LGBTQ+ rainbow painted on a sidewalk

I hear from a lot of people who are proud of their allyship to LGBTQ+ people. They have the flags, they dance in the parades, and they’ve been doing it for years. So how come you hear about this concept, “performative allyship?” 

Performative allyship is the idea that there is some ulterior motive behind supporting a cause, like the Black Lives Matter movement, or LGBTQ+ marriage. More broadly, it entails a lack of authenticity in some regard. Now, to be clear, I’m not accusing all allies of engaging in this behavior – far from it. Rather, I am suggesting we unpack what it means to be a true ally, and work to give our queer friends, family, and coworkers the best support we can offer. Read on for practical tips!


Listen to Queer Voices

Collage of made of multiethnic young people listening to music isolated on colored backgorund in neon light. Concept of equality, unification of all nations, ages and interests. Listen to queer voices concept

Only you can tell your own story. Rather than projecting, or telling someone how to process their feelings, why not listen to our own lived experiences? Every person comes out in a different way, and it can be hurtful to have close friends make false assumptions about your sexuality. Don’t get me wrong – you will have questions, and there’s nothing wrong with that! Questions are signs of caring, and it’s wonderful that you want to be the best mother, brother, second-cousin-once-removed to your queer loved one. All I’m saying is that it’s overwhelming to be constantly barraged by stories that aren’t our own, and being expected to relate or feel instantly healed by these stories.


Follow Queer Creators

Drag Queen with a rainbow hand fan wearing a shiny black dress and bright make up, queer community, LGBTQ pride

Maybe you don’t know anyone but straight cis-men. I’m sorry for you! But that doesn’t limit your ability to learn from those of us whose gender identity or sexual orientation is a minoritized group. Do you have a social media account? Follow a queer creator. Get some Laverne Cox in your feeds. Better yet, watch a full TV show like Schitt’s Creek, or Pose. Not online? That’s okay too. Go to your local bookshop and ask the clerk what the new releases are in rainbow memoir. There are many of us who just need a boost in audience. Be the boost!


Respect Pronouns

Concept art of three peoples' silhouettes. The left figure has the pronouns "he/him," the middle has the pronouns "they/them," and the rightmost figure has the pronouns "she/her"

Do you have your pronouns listed in your email signature? How about your Zoom account? Part of the beauty of our technologically accessible world is we have the opportunity to share publicly the information that’s important to us with potential employers, coworkers, friends, and acquaintances. The best way to be an ally is to step outside of your comfort zone and show you are a ready and willing supporter of your LGBTQ+, and especially trans and nonbinary, communities. And get this: the singular “they” has been around for years. Sure, “they” used to simply be nonspecific before referring to non-binary people. Just know that it’s not new, and it’s not going away any time soon.


Be Patient

Patience is a form of action - inspirational handwriting on a napkin with a cup of espresso coffee

All the best things in life come with time. Be the change you want to see in the world, but don’t expect it to happen overnight. Remember there are so many LGBTQ+ people who come out later in life. Sure, I have the right to marry the man of my dreams, but our rights are still under attack. There will be setbacks. If you have been following the actions of the Supreme Court these last several years, it’s no news to you. Just don’t lose hope. Don’t forget that we rely on you, the ally, for venting our emotions, to protecting us in court, and to tell us we’re pretty. You are important to us! Be willing to let us teach you.


GIF of a dancing bowl of noodles

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By Joel Tillman

Joel is a linguist, editor, and educator. He is excited to begin an advanced Masters degree at Teachers College, Columbia University — in New York City. For the last six years he has been honing is craft as a full-time proofreader outside of Philadelphia. His interests include language, writing, singing, and drinking coffee in cute coffee shops.

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