalized groups is, well, normal. Straight and queer people are the same in that they need to eat and sleep and make a living, but they are also very different; the former is welcomed as the default norm while the latter is often an oppressed part of one’s identity. If you want to emphasize your support of someone who is LGBTQIA, celebrate the fact that they are LGBTQIA rather than pretending like it “doesn’t matter.” It does matter. That’s not the only detail that counts, of course, but it is a defining part of their experience in the world.

5. Be courageous in everyday moments.

“That’s so gay.”

“What a homo.”

“He’s a good-looking guy, but I’m not a queer or anything.”

“She looks like a man.”

“Two girls kissing? Hot.”

I’ve heard such words casually offered up in conversation for years, and for a long time, I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to make things awkward. I let so-called “jokes” and inappropriate comments slide. Even though I wanted to be an ally, calling people out on felt hard and uncomfortable. Calling out friends and family from my small town felt damn near impossible.

Every person deserves the right and opportunity to be who they are and love who they want to love.

I call myself out, now, because I still witness others who claim they are not homophobic . . . and then promptly stand by with hesitation in the face of homophobia. And that’s wrong. Being LGBTQIA means facing all kinds of discomfort: legal challenges, family rejection, internalized shame, street harassment, demeaning stereotypes, religious exclusion, and so much more. Being uncomfortable as a non-LGBTQIA person in the presence of prejudice is part of the work of being a true ally.

So be a resource for inclusivity. Educate yourself, constantly, on local and national issues that affect LGBTQIA people. Give your business to companies with anti-discrimination policies. Say, “That’s not funny,” or “Where did you get that impression?” Queer people can certainly stick up for themselves (and do, all the time), but that doesn’t let you off the hook. Be brave, and don’t let casual bigotry slide.

6. Remember that it isn’t about you. 

Every person deserves the right and opportunity to be who they are and love who they want to love. Ultimately, one’s journey as an LGBTQIA person has very little to do with you. If you’re straight, know that you can’t fully understand what people within the LGBTQIA community have gone through.

A friend, who is lesbian, told me, “You don’t know what it’s like to have people question your love, for a Catholic think you’re a sinner, for a family member think you’re going through a ‘phase’ with the person you identify as the love of your life, or for kids to stare at you for those two seconds longer in a restaurant, because it’s still not ‘the norm.’”

She’s right, but that’s OK—you can still be a purposeful ally. Hear, read, and watch the diverse stories of LGBTQIA people. Ask the queer people in your life how they’re doing and what they need. Reinforce the fact that your love or care for that person will not change. Though support of the LGBTQIA community has grown and solidified over the years, there is still work to be done. Being an ally indicates your willingness to develop a better understanding of what it means to be queer in the U.S. today—so you can do your part to help dismantle discrimination.

How have you learned to support LGBTQIA people in your life? As an LGBTQIA-person, what kind of support resonates most with you?

  • Allyson

    You’ve Got Mail!!!!!! SWOON. Works every single time. And Father of the Bride, but only if my Dad is nearby to squeeze. The Blind Side is another one that always leaves me happy at the end.

  • Susan Hager

    Love this topic! I LOVE You’ve Got Mail, but my numero uno would have to go to The Holiday. Yes, it has to do with Christmas, but I would watch this literally any day of the year! What can I say? Kate, Jude, Cameron and Jack Black get me every time!

    • Allyson

      ohhhh agreed! Love The Holiday!!!

      • Nicolette

        Second The Holiday love!

  • Tomissa Porath

    Mine is definitely When Harry Met Sally. I love being in my pajamas, sipping a cup of coffee, and snuggling up with characters that feel like old friends.

  • Ellie

    Love Actually!!! I can watch that and The Holiday over and over 🙂

    • hmurtagh

      Love Actually is my holiday go to movie. 🙂 I have to watch it at least once in December. It’s tradition. Best enjoyed with some hot beverage and cookies.

  • hmurtagh

    When Harry Met Sally and Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion. LOVE both so much.

  • Because I Said So! Not a famous one but always comforting and entertaining to watch!

