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facilitated by Ashley Heidebrecht, LMSW
Let's Talk Allyship
An ally is someone who advocates for, and alongside, marginalized groups. Being an ally does NOT mean you are "giving a voice to the voiceless". Everyone has a voice. An ally's role is to help clear away the rest of the noise so that voice can be heard.
Where are you on the Ally Continuum?
A note on Emotional Labor:
The term emotional labor was first used in 1983, when American sociologist Arlie Hochschild wrote about it in her book, The Managed Heart. At the time, Arlie described emotional labor as having to “induce or suppress feeling in order to sustain the outward demeanor or presentation that produces the proper state of mind in others”. In other words, it means keeping tight control over your emotions so that you do not cause discomfort to another. And in allyship, the LGBTQ+ community has historically carried that burden when trying to explain or have dialogue with those outside the LGBTQ+ community and in advocating for their rights. Allyship means that you aren't depending on the LGBTQ+ community to do the work, engage in the emotional labor for you. You must be willing to do that yourself.
An example of allyship:
Below is an example of allyship. This video clip is a news story covering a Trans Migrant Solidarity Rally in El Paso, Texas. The reason this video is a strong demonstration of allyship is that it includes people who are part of the LGBTQ+ community but are not Transgender, it includes heterosexual cisgender people who are there in support. There is both allyship from within the LGBTQ+ community and outside the LGBTQ+ community.
Allyship means that you are increasing your awareness of the issues facing the LGBTQ+ community. One of those issues is legislation. You can stay up to date on legislation that poses a threat to the community, and legislation which seeks to improve social conditions. Below is a link to Freedom for All Americans LGBTQ legislative tracker. Freedom for All Americans is a Bipartisan campaign to secure full nondiscrimination protections for the LGBTQ+ community. They provide a legislative tracker every year.
This is a powerful and very real talk with excellent takeaways for allyship.
Understand your intentions
Acknowledge disproportionate realities exist
Use judgement as a tool, not a weapon
Our shame causes us to react in defensiveness
Sharpen your listening skills
Examine your attitude
"We are of a collective pallet, and none of us will taste liberation until we all do."
GLAAD, Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation founded in 1985, has an excellent guide for language and strategies for conversations. The PDF is linked from their website via the button below. GLAAD is also listed in the resources at the end of this module.
This guide provides specific language that will help make conversations less charged with defensiveness and more productive. This tool can also be effective if you decide to engage with elected officials.
The following two videos discuss LGBTQ+ youth. These videos are helpful in not only highlighting why it is important for young people to be informed about LGBTQ+ identities, but also the importance of support. As you saw in module 2, there are a significant number of LGBTQ+ youth that experience abuse and increased stress and hardship. This abuse, stress, and hardship does not occur because the individual is LGBTQ+. Being LGBTQ+ doesn't by default bring struggle and unhappiness. It is the narratives and social structures around us the create those conditions through invalidation of identity, fear, and discrimination.
I've said it before during this training, young people identifying as LGBTQ+ is not a phase and it is not indoctrination. It is important to point this out, and this is important when engaging with others.
Parents/caregivers can support their kids, who may one day identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community , and can help their kids who identify as cisgender and/or heterosexual become allies.
This video features a self-identified Christian and Pastor. For those struggling with religion as a deterrent to acceptance of LGBTQ+ people, this video may be helpful.
All of the education and focus on LGBTQ rights, using pronouns, breaking down the gender binary, it all may feel threatening. As I outlined in module 1, we have decades, centuries of social narratives, norms, and bias, which tell us heterosexuality is normal, being cisgender is normal. All of this that is being discussed in this training and what you are being asked to do as an ally, will upset that established social order that we are so comfortable with. This is part of being an ally.
Pause to Reflect
Where do you think you are on the ally continuum? Do you think you already demonstrate allyship? What ways would you like to become a stronger ally?
Break Stereotypes and the Gender Binary
Just as white people must step up and fight racism, heterosexual and cisgender people must step up and fight discrimination, hate, and violence against the LGBTQ+ community. One seemingly small thing we can do that can have a big impact is stepping out of the comfort of norms to break stereotypes and break the gender binary.
We've talked a lot about stereotypes and the gender binary. These videos depict some of those stereotypes, how they are so often incorrect, and also demonstrate the impact of reinforcing the gender binary.
"What's more important? How you see me, or respecting how I see me?"
Doing your part to separate yourself from stereotypes not reinforcing them, addressing your bias, is crucial. It is a matter of shifting your perspective, and realizing that you may not understand someone's identity or sexual orientation, but that doesn't mean they don't deserve your respect and to have their dignity as a fellow living being. Ultimately, it's not for you to understand and agree with, but it is for you to respect and believe just as you expect others to believe you when you tell them who you are.
