Resources for Faculty & Staff Allies
Supporting our Students and Coworkers
This section is for faculty, staff, and administrators at the University of Redlands. You can expect that in your role you will meet someone from the LGBTQIA2S+ community. This may be a student of yours, a co-worker, or a guest speaker. Below are some pieces of advice on how you can navigate your allyship in creating a safe, supportive, and affirming environment when someone comes out to you.
Safe-Space Allies Training
The Pride Center offers Safe-Space Allies Training that covers gender identity, pronouns, sexual orientation, and more. This training is a great way to stay current with LGBTQIA2S+ affirming language, reflect on your own allyship, and offer practical advice on ways you can enhance our allyship. Additionally, the Safe-Space Allies training is a great place to be able to safely ask questions, get clarification, and build community with folks on campus who are also hoping to take their allyship to the next level. To inquire about the Safe-Space Allies training, please reach out to Peter Tupou at firstname.lastname@example.org and Monique Stennis at email@example.com.
How to Respond When Someone Comes Out To You
There are different affirming ways to respond when someone comes out to you. Knowing how to respond in different situations will create a safer and more supportive environment for everyone. Refer to the sub-sections below for suggestions on how to respond, depending on the situation.
Responses when someone is first coming out:
These responses are helpful if the person coming out to you is ‘newly’ out and/or exploring their gender identity and/or sexual orientation. Additionally, if the person coming out is sharing this information in confidence with you, these would be helpful responses to use.
- Thank the person for sharing this with you. The person sharing this information with you has given it a lot of thought and is inviting you into a vulnerable space. Lead with compassion and kindness. Some affirming responses include:
- Thank you for trusting me to share this with.
- Thank you for your vulnerability in sharing this with me. I am excited for you and where you are going! Please let me know if there is anything in particular that I can do that would be of support as you navigate this on our campus.
- Thank you so much for letting me know. I am honored that you invited me into this space. I will do what I can to show up in ways that are affirming for you.
- Let the person coming out lead the conversation. The most supportive response is one that includes saying thank you and affirming that you will do your best to honor them through your actions.
- Let them know if they need resources for anything coming out related, they can explore this website or the Pride Center Resource List Website if they haven’t already, as there is helpful information and resources on both pages.
Responses when someone is already ‘out’; but coming out to you:
If someone is already ‘out’, for example, their pronouns are listed publicly on their e-mail or they are married to their partner, here are some tips on how to respond.
- Do not make a big deal about it. The information being shared is an important piece of this person and their life, however, it is not the only part of who they are. Do your best to not fixate on them being LGBTQIA2S+, but to follow their lead with how they share this information with you.
- Practice using the correct pronouns, name, and terminology (i.e. partner, spouse, husband, wife) on your own, so then when you are with the LGBTQIA2S+ person everyday conversation can flow a little easier.
Overall Dos and Don’ts:
- Do not use this as an opportunity to ask invasive questions. Invasive questions for folks include (but are not limited to):
- Do not ask them about their name/assigned sex at birth before coming out as trans/nonbinary/gender diverse. Focusing on someone’s deadname* and assigned sex is not only really uncomfortable but also not necessary. Instead, relying on a student’s last name and/or knowing the first initial might be all you need to know. Asking a student or coworker about their previous name/sex assigned at birth makes the space emotionally unsafe for the person coming out.
- Unless they volunteer it, do not ask how someone identifies their gender or sexual orientation.
- Do not ask about medical transition (surgery etc.) i.e., do not ask if they are planning on having surgery.
- Do not use this as an opportunity for the person coming out to you, to educate you. It might feel like you are trying to do the right thing, but this can be tokenizing for the person who just came out. Coming out is vulnerable, so this is a time to offer support by being affirming. If you have questions about how to be a better ally in general, consider doing the Safe-Space Allies Training, and reading more through this page as there are a lot of helpful pointers.
- Ask for consent first before asking clarifying questions. For example
- If they consent, you could ask questions like, “moving forward would you like me to correct people if I hear anyone using the wrong name and pronouns for you?” or “How would you like me to handle this in class?”
- Do not tell the person that came out to you about the other LGBTQIA2S+ people that you know, and do not ask them if they know the LGBTQIA2S+ people that you know.
- Immediately start using the correct name and pronouns. You can expect that you will slip up. When you do, do not make a big deal about it. Just quickly correct your mistake and move on. Focusing on the moment of misgendering**/deadnaming* is extremely uncomfortable for the person who came out to you. Try to avoid over-apologizing or sharing how hard this is for you, as this puts the person who came out to you in a position where they now need to emotionally support you. Changing the name and pronouns you use for someone, takes practice! So, practice often, even in your head, to try to avoid these uncomfortable situations. But know if you do misgender/deadname someone you have the resources to quickly recover.
*Deadname is the name that someone used before coming out or transitioning
**Misgendering is the act of referring to someone by a gender other than the one they identify with. For example, this can happen by using the wrong pronouns for someone.
Ways to Show You Are An Ally on Campus
There are a handful of small ways that you can demonstrate that you are an ally. Consider making the small adjustments listed below as they will indicate to students that you are interested in creating a safe environment.
- Do not assume someone’s pronouns. If you are unsure about what pronouns someone uses, default to they/them/theirs pronouns until you have an opportunity to ask this person 1-1. One way to ask for someone’s pronouns is to offer yours. You should share with them that you use (insert pronouns here) and ask, what pronouns do you use?
- Another option to make sure you are using the correct pronouns is to read people’s email signatures and look on online university platforms like Self-Service and Canvas. This is an easy way to double-check without putting the person on the spot.
- List the pronouns that you use in your email signature and on relevant online platforms. Head to the “Tech Support” section for instructions on how to do this.
- List your pronouns in your syllabi. Students do not want to misgender you. So, by having yours listed, they are also respecting you. Additionally, by listing your pronouns, you are creating a more inviting environment for students to share their pronouns.
- Share your pronouns in class and invite other students to do the same. For more information, advice, common scenarios, and how to respond to them, check out this Pronoun Worksheet from the Venture Out Project.