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LGBTQ+ Support: 4 ways to go from bystander to ally

By Dr. Danielle Jackman (she, her, hers) and Callan Smith
(he, him, his)

Allyship is active. It’s something you do. To show up as an active ally rather than a passive bystander, Dr. Danielle Jackman (she, her, hers) and Callan Smith (he, him, his) shared on this Meru Talks these four helpful recommendations we can all follow.

Avoid assumptions

If you’re going to refer to someone using pronouns (instead of using their name, which is always an option), first ask what pronouns they use. You can also do your part to make pronoun sharing more common. Share your pronouns when you’re first meeting someone, or list them at the bottom of your email signature and Zoom name.

When you’re asking about someone’s pronouns, Dr. Jackman recommends asking, “What are your pronouns?” or “What pronouns do you use?” She encourages people to stop using the phrase “preferred pronouns” — just like other parts of our identities, pronouns aren’t preferences.

Use pins, flags, virtual backgrounds, and signs

The presenters also recommended using pins, flags, virtual backgrounds, and signs to let LGBTQ+ people know they’re in a space where they’ll be respected and affirmed. Callan Smith shared about
his experience feeling like he would receive better care when he saw staff wearing pronoun pins.

Limit probing questions

There’s a difference between asking questions to get to know someone and asking intimate questions to satisfy your curiosity. A key theme from the session: “You don’t have to understand
something to respect it.”

Apologize sincerely and commit to growth

What if you mess up? (We all do, at one time or another.) Be sure to apologize. It can be very painful to be misgendered. It’s important to acknowledge the mistake, correct yourself, and
take steps to avoid making the same mistake in the future. No one is perfect and learning something new takes practice. Calling people by their correct pronouns is well worth the effort.

A bystander educates themselves – an ally turns that education into action. For much more about where this came from, watch the full presentation and interview here.

About the presenters

Callan Smith has worn various professional hats throughout his life with an underlying theme – communication. As a transgender man, having experienced both positives and negatives, Callan is passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion work for all people, especially marginalized people, such as the transgender community.

Dr. Danielle Jackman is a Certified Diversity Professional and the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Aurora Mental Health Center. For the past 16 years, Dr. Jackman has been devoted to increasing diversity, equity, inclusion and justice both nationally and internationally. Currently, Dr. Jackman is involved in providing coaching, consulting, and training both staff within Aurora Mental
Health Center as well as across several Executive Boards.

Still have questions? Ask away.