Responding to Bias and Being an Ally

Anti-LGBTQ Bias

All prejudice and discrimination toward various groups is related.

Systematic inequities (institutionalized discrimination) of a group/individual members of a group is often based on  sex, race, age, disability, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, marital status, veteran’s status, sexual orientation, and/or gender identity. Institutionalized discrimination generates misinformation and ignorance about these groups of people (stereotypes), which become socially sanctioned attitudes, beliefs, feelings, and assumptions (acceptable prejudice), which become the justification for further mistreatment ("justified" discrimination) and maintaining the status quo regarding the inequitable treatment. Institutional discrimination is then continually perpetuated by "-isms” such as racism, sexism, heterosexism, etc..

While all forms of discrimination are similar, there are also differences. It is difficult to identify someone based on perceived sexual orientation (unlike sex, gender, or race), making sexual orientation more like religion and some disabilities. Invisibility and silence surrounding LGBTQA issues are key factors regarding prejudice and discrimination experienced by the LGBTQA community. One of the factors correlated with more positive attitudes toward LGBTQA individuals is when someone realizes they know and care about someone who is LGBTQA. For more information on sexual prejudice visit: http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/rainbow/html/sexual_prejudice.html

“…I still hear from people who claim to be followers of Martin Luther King, Jr. but who think I should be silent about the human rights concerns of gay and lesbians. All I can do is tell these folks that the civil rights movement that I believe in thrives on unity and inclusion, not division and exclusion. All of us who oppose discrimination and support equal rights should stand together to resist every attempt to restrict civil rights in this country…”
- from remarks by Coretta Scott King accepting the “Honoring Our Allies” Award presented to her by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Sept. 15, 1997.

Actions to Challenge Bias

What can you do to challenge LGBTQ prejudice and discrimination?

Being an ALLY

An Ally embraces and affirms sexual orientation and gender expression as one of many identities that are equally appreciated and included as part of a diverse world.  Being an ally is an ongoing process of commitment to work with and for communities experiencing prejudice and discrimination, to celebrate diversity, encourage mutual respect, and create a safe environment for all people.

FOUR STAGES of BEING an ALLY:

  • Awareness:  explore how you are similar and different from LGBTQA people
  • Knowledge/Education:  begin to understand policies, laws, & practices and how they affect LGBTQA people
  • Skills:  learn to take your awareness and knowledge and communicate it to others in effective ways
  • Action:  appropriate action is the way to create change

CHARACTERISTICS of an ALLY:

  • Listen openly.
  • Actively pursue a process of self-education.  Learn about the history and culture of target groups.
  • Acknowledge and take responsibility for your own socialization, prejudice and privilege.
  • Be willing to examine and relinquish privileges.
  • Learn about and take pride in your own identities.
  • Identify your own self-interest in acting as an ally.
  • Make friends with people who are different.
  • Know resources about and for target groups.
  • Educate others.
  • Take a public stand against discrimination and prejudice.
  • Interrupt prejudice and take action against oppression even when people from the target group are not present.
  • Risk discomfort.
  • Do not be self-righteous with others (especially other dominant group members).
  • Challenge the internalized oppression of people in target groups.
  • Support the value of separate meetings/events/activities for members of target and agent groups.
  • Have a vision of a healthy multicultural society.

from Responding to Heterosexism on Campus, Diversity Works Training Manual, 1991.

Developing a Positive Environment

Anyone can begin to have an impact and help to create a positive environment for LGBTQ and other communities facing prejudice and discriminaton by doing the following:

  • Be supportive and vocal in your support. 
  • Interrupt/stop heterosexist behavior and statements made by yourself and colleagues. 
  • Do not support jokes that degrade any group of people.
  • Display a Safe Space or Ally card and explain their purpose and importance to those who ask.
  • Develop a good understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity and be comfortable with your own
  • Learn about the coming out process and realize it is not a one-time event for LGBTQ people or for friends, family members, allies, or advocates who choose to come out about LGBTQ people in their lives. Choose to come out whenever you can.
  • Understand internalized “homophobia” or anti-LGBTQA bias and do what you can to educate others.
  • Take sexual orientation/gender identity/expression into account when producing publications such as training manuals, program brochures, or flyers.
  • Use inclusive language.
  • Celebrate LGBTQ Awareness Days.
  • Support local LGBTQ organizations and businesses.
  • Keep informed about LGBTQA issues and concerns nationally and locally. Be an informed voter!  Participate in the political process.
  • Know whether sexual orientation/gender identity/expression is part of the non-discrimination policy or domestic partner benefits are offered where you work and advocate for inclusion if they are not.
  • Support efforts to eliminate discrimination or harassment of any group of people by voting, speaking out, making financial contributions, volunteering, and/or holding leadership positions.

Incorporating LGBTQ Material into the Curriculum

  • Find out who the renowned and respected LGBTQA scholars, writers, and researchers are in your area of study.
  • Incorporate information about LGBTQA professionals and their contributions into course materials.
  • Incorporate materials from organizations or associations that have LGBTQA committees, and working or interests groups. 
  • Find and include resources such as people or organizations to contact, books and articles by LGBTQA authors and dealing with LGBTQA issues and topics, LGBTQA websites, etc., into course materials
  • Incorporate research dealing with LGBTQA issues into course materials and scholarship.
  • Include LGBTQ when discussing diversity.

Celebrate LGBTQ Awareness Days

? Feb. 14 - Freedom to Marry Day

? April 7, 2008 - 5th Annual LGBT Health Awareness Week

? April 25th, 2008 - Day of Silence

? June is Pride Month

      June 27 - HIV Testing Day

      June 28 - Stonewall Rebellion Day (U.S.)

? September 23 - Bisexual Day

? October is Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender History Month

      October 11 - National Coming Out Day

      October 15 – 21 ALLY Week

  • www.dayofsilence.org/ally

      October 26 - Intersex Day

? November - Transgender Remembrance Day

? December 1 - World AIDS Day

? December is Human Rights Month

      December 10 - Human Rights Day

HOW or WHY to CELEBRATE:

  • Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender/Intersex Awareness Weeks:  These events are often sponsored by university student groups as one avenue of educating others and creating discussion.  They can be held at any time of the year and activities may vary from campus to campus.
  • Pride Month:  Many communities sponsor pride activities during the month of June.  Events may include parades, festivals, speakers, or film festivals.
  • Stonewall Anniversary (June 27-28):  Police raided the Stonewall tavern in the early hours of June 28, 1969, and sparked a riot.  Stonewall is considered the beginning of the modern gay rights movement.
  • Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender History Month:  October is designated as a time to celebrate historical figures and events.
  • National Coming Out Day (October 11):  This annual event is a day for LGBTQA individuals to come out to someone—themselves, family, friends, or colleagues.
  • Transgender Day of Remembrance (November, day changes):  This day is set aside to  memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice.
  • National LGBTQA Health Awareness Week (March, dates vary)