Be A Better Ally: Doing Your Part for Marginalized Communities



June is Pride Month, a time to recognize and celebrate the progress made by the LGBTQ+ community throughout the history of the United States and the world. Pride is a time to reflect on past struggles and look to the future with hope.

Pride is for everyone. It’s a time to celebrate and uplift our friends and loved ones in the LGBTQ+ community.  However, it’s also an opportunity for those who don’t identify as a member of this community to consider what they can do to support the LGBTQ+ people in their lives, including co-workers. These people are called allies. Allies fight for the equality of historically marginalized groups with which they don’t identify.

Below are some tips to consider when learning to be an ally.

1. Understand your privilege. Privilege does not mean someone is rich, lives an easy life or doesn’t struggle with challenges or perform hard work. Instead, it means there are some things in life that certain people will not experience due to their gender, sexual orientation, or other social categories to which they were born.

An example is states where employees can legally be fired for their sexual orientation or gender. Employees identifying as gay and transgender often must think about laws and regulations that would impact them and their employment status, whereas cisgender or ‘straight’ employees do not.

Before fighting for the rights of others, allies must understand they have rights others don’t. This is privilege.

2. Show up and listen. An ally listens, learns and shows support in ways that matter. If someone from a historically marginalized group invites you to an event, gathering or celebration: go! Greenbrier is proud to have several Employee Resource Groups to facilitate conversations about topics that concern one or more diverse groups of your colleagues in the company. Attend a meeting to listen to shared experiences or learn more about Greenbrier’s diverse workforce.

3. Education is key. Allies should become familiar with the people they want to support and be aware of the challenges they face every day. Plenty of resources are available online and in books to learn about past and current issues facing historically marginalized communities. Listening is a pathway to empathy. As an ally, it is important to take the initiative to become educated and do research. Do not expect others to do all the work of educating you about their community.

4. Speak up, not over. It is the responsibility of an ally to support, using their privilege and voice to educate others. However, it’s important not to speak over community members you’re trying to support or take credit for things they are already saying.

5. Check-in. If an ally sees someone targeted for their status or identity, intervene only with their permission. Focus on supporting them rather than engaging an aggressor. Allyship can look different depending on the individual. This makes checking in a very important step. It’s also important not to let the fear of saying the wrong thing keep you from trying. Inaction and silence can be harmful.

6. Welcome discomfort and learn from mistakes. Change can sometimes be uncomfortable and difficult. Through thoughtful actions, allies can help address and reform social structures that harm historically marginalized communities like our friends in the LGBTQ+ community. Allies should also recognize the reality that they will make mistakes. Allyship is an ongoing process of learning and listening. There will be mistakes along the way. Welcome failure and learn from it.

Allies have a role to play in the fight for equality. As we celebrate Pride this month, let’s remember to stand up against hate and support those facing challenges due to structural systems that devalue them as people.

This post was written and presented by a member of True Colors: LGBTQ+ and Allies, a Greenbrier ERG.