Boston Pride Ally Guide

Allies are CRUCIAL in movements for social change. We are thankful to the estimated one million people, including our straight allies, who joined us at the Boston Pride parade and festival. We know we have more allies today than ever before. This is a guide for all people who want to address forms of social injustices that they do not experience.

1. What is an Ally?

  • Allies are members of a privileged group that are committed to working with members of an oppressed group in the struggle for social justice.
  • An ally is someone who speaks out and stands up for a group or individual who is targeted or discriminated against. (GLSEN)
  • Some people in oppressed groups are also members of privileged groups, so almost everyone can be an ally to another oppressed group.

2. What does an Ally do?

  • Allies take concrete action to end social injustices that they do not experience. The goal is to disrupt systems of privilege to create an environment that is inclusive for all.

3. Definitions of Oppression, Privilege, and Intersectionality

Oppression – the systematic mistreatment and/or exclusion of a group of people

  • To be oppressed means that one is repeatedly met with obstacles when trying to access the goods and services provided by institutions (such as educational, medical, or financial systems).
  • Forms of oppression: sexism, racism, classism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, ageism, colorism

Privilege – advantages enjoyed by a group; easy access to the goods and services provided by institutions

  • In this context, privilege doesn’t mean you necessarily have an easy life free from challenges, but that you are not burdened by that particular system  of oppression.
  • Institutions are organized to make it easier for certain groups of people (white people, men, heterosexuals, cisgender people, able-bodied people,  etc.) to enter and participate, including entry to positions with benefits and power.

Intersectionality – the experience of contending with two or more forms of oppression (ex. being queer and black)

  • For those who experience multiple oppressions, the institutional obstacles are multiplied. Interacting with institutions becomes exhausting.

4. Understand systems of privilege and oppression

  • Allies take the time to learn how all systems of oppression operate both on the personal level and also on the larger institutional level.
  • Allies take the time to learn how intersecting forms of oppression create multiple disadvantages for those who experience them.

5. Acknowledge privilege

  • Allies should understand that they have privilege and power.
  • They should be aware of how this privilege structures their access to institutions and relationships with members of the oppressed group.

6. Practice humility

  • Because oppression is often invisible to people with privilege, allies learn to approach their work with humility—a willingness to listen and learn.
  • Sometimes the motivation of straight allies may be viewed with suspicion.  Trust takes time to develop.
  • Allies should not expect a pat on the back.  Members of oppressed groups must struggle with oppression every day.  Allies have the ability to decide whether to struggle against oppression. 

7. Listen to the voices of oppressed people and follow their lead 

  • Allies should respect the necessity for oppressed people to define themselves, their issues, and their strategies for change.
  • Allies must trust that oppressed peoples know what is best for themselves.

8. Educate yourself 

  • As an ally, take the initiative to educate yourself about the culture, history, terminology, and politics of marginalized peoples. 
  • Allies are never done learning.

9. Ask Questions

  • Allies try to ask questions in order to better understand someone’s experience of racism, sexism, homophobia, or transphobia.
  • Do not deny, doubt, or explain away an experience of oppression.
  • Listen and ask questions.

10. Expect to make mistakes; apologize 

  • Inevitably, allies will unintentionally misspeak or misstep. Despite our best intentions, our words and actions may still cause harm. 
  • Apologize. Don’t be defensive.  

11. Educate our own

  • As allies, it’s our job to educate our family, friends, and coworkers about our privilege and the oppression that others experience. 
  • Speak up about injustice  even when those affected aren’t in the room.

12. Take Action! 

  1. Fight for policy change; Make sure the institutions you are a part of has inclusive and affirming policies for marginalized folks. These can be large institutions—like the government, hospitals, schools, companies, etc.—or local institutions—like bars, shops, places of worship, restaurants, etc.
  2. Stay on the lookout; Keep your eyes open. Look for instances of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. everywhere you go. Be critical of the media you consume and the people you talk with. Don’t act surprised when it happens.
  3. Talk to children and young people; Teach children to reject stereotypes about marginalized groups. Critical thinking is an important tool for dismantling systems of oppression and privilege.
  4. Put your money where your mouth is; If you are financially able, put money directly into the hands of oppressed people. Don’t just donate to large organizations, put money directly into the pockets of those who need it most using money-sharing apps like Venmo or crowdfunding platforms like Gofundme.
  5. Hire people; Get them in positions of authority where they feel comfortable sharing their experiences.
  6. Use your power to advocate for change; Allies with institutional power are well-positioned to listen to the needs and desires of the oppressed group and advocate accordingly for institutional change.
  7. We are not a joke; When people make jokes about marginalized people, or say offensive things like “that’s gay,” don’t laugh. Tell them that you don’t think it’s funny!
  8. Show your support; Put up signs and stickers indicating that your shop, office, or home is a safe space for oppressed peoples. Make them big, bold, and obvious!
  9. Representation matters; Buy media made for and by oppressed peoples! Read our books, watch our TV shows, go to our movies. Media is a great way to learn to build empathy and understanding for oppressed peoples.