Advocacy

There are many reasons why people become allies to the GLBT community. Some people might wish to support GLBT friends, while others might base their decisions on principles of justice oneself and others. Regardless of the reasons, becoming an advocate is a process. What follows is a model for becoming a GLBT ally. As with most models there is considerable overlap between the four steps and cycling back through steps should be expected.

 

Step 1: Awareness:

This initial step involves developing an understanding of yourself, along with the ways you are similar and different to other GLBT individuals. This awareness can be discovered in many different ways such as conversations with GLBT individuals, workshops, presentations, reading about GLBT issues, and by self-examination.

Things you can do:

  • Be aware of your own sexual orientation and be comfortable with it. If you choose not to identify with a specific sexual orientation be comfortable with this decision as well. Recognize that others might ask you questions about your orientation. Accordingly, you should be aware of your comfort level and the extent to which you are willing to discuss this topic.
  • Be aware of the coming out process and its challenges. Recognize that you do not share the same level of personal risk as a GLBT individual when being open about their sexual orientation.
  • Be aware of your own heterosexism and homophobia. Recognize that heterosexism and homophobia are pervasive and others (including GLBT persons) may also struggle with these concerns.
  • Be aware of the diversity within the GLBT community.
  • Be aware of myths and misinformation regarding GLBT persons.


Step 2: Knowledge/Education

The second step involves learning about issues (laws, policies, & practices) that affect the lives of GLBT persons. It also involves developing a knowledge base about GLBT culture.

Things you can do:

  • Be knowledgeable about sexual orientation and your own sexuality.
  • Learn to be accepting supportive of diversity particularly as it pertains to GLBT individuals.
  • Be knowledgeable about the coming out process and the challenges of this process.
  • Write papers or research GLBT topics for class assignments.
  • Be knowledgeable of heterosexism and homophobia.
  • Propose topics and request presenters that address GLBT issues in groups to which you belong.
  • Be knowledgeable about diversity within the GLBT community and how race, ethnicity, class, religion, culture, age and ablebodiedness may impact GLBT individuals.
  • Watch movies with GLBT themes.
  • Be knowledgeable about HIV/AIDS.
  • Take a class that focuses on GLBT topics.
  • Attend a Safe Zone program.


Step 3: Skills

As your awareness and education base grows it is also important to learn and practice skills that allow you to communicate the knowledge you have learned. Developing these skills can be accomplished in a number of different ways such as attend workshops, role-playing, forming supportive connections, and practicing interventions in a safe setting.

Things you can do:

  • Be comfortable talking about sexual orientation and sexuality, in general. This might take some practice.
  • Learn to listen in a non-judgmental manner.
  • Be able to talk about the coming out process and appreciate the unique challenges that may be confronting GLBT individuals.
  • Learn to recognize the unique strengths and ability of individuals.
  • Develop and use inclusive language such as romantic partner instead of boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • Be able to challenge internalized notions of heterosexism and homophobia.
  • Heterosexism and homophobia can be internalized by anyone. Thus it is important as an ally to challenge such oppressive notions while being supportive.


Step 4: Action

Finally, at some point it is essential to take some sort of action. This is often the most difficult step in becoming an advocate. There are challenges and potential risks in being an ally but action is necessary to end oppression and change society.

Things you can do:

  • Continue learning about sexual orientation, the coming out process, heterosexism and homophobia.
  • Actively work to correcting myths and misinformation about GLBT individuals.
  • Model advocacy by confronting inappropriate behavior.
  • Write letters to people and organizations that do not use inclusive language in their publications. Help them to understand how the language might be offensive to some people.
  • Do classroom presentations on GLBT topics.
  • Confront derogatory joking about diversity issues.
  • Attend a rally supporting equal rights for GLBT persons.
  • Model support by openly communicating the knowledge you have learned about GLBT issues.
  • Become a Safe Zone Peer ED.

Adapted from: Evans, N. J., & Wall, V. A. (1991). Beyond tolerance: Gays, lesbians and bisexuals on campus. American College Personnel Association, Alexandria, VA.