    • Alyssa

      I agree!

    • Marissa Scherr

      Love love love! Watch it so much!

  • Lucinda C

    With me it’s Steel Magnolias although I love You’ve Got Mail.

  • martasplanet

    My go to movie is always The Holiday. Just makes me feel cozy and never fails to pick up my mood. 🙂

  • Brandis Haynes

    It’s Complicated and Sex in the City (the first movie only!). I love all the others mentioned too!

  • Becky

    My current is Pitch Perfect. My old standby is Dirty Dancing though.

  • Christina Warsheski

    You’ve Got Mail or Sleepless in Seattle for sure. BUT my all time favorite is Under the Tuscan Sun ooooor Bridget Jones’ Diary

  • All of the above, but also The Holiday, 13 Going on 30, The Proposal, and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days! Now I just want to curl up in bed for a movie marathon!

  • Alyssa

    It’s Complicated. I love every single second of that movie.

    • Greta Williams Sutherland

      I agree! And usually afterwards, I redecorate my house!

  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s! It is my go-to movie when I need a pick me up. Audrey Hepburn is absolutely flawless as Holly Golightly!

  • Elli

    Yes to My Best Friend’s Wedding! Also, Sleepless in Seattle.

  • renata

    a 3 metros sobre el cielo and tengo ganas de ti (for spanish speakers, my fav movies!!)

  • The movie that always brings me home is the Family Stone. Such a classic and I watch it year round even though it’s a Christmas movie. 🙂

  • Leslie W.

    Love Actually, About A Boy & Under the Tuscan Sun!

  • Nicolette

    When Harry Met Sally!! Maybe not “feel good”, but the Christmas-In-New York aspect, along with the love story delve straight to my heart

  • LCB

    Legally Blonde, When Harry Met Sally, Pretty Woman, The Holiday.

    GREAT TOPIC! 🙂

  • Bailey13

    I absolutely adore Fools Rush In. Matthew Perry’s line “You are everything I never knew I always wanted” gets me every time!

  • Becca

    My go to chick flick is Love Actually. I love the intertwined stories and the fact that not all of the relationships work out in the end. It makes it more realistic, but still heart warming!

  • Christina

    Forrest Gump and Now & Then!

  • Natasha

    Im obsessed with You’ve got Mail However Breakfast At Tiffany’s is my all time fave Click me

  • It’s Complicated, The Devil Wears Prada, Sabrina (anything with Audrey Hepburn, really)…

  • Many of the previous comments hit on my favorites: Love Actually, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Under the Tuscan Sun, The Holiday

    Others: Notting Hill, Now & Then, Groundhog Day, Mamma Mia (the setting is so gorgeous it is like a mini couch vacation). I also love a little known Clive Owen movie about prisoners who garden called Greenfingers – if you haven’t seen it you need to. It is darling.

  • Lindsey

    Pride and Prejudice, Serendipity and The Wedding Planner are three movies I will never tire of!

  • Ines

    Love actually, the holiday, sex and the city (I).

  • Chelsey Morphy

    Serendipity! and I agree with everyone – The Holiday! Something about those winter romances…

  • Deanna Diaz

    Eat, Pray, Love

  • Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe

    Love Actually. Whenever I’m feeling down, snuggling up on the couch with a cup of tea, chocolate, and this movie always picks me up!

  • Nina

    The Holiday – Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law and Jack Black! I can always watch that film – I love the story line of Arthur!!!

  • Mine is Wilby Wonderful. Puts me in a good mood everytime.

  • Cynthia

    OMG, I so agree, so many great Movies, to take the blue days away, or if it’s even a rainy day outside. That’s why in my home, my Hubby and I have made a Movie day, twice a week, works out well in the Summer time, and Sunday morning as well.

  • You’ve Got Mail is my favorite! Then I also love watching Ever After, Stardust, Letters to Juliet, Pitch Perfect, and Love Actually!
    ~Sara

  • Ally Basham

    Life As We Know It. Best one every 🙂

  • Everyday: Like Crazy (beautifully shot movie- so simple and so heartbreaking EVERY time) & The Wedding Date (Dermot Mulroney is a stud and I love Debra Messing).

