What is an Ally?

What Does it Mean to be an Ally?: Definition of Characteristics

Bullet Ally(n) - one that is associated with another as a helper

BulletAlly(v) - to unite or form a connection between; to enter into an alliance

BulletAlliance(n) a bond or connection; an association formed to further the common interests of the members

To be an ally is to unite oneself with another to promote a common interest. As shown by the definitions above, people are who are allies are not only helpers, but also have a common interest with those they desire to help. In an alliance, both parties stand to benefit from the bond or connection they share.

When sexual orientation is the issue around which people form an alliance, people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, or questioning (LGBTQ). are not the only ones who benefit They may the most direct beneficiaries when others make known their support of the rights, dignity, and equality of people who are LGBTQ. But all of us, regardless of our sexual orientation, benefit when any of us take steps toward eliminating prejudice and discrimination based on sexual orientation. We all benefit from our collective efforts to create a better educated and more understanding world that treats each of us with dignity and respect.

Characteristics of An Ally

An Ally is a person who:

  • believes in the equality and dignity of people who are LGBTQ and their right to live and pursue their goals free from intolerance, discrimination, and harassment.
  • believes our society is enriched by the acceptance and inclusion of the diversity of people who are LGBTQ.
  • works to develop an understanding of homo and bi sexuality, and the needs of people who are LGBTQ.
  • chooses to align with people who are LGBTQ to support them and respond to their needs.
  • believes that their own growth and development will be enhanced by their alliance with people who are LGBTQ.
  • is committed to the personal growth required in taking steps to confront homophobia and heterosexism.
  • takes a stand against prejudice and discrimination.
  • works to develop an understanding of how prejudice and discrimination against people who are LGBTQ oppresses those individuals, while also providing societal privileges to people who are heterosexual.
  • acknowledges and takes responsibility for their own prejudices.
  • is willing to examine and relinquish privileges accorded to them by society based on their identity.
  • knows that because of attitudes toward and the lack of legal rights accorded to people who are LGBTQ those who are heterosexual often have more power in initiating change toward personal, institutional, and societal justice and equality.
  • expects to make some mistakes, but does not use fear of this as an excuse for non-action.
  • is motivated to educate others, without being self-righteous and with the goal of creating understanding and building bridges across difference.
  • listen openly, and is willing to risk discomfort, and is clear about personal motives in becoming an ally.
  • is committed to maintaining confidentiality and respecting privacy when called upon to do so.
  • has a vision of an inclusive, multicultural society free from prejudice and discrimination.
  • has a good sense of humor!

Adapted from handouts developed by Shawn-Eric Brooks and Vernon A. Wall (1990) and by Velvet Miller and Kristina Testa based on material from "Diversity Works" (1992) via NIU, SZP (32)