The Broadcast / Pride: An Intro to LGBTQIA+ Allyship

Pride: An Intro to LGBTQIA+ Allyship

For most of us, learning to be an effective ally to the queer community is about wanting to show our support. But the fear of making mistakes and not knowing where to start can make this a daunting task.

Fiona Miller is a creative working with Beckie Waters, founder of the queer-owned studio Distil This, who have been working with us to support Pride activity throughout June 2023. As proud members of Queer Surf Club, they share an intro to allyship as a starting point for anyone keen to learn more.


6 min read

Written by Fiona Miller & Christina Watts

Images by Claire James & Bella Bunce

First and foremost, if you’ve clicked this far, thank you, and welcome. If you’re already an extended member of the queer community and feel at home, you will know that this is the place if you want to feel safe and free to be in your own skin. If this is your first time entering a queer space, thank you again for taking your first steps into what can often be an intimidating new arena. The first thing to know is that everybody makes mistakes, but good intentions, kindness, empathy and a willingness to learn are the only qualities you need to become a good ally. That’s the crux of it.

Even as a member of the community, I’ve made mistakes by using the wrong terminology in the past. It can happen when we're upset and trying to do the right thing. The difference between bystanders and allies is that allies learn from these mistakes and educate themselves to better support the LGBTQIA+ community.

The following nuggets of advice are just a starting point for you to feel less like you’ve put your foot in it, when you only wanted to make someone feel welcome. This will hopefully help you on your journey to being an ally and create beautiful new connections with like-minded souls, as well as helping you compare how you already show up and where you don’t, but can.

Pride: How To Be A Queer Surf Ally
Pride: How To Be A Queer Surf Ally

How can you help?
Listen, Learn and Be Open.

  • A good starting point is to actually talk to a queer person and discuss the topics affecting them. However, it’s important to realise that this can often be a difficult conversation for them to have as they may have had negative experiences in the past, so doing your own reading to educate yourself on how to be a better ally is equally important.

    This is by far the best resource I’ve found on how to be a good ally, but by no means exhaustive. It covers all aspects of allyship from the human rights council in the U.S.

  • Be a good signpost. If you or anyone you know needs a little help or support, here’s a bunch for:

    • LGBTQI+ community (Stonewall) and mental health services (Mind Out).

    • For the trans and non-binary communities, Trans Unite offers links to a wide breadth of groups, and national and local organisations.

    • For families and parents of trans people in the UK, Mermaids is a great starting point.

  • Parents - what books, cartoons and tv could you introduce your kids and teens to that feature queer stories and characters? There are heaps listed here. If you have teens, there are so many great queer films and queer film events to share some experiences with. Check out BFI Flare, or find out if there’s a queer film club near you.

Language has power. Use it for good.

  • Take a moment to examine your own biases, views and the language you use. We all have gaps in our experience; it’s part of being human! However, it’s also part of the experience of being human to learn where those are and do the work. Speaking from experience, I’m aware of my white privilege as a cis white female in the UK and there’s still so much I’m learning daily.

  • If you’re unsure about terminology, just ask. If you genuinely need to know if someone has a partner, ask them, but don’t assume a gender or a connection. Use the word ‘partner’. The same applies to pronouns; be kind and honest, and ask politely, “Sorry, I want to get this right. Could you tell me your pronouns?”

  • Try to use this inclusive language in your everyday life. Creating a space for people to be themselves means not making assumptions about their lives. This allows people to come forward if it’s comfortable for them to do so rather than being ‘forced’ to come out. Even in 2023, being out is not always safe for reasons you may not understand without knowing someone’s personal experiences.

Pride: How To Be A Queer Surf Ally
Pride: How To Be A Queer Surf Ally

Stand up. Speak out.
Show your support.

  • If you encounter hate speech against anyone, whether online or in public, don’t let it pass unchallenged. There’s always a way to intervene, but please don’t put yourself in harm’s way. Make your presence known if it is safe, and if it’s not, call for assistance and return to the scene afterwards. Simply standing close by, making eye contact and speaking to them to see if they are ok will make them feel safer.

    This is called being an active bystander. As someone recently homophobically abused in public, all I wanted was for someone to step up by standing closer and asking if I was okay. When this didn’t happen, I was devastated.

  • If you’re in a space where a pronouns joke, or a joke that in any way reduces a queer person is shared, be the person who doesn’t join in. Call it out. Open up the conversation if you’re with close friends or family, or feeling brave. Question and share how that might make you or someone you love feel if they were in the same position.

  • Show your support for LGBTQIA+ charities, events or organisations. Word to the wise, if these are open events for the extended queer family and allies, these are often the most fun evenings in your local town or City. Jump on board, and have fun!

    Be careful to check there aren’t special notes on attendance and accessibility, as some queer spaces are specifically designed for queer people. Almost all public spaces are heteronormative and, sadly, even in 2023, queer people need safe, dedicated spaces to thrive and be their authentic selves.

What about in the water, how can we make blue spaces queer-friendly?

  • If you spend a lot of time in blue spaces, call it out when you hear slang on the waves or near the water. If you feel comfortable, ask some questions, and start the conversation about how these kinds of expressions exclude people and make the water feel unwelcoming and, therefore, unsafe for queer surfers.

  • If you own a surf business, how can you make fitting a wetsuit or buying surf equipment less intimidating? Could you make the changing rooms feel inclusive, safe and welcoming to all genders? What kind of brand images do you frequently post on social media or front lining in your stores, could you find better imagery that includes different body shapes and represents all genders of surfing without objectifying them?

  • Also, what is your social media presence like for your business? Studies have found that social media can be a source of anxiety for LGBTQI+ people as it’s rife with homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. Do you follow any accounts that promote hate towards the community? Check what accounts you follow and advocate for the queer community in your social media posts.

  • Support initiatives like Queer Surf Club who are opening up the line up and making it more welcoming to the LGBTQIA+ community. Just like on land, showing your support to wonderful organisations like this is a great way to show up for queer people!

Pride: How To Be A Queer Surf Ally
Pride: How To Be A Queer Surf Ally

This might seem like a lot, we know. But it’s mostly about being open. If you can be open to feeling a little out to sea when it comes to using the right words or saying the right thing, then we assure you it means everything. That moment of discomfort might bring a whole new friendship into your life. Being an ally has just as many rewards for you as it does for the person you’re becoming an ally for.

More on Queer Surf Club here.



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