Be an Ally

Supporting someone who's going through an abusive relationship is hard. It may seem like they face one obstacle after another. This is especially true if the person you're trying to help is LGBTQ. But don't give up! We have tips below.

Wait! I Don't Know What the Letters Mean

The first step to helping someone who's LGBTQ and in an unhealthy relationship is caring. You've already finished this step, so don't let the alphabet soup discourage you. Use our cheat sheet below if you get stuck.

  • Lesbian: A woman who is physically, romantically and/or emotionally attracted to other women.
  • Gay: A man who is physically, romantically and/or emotionally attracted to other men.
  • Bisexual: An individual who is physically, romantically and/or emotionally attracted to men and women.
  • Transgender: An inclusive term for people whose gender identity and/or expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. Transgender people may or may not decide to alter their bodies hormonally or surgically.
  • Transsexual: A person who experiences a mismatch between the sex they were assigned at birth and the sex they identify as being. A transsexual person sometimes undergoes medical treatment to change their physical sex to match their gender identity. Not all transsexual people can or desire to alter their bodies.
  • Queer: In the past, “queer” was a derogatory term, but now some LGBTQ people use it to describe themselves and their community. Others still find it offensive so it’s best to use this word only if the person you are referring to has already identified as queer.
  • Questioning: People still in the process of exploring their sexual identity who are not ready to apply a label to themselves.

A Few More...

  • Out: Being open about your sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
  • Outing: Revealing a person’s sexual orientation without their permission.
  • Sex: The “male” or “female” label assigned at birth.
  • Sexual Orientation: Who you’re physically attracted to.
  • Gender: The general public’s ideas about the differences in proper behavior and roles between men and women.
  • Gender Identity: The set of behaviors or roles associated with the gender a person identifies with and presents to the public.
  • Gender Expression: The way people express their gender identity to others through behavior and appearance. Transgender people may match their gender expression to the way they feel and not the sex label they were given at birth.
  • Gender Queer: Identifying with neither, both or a combination of male and female genders.
  • Ze: Gender neutral pronoun that can be used instead of "he" or "she."

Tips on Being an Ally

The principles for supporting those in unhealthy relationships are the same regardless of that person’s sexual orientation or identity. That said, there are a couple of things to keep in mind when helping someone who’s LGBTQ:

  • Be Open. LGBTQ people often face a lot of judgment and discrimination. You can create a safe place by simply being willing to talk and not passing judgment. Start by listening and asking open ended questions.
  • Confront Your Prejudice. It may be uncomfortable, but it’s important to examine yourself and the assumptions you make. Think about the jokes you tell and the pronouns you use. Have you ever assumed someone’s partner was of the opposite sex only later to find out you were wrong? How would you feel if people around you made jokes about an important part of your identity? Examine your behavior and focus on how to be a better ally.
  • Challenge Your Assumptions. Think about what being a “man” or “woman” means to you. How does those ideas affect your ability to be a strong ally? Do they influence your judgements, words or actions? Try to be open to other definitions and see where it takes you.
  • Respect the Pronouns. When someone tells you what pronoun they prefer, use it. Always. If you're unsure of what to use, try "them" or "they."
  • Check Your Resources. Loveisrespect is an open environment and we’re trained to address the additional issues LGBTQ youth face. Feel free to contact us or pass our information on. However, the person you’re supporting may feel more comfortable contacting a resource that’s LGBTQ-specific. If so, check out the Northwest Network, GLBT National Help Center and The Trevor Project.