What is an Ally?
I think it’s important to acknowledge that there are varied definitions of what it means for someone to be an ally to an individual who is a part of an oppressed or marginalized group.
To establish common language, I will broadly define being an ally as an individual who takes some action to oppose oppression of a group of which he, she, or they is not a member.
What the Statistics Say
Key research taken from the Colorado Health Access Survey, a biennial survey that gives premier data on healthcare related concerns and social factors influencing health for Coloradoans, expresses a wide range of data that provides substantial concerns for LGBTQIA+ individuals in the state of Colorado.
According to the survey, 42.0% of LGBTQ+ Colorado adults reported having good mental health compared to 74.8% of heterosexual, cisgender Coloradans.
That disparity is greater amongst transgender, nonbinary, and gender diverse Coloradoans, only 22.9% of whom reported good mental health. 1
Although the awareness of the issues affecting the LGBTIQA+ community are magnified with a stronger lens within the mental health community in today’s climate, there are specific ways to promote allyship beyond advocating for policy initiatives that benefit the needs of Queer Coloradoans.
Choosing a Therapist Who Meets Your Needs
Every therapist has their own relationship with and a unique understanding of different topics.
We often talk about the goodness of fit in the world of therapy between client and therapist (that you, the client, need to feel good about the potential for a strong, therapeutic relationship with your chosen therapist), and I hope to illustrate some important considerations for picking a therapist who is right for you.
There are many acronyms to illustrate an individual’s qualifications to work with you as a therapist (LPC, LCSW, LMFT, to name a few you may encounter), but what is it about a therapist’s background that qualifies them to be a good fit for you?
I list on Psychology Today that I am queer allied, but when you see that, consider what it is about me that makes me queer allied or why I would list that. You may want to ask me….
Fact: Did you know that anyone over the age of 12 in the state of Colorado can consent to outpatient therapy without the consent of a parent or guardian?
Questions to ask a potential therapist:
- How do you advocate for ____ community outside of our time together?
- Are you aware of organizations that may be a helpful support to me in addition to our talk therapy? (e.g., queer friendly organizations and spaces, supportive interfaith spaces, and referrals to queer friendly providers, to name a few)
- As a therapist, what is your role in supporting or working with _________ ?
What Can I Do to Promote Allyship?
First off, let’s break the common myth that it is an individual of a marginalized group responsibility to educate someone of a different privileged group. While it can be incredibly educational to hear from the source of an oppressed group, it is not that person’s inherent responsibility to educate. This is where the importance of resources come into play so we can take the initiative to educate ourselves.
Allyship can be viewed as a combination of learning about our own privileges, identities, and biases in combination with increasing awareness around a cause or experience of a marginalized group. I view a key component of allyship as creating a wave of individuals who wish to fight for equality.
Here are a few ways you can learn more and get started….
- Straight for Equality- A Program of PFLAG National (Homepage – Straight for Equality)
- Cisgender Privilege Checklist (The-Cisgender-Privilege-Checklist1.pdf (wou.edu))
- Christian Allies can support religious pluralism (http://www.uri.org/)
- Understand the statistical realities of LGBTIA+ experiences with different MH topics
- Understanding my own prejudices:
- https://secure.understandingprejudice.org/demos/ (Exercises and