More Than Good Intentions

How to Be an Ally to the
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and
Transgender Community
 
 

presented by Becky & Kathy Liddle

for the Auburn Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual Caucus
and the Auburn A/lies Project

We are grateful to Berea College, Emory University, and the
University of New Hampshire for sharing their ideas and resources.
 
 

Workshop Outline

  • Introduction of Presenters and Auburn Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual Caucus
  • The Allies Project: What it is and Why we need it
  • Being an Ally: Considerations, Tools, and Responsibilities
  • Developing Awareness: Being Straight on a Gay Planet
  • Developing Knowledge: Vocabulary and Myths
  • Developing Skills: Assertiveness and Communication
  • More Than Good Intentions: Taking Action
  • Questions

  • You Can Be an Ally if...


    What to Expect if You Become an Ally


    Vocabulary and Inclusive Language


    Words to Avoid
    Try These Instead!
    Husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend  Partner, spouse, significant other 
    Homosexual Gay man or lesbian
    Sexual preference Sexualorientation
    "Lifestyle" or "AlternativeLifestyle" Sexual orientation

    Sexual Orientation: the sexual/affectional attraction that a person feels either to members of the same sex (gay, lesbian); the opposite sex (heterosexual); both sexes (bisexual); or neither Sex.

    Homophobia: the fear and hatred of gay, lesbian, or bisexual people. Includes discrimination, harassment, and acts of violence brought on by that fear and hatred.

    Heterosexism: the system of advantages bestowed on heterosexuals. An institutional response to homophobia which assumes that all people are or should be heterosexual and therefore excludes the needs, concerns, and life experiences of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people.

    Transgender: Generally used as an umbrella term for people who are not comfortable being confined to the roles of male and female as they are defined by our society. For example, a transgendered person may be sexually a male, but identify more closely with the societal role of a woman...or vice versa. Being transgendered does not necessarily mean that the person is not happy with their sex; it means they are not happy with how society tells them to express their sex.

    Transsexual: A person who chooses to change their sex assignment. There are several types of transsexuals: Preoperative (planning to have sex reassignment surgery), Postoperative (having gone through sex reassignment surgery), and Nonoperative (choosing not to have sex reassignment surgery).

    Transvestite: A person who crossdresses for pleasure and who may be heterosexual, gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

    Suggested Reading

    Brenner, Claudia. Eight bullets: one womanís story of surviving anti-gay violence. Firebrand Books, 1995. "A profoundly personal, emotionally riveting, politically energizing account" of the murder of the authorís partner and its aftermath.

    Fairchild, Betty. Now that you know. Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1977. Personal account of one of the founders of the national organization of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (P-FLAG). Includes practical advice and first-person stories from parents and gay young people.

    Grahn, Judy. Another mother tongue: Gay words, gay worlds. Beacon Press, 1984. "Blending poetry, legend, autobiography, and etymology, Another Mother Tongue is a fascinating account of gay life throughout history."

    Helmeniak, Daniel. What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality. An analysis of the passages most commonly used to condemn gay, lesbian, and bisexual people.

    Heron, Ann. One teenager in ten. Alyson Publications, 1983. Twenty-six young people from around the country discuss their coming out experiences.

    Marcus, Eric. Is it a choice? Answers to 300 of the most frequently asked questions about gays and lesbians. Harper San Francisco, 1993. "Honest, compassionate, and comprehensive"

    Marcus, Eric. Making History: the struggle for gay and lesbian equal rights, 1945- 1990, an oral history. Harper Perennial, 1992. "The first account of this period to be told in the words of the courageous men and women who participated in it."

    McNaught, Brian. On Being Gay. St. Martinís Press, 1988. Deals with whether or not to "come out," maintaining family ties, building lasting relationships, developing a relationship with God, dealing with AIDS, and accepting oneself.

    Shilts, Randy. The Mayor of Castro Street: the life and times of Harvey Milk. St. Martinís Press, 1982. "The definitive story of the man whose personal life, public career, and tragic assassination mirrored the dramatic and unprecedented emergence of the gay community in America during the Ď70s."


    The Myths and The Realities

    Myth: Gays are trying to get "special rights."
    Reality: There is nothing "special" about the rights that LGBT people seek. Currently they have no federal protection from discrimination in employment, public accommodations, or housing. Only ten states extend such protection. LGBT people can be fired, denied housing, and denied public accommodations solely because of their sexual orientation. Gay and lesbian couples are prohibited from having their relationships legally recognized. They can be denied hospital visitation privileges, sick and bereavement leave, and the ability to make medical decisions for each other.

