Pat Tetreault, Ph.D.
Assistant Director, Student Involvement
Director, LGBTQA Resource Center
346 Nebraska Union
LGBTQA Resource Center
346 Nebraska Union
You may have also seen LGB, GLBT, GLT, BLGTA, LGBTT2QQIIAAP, etc. We are called the LGBTQA Resource Center, which stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Asexual/Aromantic, Allies and Advocates (and the A can also stand for All). We started as the LGBTQ Resource Center (a recommendation of our advisory board when we first opened in 2007. The LGBTQ was consistent with the LGBTQ minor). We later included the A as we also provide support and programminng for Allies (since we value our allies who work with us for LGBTQA+ inclusion and equality) and as the ACE community became more visible and we became more aware, we use the A to recognize and include individuals who identify as Asexual, Aromantic, or as Advocates. We continue to learn as we do this work and we recognize and include a variety of identities and encourage the recognition of mulitiple intersecting identities. LGBTQA+ individuals belong to every other group and every group is represented in the LGBTQA+ community. We also encourage everyone to see each other as an individual and not as a stereotype. Recognition of multiple identities is also important because other forms of injustice and inequity exist and the intersections and commonalities need to be recognized and addressed for us to progress to a community that is inclusive and welcoming of everyone.
While working to empower LGBTQA+ individuals, we strive to create a climate that is welcoming and inclusive for all people of all sexual orientations, identities and expression that is mutually respectful for all. We also know that LGBTQA+ topics and individuals create discomfort for many and we experience a form of systemic discrimination that is not experienced by other groups at this time.
We have decided at this time to use LGBTQA+ to avoid adding additional letters to what has been referred to as alphabet soup. Our graphics will most likely read LGBTQA although you may also see LGBTQA+ (as an expression of our recognition that there are many more identities we recognize while needing to limit the size and length and constant need to change our name. For a list of definitions and other terms, please click here.
What Does Intersex Mean?
"Answers to Your Questions About Individuals With Intersex Condition" by the American Psychological Association.
What does it mean to be an Ally?
The operational definition of an ally that we officially use at the center is an individual who is pro-LGBTQA+ and actively committed to diversity and inclusion, mutual respect and personal safety for all people of all sexual orientations, gender identities and expression.
Our definition does not focus on identity but on behavior. There are a number of reasons for using this definition. One is that visibility and support of the LGBTQA+ community is vital. In addition, identity can be some what fluid (not changable) and where a person is at in the identity process influences how one identifies. The LGBTQA+ community is also a very diverse community and we also have multiple, intersecting identities. Hopefully, we are all in the process of learning how to be allies to each other as well as being allied with individuals who do not identify as LGBTQA+. In this perspective, being an ally is more about what you do than how you identify. We also recognize that all marginalized, underrepresented and underserved groups have allies as well and that we believe that all people of all orientations and identities deserve equitable access, dignity, support, and to be welcomed and included in the rights and responsibilities accorded to everyone in regards to civil and human rights.
It is important to be aware of the many ways that allyhood is defined and perceived. Some individuals identify as being an ally. Allies are often defined as non-members of the target group that is being supported. Thus, allies to the LGBTQA+ community are often assumed to be straight, cisgender allies. Allies for racial justice may be defined as white allies to people of color communities. Allies are entitled to self-idenfity so the identity component can be added on for those who would like to clarify their identity and groups and individuals who they support.
For a list of Out Allies on Campus: http://involved.unl.edu/out-ally-list
The four dynamic stages of being an ally are:
- Education/becoming knowledgeable,
- Skills development, and
- Taking action!
Beyond taking action is building capacity and building community. In order to build a more inclusive and equitable environment we need to work together with mutual respect, continually striving to do our best to create a psychologically and physically safe world designed to meet the needs of all people of all sexual orientations, gender identities and expression.
While it is important for individuals to be free to openly identify their orientation and identity to others, it should not be a requirement. When we incorporate identity as a main component of our definition of an ally we are presuming that all allies, by definition, are not LGBTQA+. Therefore, we are treating identities that can be somewhat fluid as if they are not. There are pros and cons to having orientation as a primary component of the definition of an ally - it can be powerful and sometimes more effective in a particular situation, for straight allies to speak up and act on behalf of a community or individual that has less power and privilege in a situation. And, some allies want their orientation to be known to others. It is perfectly acceptable to be out as a heterosexual. It is also normative and accepted to be straight and it can help some individuals feel more comfortable identifying as a straight ally.