Using pronouns regularly in both a casual and professional setting can help do several things in breaking those harmful effects of the gender binary and stereotypes.
1. Using pronouns normalizes them for you and for heterosexual and cisgender people
2. Using pronouns takes the pressure off of a gender non-conforming or transgender person to out themselves
3. Using pronouns gets rid of assumption based on appearance, voice, dress, etc. (all of those stereotypes and binary norms we use to label someone's gender)
4. Using the pronouns a person identifies for themself is incredibly affirming and empowering, and truly takes little to no effort from you.
You can also work to change your use of gendered language. This is a little more challenging, but it does get easier over time. For example, instead of using "guys" to address groups of people, try using "ya'll", "folks", "everyone", or "you all". Instead of immediately calling a person "Sir" or "Ma'am", ask them how they would like to be addressed. The same can be done with Mr., Mrs, Miss, etc.
These things do take practice, because they feel so normal. But just remember, we learned them. And because we learned them, that means we have the capability to learn something else. This is part of allyship.
How to Engage
Engaging in this work means moving into allyship, and becoming an ally means that you will begin to encounter new situations, new people, and difficult conversations. You can do this work, but you are going to have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Resources for Continued Learning
LGBTQ+ History, Personal Experiences- OUTWORDS: https://www.theoutwordsarchive.org/
LGBTQ+ History, Stories, Personal Experiences- StoryCorps: https://storycorps.org/
LGBTQ+ Stories, Personal Experiences- Video Out: https://www.youtube.com/c/VideoOut/videos
LGBTQ+ Inclusion in Schools, Advocacy, Allyship, Education, Intersectionality- Q+EDU: https://qplusedu.org/about
LGBTQ+ History, Personal Experiences, Intersectionality- Making Gay History: https://makinggayhistory.org/
LGBTQ+ Rights- Human Rights Campaign: https://www.hrc.org/
The History of Conversion Therapy: https://www.history.com/news/gay-conversion-therapy-origins-19th-century
LGBTQ+ Rights, Events, Media- GLAAD: https://www.glaad.org/
Optional Journal Entry
This journal entry is a chance for you to record your personal thoughts about Module 3. This is also an opportunity for you to ask questions or seek clarification from the facilitator on any of the content from Module 3. Your entry will only be visible to you and the training facilitator.
You must complete the short quiz and the exit survey below to complete the training. One you complete the exit survey a certificate will be auto-generated and emailed to you. PLEASE NOTE- Your name will be printed on the certificate exactly as you type it into the survey form and the certificate will be sent to the email address you provide in the survey form. Please check your spam and junk folders for the certificate if you do not see it in your inbox within 48 hours.
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About the Facilitator:
Ashley Heidebrecht, LMSW
Ashley Heidebrecht has worked in the field of social services for over a decade. She earned her Undergraduate degree in 2008 from Wichita State University. From 2007 to 2015 she worked as a direct care provider, program coordinator, and community education facilitator at the Mental Health Association of South-Central Kansas (MHASCK). Utilizing creative arts and trauma informed interventions, Ashley provided individual and group community-based services to children, adults, and families diagnosed with a severe emotional disturbance, and created and facilitated multiple workshops and parenting classes.
In her role of program coordinator at MHASCK, Ashley supervised up to 80 staff with a client base of over 200 children and families, created and provided training for staff and department directors regarding creative therapeutic interventions and mindfulness, and served as the agency safety officer, re-writing safety policy and facilitating drills. Since leaving that agency in 2015, Ashley has provided case management and trauma support for families recovering from homelessness, and has become active in community organizing and advocacy, particularly surrounding migrant child detention, LGBTQ rights, racial equity, and reproductive rights, and has completed her Master of Social Work degree.
In 2018 when the policy of migrant family separation and child detention was instituted, Ashley worked in collaboration with many individuals and organizations to fight for an end to that policy and to shut down the migrant child prison in Tornillo, Texas. Ashley founded the Coalition to End Child Detention, continuing to fight migrant abuse and child detention.
Most recently, Ashley as an MSW intern and then an independent contractor at the Borderland Rainbow Center, served LGBTQ youth and adults in group and individual settings, engaged in casework with the Deaf community, and created and facilitated professional and community trainings. Ashley now serves as the Education and Content Manager for the Diversity and Resiliency Institute of El Paso, creating and facilitating training and continuing education rooted in social justice.
Ashley focuses heavily on advocacy and education, providing educational opportunities to improve community awareness and allyship, and engaging in regional and national initiatives to fight discrimination. Ashley is also working to mobilize social workers across the Nation to become more engaged in social justice initiatives.