  • Ola

    Mistress of Spices, Mystic Pizza, Picture Perfect, Leap Year, He’s Just Not That Into You and The Vow.

  • Kate | 17th Avenue

    Love You’ve Got Mail! My go-to’s are Devil Wears Prada, Father of the Bride (1 + 2), The Holiday and Like Crazy. Swoooon.

  • Well you pretty much hit the nail on the head. All of the old Meg Ryan and Sandra Bullock films. And then there’s Audrey Hepburn classics…:)

  • Susanna

    10 Things I Hate About You (Heath, you are so attractive.)
    Amelie (whimsical and lovely and french)
    The Proposal (hilarious and ALASKA)
    Stardust (romance and fantasy and Claire Danes is fantastic)
    She’s the Man (modern Shakespeare, what’s not to love?)
    When Harry Met Sally (Meg Ryan. Duh.)
    Pitch Perfect (sing-along, romcom, and hilarity)
    The Sound of Music (I can’t believe no one has mentioned this one)
    Because I Said So (Mandy Moore plus AMAZINGly cute outfits)
    Crazy Stupid Love (Um… Ryan Gosling anyone?)
    Bridesmaids (Cheers me up immediately)
    He’s Just Not That Into You (sort of like Love Actually)
    Love Actually
    Pride and Prejudice (2005 version is just cinematically gorgeous)

  • Katherine

    Love Actually is a rollercoaster every time, but wonderful! And one of my favorites!

  • I LOOOOVE How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and The Proposal! I also love the Devil Wears Prada – gives that extra push of motivation!

  • Greta Williams Sutherland

    Something’s Gotta Give. Empowering movie for the ‘older’ audience.

  • I try to save Love Actually for the holiday season, but I have been known to spontaneously bust out random lines (or even scenes) from it throughout the year. Definitely, Maybe is another one. How can a girl be down when watching Ryan Reynolds and Abigail Breslin together? And never underestimate the cheering power of Disney animated classics. I dare you to try to feel down while a bunch of animated, talking household objects are performing “Be Our Guest.”

  • meggie

    My favorite is The Sure Thing. And also Fried Green Tomatoes.

  • Brittany Sampson

    My all time favorite movie is Wedding Date, I could never get enough of that movie. The line where he says “I would rather fight with you than make love with anyone else” now that is a line. I am also a big fan of When Harry Met Sally and The Holiday.

  • This is clearly a very popular topic and I agree with many of the ones already listed. You’ve Got Mail is definitely my number one, in fact I just watched it the other day. I also love watching old Doris Day films, especially Romance on the High Seas and Tea for Two.

  • Kim

    I love LOVE ACTUALLY. The little boy that plays Liam Neison’s son, kills me everytime!

  • Shannon Burke

    He’s Just Not That Into You is one of my favourites for sure. Love it!

  • Lauren

    The Holiday! And Sex and the City!

  • Summer

    When Harry Met Sally, of course!

  • Pretty Woman, Nottinghill, You,’ve Got Mail!, Love Actually, Bridesmaids,

  • Daryl

    Yes! #6 is such an important lesson when it comes to allyship!

  • Nikki Laraja

    This is such a great post, I have always considered myself an ally, so this is really helpful!

    http://www.shopthecoconutroom.com

  • Rachel Hagfors

    This is a really great article, thanks so much for sharing. I also think it is important to stress the assumption we all so often make when it comes to gender, and how we should really be asking people for their pronouns before assuming that they are a certain gender; especially for all of our non-binary folks out there!

    • Yes, but only do this in safe settings. Some well meaning people inadvertently out others in public with this sort of thing. If I’m not sure or I think another nb person might be uncomfortable talking about it, I just use singular “they” – but I tend to do that for everyone!

  • From the perspective of a non-binary trans person, can I just add that even if you don’t really understand someone’s gender identity or expression, just use the right pronouns for them. If you’re not sure what those are, ask. It’s not difficult.