What it Means to Be an Effective Ally and Why it Matters

Merriam-Webster defines effective as “producing a decided, decisive, or desired effect.” Merriam-Webster defines an ally as “one that is associated with another as a helper: a person or group that provides assistance and support in an ongoing effort, activity, or struggle—often now used specifically of a person who is not a member of a marginalized or mistreated group but who expresses or gives support to that group.”

But what does it mean to be an effective ally? It means:

  1. Advocacy and allyship must be intentional, year-round! (Not just during Pride month.) 
  2. Acknowledging your own implicit bias and then taking action to resolve your implicit bias. Visit Implicit Project online to test privately. Attend a Safe Zone training or similar training, where you are free to ask questions in a nonjudgmental space. 
  3. To educate yourself about the LGBTQIA2S+ community. Learn about sexual identity, gender identity, and pronouns. The Trevor Project, Free Mom Hugs, Iowa Safe Schools, and One Iowa all have incredible resources and educational options. 
  4. To be willing to have difficult conversations. Will every conversation change hearts and minds? It’s unlikely. Will you stay calm during every conversation? Probably not. If necessary, step away and regroup. If you didn’t handle the conversation as calmly as you had intended, take an honest look at why you reacted the way you did and address it. 

According to the Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, “45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide.” The survey also showed that “LGBTQ youth who felt high social support from their family reported attempting suicide at less than half the rate of those who felt low or moderate social support.” In their 2019 National Survey, the Trevor Project reported that “LGBTQ youth who report having at least one accepting adult were 40% less likely to report a suicide attempt in the past year.”

Being an effective ally can save lives. But doing it solo can be intimidating. Joining a group of supporters can be incredibly empowering, especially if you are new to advocacy. Free Mom Hugs is a non-profit group of parents and supporters with chapters in all 50 states. The Free Mom Hugs Mission: Empowering the world to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community through visibility, education, and conversation. But giving hugs is the best part! You do not have to be a mom to be a Hugger; all are welcome!

By Sherry Martin, serving as a State Chapter Leader for Free Mom Hugs Iowa, as a member of the Educational Equity Committee and the School Improvement Advisory Committee, as the Chair of the Sioux City Human Rights Commission, and as a board member of the League of Women Voters and Community Action Agency. Sherry formerly served on the Inclusive Sioux City Advisory Committee.

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