    Myth: Gay men, lesbians, and bisexual people donít have stable relationships.
    Reality: In fact, studies have shown that the majority of people who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual are in committed, coupled relationships. A survey in San Francisco showed that 58% of gay men and 81% of lesbians were in long-term, coupled relationships. Another survey of 156 male couples showed that the average length of relationship was 8.9 years.

    Myth: Gay men are child molesters.
    Reality: Studies show that 90-95% of child molesters are heterosexual men, usually relatives of the child involved. In fact, 45% of child sexual abuse is committed by the father. 97% of sex offenders against children are male and 90% of the victims are female. Even in cases of same-sex molestation, offenders typically report that they are not interested inóand are even repulsed byóhomosexual activity. Pedophiles tend to be motivated by power, control, and hostility rather than by sexual desire.

    Myth: Children raised by lesbian, gay, or bisexual people will grow up to be lesbian, gay, or bisexual Ö or will be confused about their sexual identity or gender Ö or will be unhappy.
    Reality: Studies show that children raised by LGB parents are no more likely to turn out lesbian, gay, or bisexual themselves than are children raised by heterosexual parents. In addition, numerous studies have shown that children of LGB parents are just as well adjusted as children of heterosexual parents.

    Myth: Gays "recruit" young people.
    Reality: The California Commission on Personal Privacy (Report #364) concluded that, "it is as likely that the left handed minority will convert members of the right handed majority as it is that homosexuals can convert heterosexuals." J. Weinstein, M.D. (past president of the American Psychiatric Association) states, "Fears of Ďcatchingí homosexuality or of being Ďrecruitedí at school or elsewhere are unreasonable and Ö utterly without scientific foundation." Many LGB people realize their sexual orientation before they ever have a sexual experience with another person of the same sex. When they do have sexual experiences, they are more likely to have them with someone relatively close to their age and life circumstances.

    Myth: Gay and lesbian people are sick.
    Reality: As of 1973, the American Psychiatric Association determined that homosexuality is neither a mental illness nor a form of sexual deviance. Both the American Psychiatric and the American Psychological Associations support equal rights for lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals. A 1975 policy statement by the American Psychological Association states, "Homosexuality per se implies no impairment in judgment, stability, reliability, or general social and vocational capabilities...the APA supports and urges the enactment of civil rights legislation at the local, state, and federal levels that would offer homosexuals the same protections now guaranteed to others on the basis of race, creed, color, etc."

    Myth: There arenít very many gay or lesbian people.
    Reality: The Kinsey Studies (1947, 1953) found that 10% of men and 7% of women were exclusively gay or lesbian throughout their lives. Homosexual behavior is found in every known culture, as well as in the animal kingdom. It is difficult to accurately measure the number of gay and lesbian people because of the societal stigma attached to their sexual orientation.

    Myth: Being gay is a choice.
    Reality: Research suggests that sexual orientation is biological. Why would someone choose to experience prejudice, discrimination, harassment, violence, and rejection?

    Myth: The Bible says itís wrong.
    Reality: Several passages are commonly cited as condemnations of homosexual behavior. Many clergy members and religious scholars have rejected these interpretations, realizing that issues of cultural context and translation must be taken into consideration. Many churches openly accept gay and lesbian people in their congregations and perform commitment ceremonies.

    Myth: Lesbians really want to be men and gay men really want to be women.
    Reality: This confuses the issue of sexual orientation with that of gender identity. Being gay or lesbian is about your sexual orientation -- who you are attracted to, not who or what you want to be.

    Myth: Lesbians are man haters.
    Reality: Lesbians love women, they donít hate men. They may be frustrated or angry at heterosexual male privilege and power, but not necessarily at men themselves.

    Myth: You can spot a gay man or lesbian by how they dress.
    Reality: Guess again!

    Myth: Gay people just want to flaunt their sexuality. Look at those parades!
    Reality: In fact, most LGBT people donít really want to discuss their sex livesó they just want to be honest about their relationships, their families, their struggles. Heterosexual people display their sexuality whenever they wear a wedding ring, mention a spouse of the opposite sex, or put family photos on their desk. LGBT people should be able to do the same things, without fear of criticism or harassment. The right wing has repeatedly sensationalized Gay Pride parades, focusing only on the most outrageous participants. The majority of people marching in those parades look just like everybody else.

    More Than Good Intentions: Taking Action!

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