Zenyum’s Guide to Being an Ally in the Workplace

30 May 2022

Pride March Under Pride Flag

It’s 2022, folks. So we want to ask you this: what are you doing to be an ally?  

According to the Freedom Forum Institute, an ally is “a trusted source for good”. As an ally, you hold the power to help people feel welcome and safe in the workplace, and wherever else you are, for that matter.

So how can you be a trusted source for good as the LGBTQIA+ community campaigns for equal rights and fair treatment? Here’s a couple of tips.

1. Educate Yourself

Read up on systemic inequality, and listen to stories from people who have had different experiences to you. But, and here’s the most important thing, don’t make educating you their job – it’s yours. 

Intimidated? No need to be. There are articles galore, written by the LGBTQIA+ community, that share resources, social media accounts, books, and podcasts for those looking to educate themselves. 

Just remember that the onus falls on YOU to educate yourself – it’s not the LGBTQIA+ community’s responsibility to cure ignorance. So don’t ask one of your LGBTQIA+ friends for information as if they’re some sort of ambassador.

2. Listen actively

Practise active listening, the kind where you’re not waiting for a pause to then slip into the convo to have your say. What sets active listening apart from passive listening? Passive listening is described as one-way communication, while active listening involves providing responses that are tied in with what you’re hearing. 

Active listening is one of the best ways to a) validate the experiences of others when they’re being shared with you, and b) learn about the LGBTQIA+ experience from said experiences.

3. Ask first about how to help

Don’t assume you know what others need when they’re looking for allyship. Ask first. Do second. Some people appreciate being spoken up for, while others prefer to do the speaking themselves. True ally-ship is about bridging the gap, not taking over the conversation.

4. Don’t expect anyone to ‘out’ themselves

It’s their story, which they’ll share on their own time, if they want to. Not yours. We don’t think this needs much explaining.

While we’re addressing this point, here’s a quick reminder not to out anyone either. Just because you’re privy to that information doesn’t mean the person in question is comfortable with everyone knowing. Just like in many other areas of life, consent and communication is key here.

5. Recognise your privilege

Privilege does NOT mean you haven’t had your fair share of struggles. It’s about recognising you have certain systemic advantages over others – whether it’s that you’re able-bodied or neurotypical or university-educated or cisgender – and using them to advocate for others who don’t have those systemic privileges.

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