What is an Ally?
One definition of an "Ally" is someone who helps and supports someone else. The UTS Ally Program sets out to develop a visible network of empathetic people who are allies of students and staff identifying as lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual, queer or intersex – i.e. those belonging to a sexual or gender minority.
The official University of Technology Sydney Ally has undertaken a short training program during which they have learned about issues affecting the LGBTIQA+ community. Allies will continue to develop their own knowledge about these matters through maintaining a connection with the Ally network, and attending any further seminars and professional development opportunities.
Allies are not experts about matters of sexuality and gender identity. They are people who support the University's vision of "equity and access and inclusiveness", and "relevance and responsibility to our communities". The University of Technology Sydney is a place where all people can study and work safely, free from discrimination, harassment or vilification.
A UTS Ally understands the reasons why many people from sexual or gender minorities are not always in a position to speak out on their own behalf or may be fearful of being harassed or discriminated against. This program is a practical example of University policy in practice.
A UTS Ally:
- Creates awareness of issues relating to sexuality, gender, and body diversity
- Supports the rights of all students and staff regardless of sexual identity, gender identity, gender expression, or body diversity
- Supports and celebrates an inclusive, diverse and safe university community, based on respect and dignity
What do Allies do?
Allies have a special Ally sticker or poster on their office door or on display in their workspace when they are present. Allies have a folder of resources that they can use to assist people who enquire. They are also a safe person from whom to seek help if you need assistance or believe you may be in danger. Allies undertake this voluntary role knowing that their contribution helps make UTS a better place to work and study for everyone.
Expectations of Allies
A UTS Ally:
- is a role model for the whole university community through behaviour and language.
- raises the visibility of sexual and gender minorities by displaying posters in public areas and identifying themselves as an Ally.
- may be found on the Equity & Diversity Website as a contact point for assistance.
- provides a confidential and safe environment for people to make enquiries about issues related to matters of sexual and gender identity
- provides information and appropriate referral.
- proactively addresses sexual prejudice (homophobic, transphobic and heterosexist behaviour) in the workplace.
- attends Ally seminars and workshops where possible.
There are four basic levels of becoming an Ally:
- Awareness: Explore how you are different from and similar to lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer people (hereafter LGBTIQA+).
- Knowledge and education: Begin to understand policies, laws and practices and how they affect LGBTIQA+ people. Educate yourself on the many communities and cultures of non-heterosexual or non-binary gendered people.
- Skills: This is an area that is difficult for many people. You must learn to take your knowledge and awareness and communicate it to others. You can acquire these skills by attending workshops, discussion with friends or peers and developing support connections.
- Action: This is the most important and "for some" daunting step. Despite your trepidation, however, realise that action is the only way to affect change in society as a whole.
Other points to keep in mind:
- Have a good understanding of sexual orientation and the beyond binary possibilities in both gender and biological sex and be comfortable with your own identity.
- Be aware of how "coming out" works and realise that it is not a one-time event. While we all need to "come out" to others about some aspects of ourselves and our lives, realise that having to correct misconceptions about such personal issues as sexuality and gender identity because of prevalent, heterosexist assumptions can be burdensome and tiring.
- Understand that LGBTIQA+ people receive the same social messages as everyone else and can suffer from internalised oppression. It is important to recognise the risks of coming out and to support people to challenge sexual prejudice.
- Remember that LGBTIQA+ people are a diverse group of communities and individuals with variable needs and goals, though they share some common challenges.
- Know the basic information about HIV/AIDS in order to address myths and misinformation.
- Be aware of current issues affecting LGBTIQA+ people.
Breaking the Binary
The Equity and Diversity unit, within the Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion, also offer ‘Breaking the Binary: gender, sexuality and body diversity’ awareness session to staff in all units and faculties across UTS.
‘Breaking the Binary: gender, sexuality and body diversity’ is a 3-hour awareness session facilitated by The Equity & Diversity Unit. The session aims to unpack physical sex, gender identity, gender expression and sexuality and explore the gender binary and gender diversity. The session will also cover challenges and issues faced by the LGBTIQA+ community and strategies to challenge homophobia, transphobia and heteronormativity.
‘Breaking the Binary’ is the first required module in becoming a UTS Ally, with an additional UTS Ally training session. Please see the Training and development page for more information.
An Ally is a trained volunteer who provides safe contact for students and staff identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer, and those questioning their sexual or gender identity.
Check the Ally list to find out who is an Ally.
If you would like any further information about the program, or are interested in becoming an Ally, please email the Equity & Diversity Unit.
UTS would like to acknowledge, with thanks, use of materials provided by the University of Western Australia and the University of Queensland for this program.