On the other hand, there is a breadth of diversity within the LGBTQA+ community. Sexual orientation and gender identity, although not changeable, can be somewhat fluid and our gender expression may and can vary. Our own definitions and expression of who we are can vary. And, not all LGBTQA+ people, like non-LGBTQA+ people, are supportive and accepting of the LGBTQA+ community or knowledgeable and accepting of the diversity that exists within the community. When individuals come out to themselves and others also varies. Being an ally to one's community should not depend on how one identifies. How an individual identifies is based on the individual's definition of who they are. While it is impossible to totally take identity out of the definition of ally, it is not required. In defining an ally based on behavior, individuals can choose when and how they identify themselves to others based on their orientation and identity.
What is Advocacy?
An advocate is an individual who is proactive and actively working to improve conditions and the environment so that it is more socially just. Some define advocates as members of the target group who are working on behalf of their community or communities. While it is not possible to totally take identity out of the definitions of ally and advocate, at UNL we are defining an ally as an individual who is pro-LGBTQA+ and actively committed to diversity and inclusion, mutual respect (all allies deserve to be treated with the same respect and dignity that we all deserve) and personal safety (providing an environment where we are committed to equitable treatment, dignity and respect for all orientations and identities and all are safe from prejudice and discrimination).
When we assume that allies are straight, we then require those LGBTQA+ individuals who work for equity for the LGBTQA+ community be out or living openly. If we are LGBTQA+-identified and claim the label ally and it is associated with a heterosexual identity, it implies that their identity and orientation is known at that point in time. It also means we need to define and identify advocates (as non-members of the target group working for their community). We have opted to use a definition of allies that does not require people to make known their orientation or identity. We hope that all individuals are comfortable with this lack of distinction about sexual orientation and gender identity in posting their commitment to being an ally even though it is not entirely possible to remove identity when using the word ally because of the common connotation that an ally is not a member of the targeted group.
What is Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality?"Answers to Your Questions For a Better Understanding of Sexual Orientation & Homosexuality" by the American Psychological Association
Having the Conversation
- Coming out hopes and expectations
- Acknowledgement of your feelings
- Common responses to having someone come out
The coming out process affects LGBTQA+ people as well as friends, family, and allies. Family members, friends, and allies also have their own coming out process as they learn about and process that they have a LGBTQA friend or family member. LGBTQA identity becomes integrated with other aspects of self as just one identity for this person.
The process for family, friends, and allies:
- Learning a loved one is LGBTQA+:
- Who is s/he really?
- S/he can’t be gay
- S/he isn’t gay
- S/he is gay
- I accept s/he is gay
- I still care about her/him
- I will support her/him
- Think before you speak; respond don’t react.
- Appreciate that coming out is a challenge and the person is taking a risk. You can thank the person for trusting you enough to tell you.
- Questions you can ask:
- How long have you known you are gay?
- Has it been difficult to carry this secret?
- Is there some way I can help?
- Have I ever unknowingly offended you?
- Respect confidentiality: Don’t assume it’s okay to tell other people
Would you like to learn more about being Creating Inclusive Spaces and Develop as someone who is pro-LGBTQA+ and actively committed to diversity and inclusion? Do you work or live on campus and want to be a visible in your support? Check out our Creating Inclusive Environments workshops!
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Out Ally List
We also have an out ally list, where we list those on campus who are willing to be identified publicly as being pro-LGBTQA+ and actively committed to diversity and inclusion for all people of all orientations and identities. Individual names and departments or organizations on campus are included. When individuals pick up a safe space or ally card we ask them to sign for the card, provide an email contact, and the location that the card will be posted. We also provide the opportunity to subscribe to one of our listservs and/or InQueery (our newsletter), which is published monthly during the academic year.
If you have comments, suggestions, or questions or would like more information or materials related to creating inclusive spaces, safe space, brave space or ally cards, please stop by the center or contact Pat Tetreault, Director of the LGBTQA Resource Center at UNL.