This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Youth Ki Awaaz. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

5 Good Reasons Why the LGBTQIA+ Acronym Shouldn’t Include ‘Ally’

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

By  for Everyday Feminism:

What does the “A” in “LGBTQIA+” stand for?

Ally, right?

Well, no. Despite what a lot of folks say, it doesn’t stand for ally – nor should it.

There are a number of issues with the acronym, and these issues are worth debating. For example, there are discussions about whether “intersex” should be included in the acronym. There’s also debate about whether a collection of letters is an inadequate label for a community with a great deal of diverse orientations and identities.

But for the purpose of this article alone, I want to focus on the idea that ‘ally’ is, or should be, a part of the LGBTQIA+ acronym.

Here are a few reasons why ally doesn’t belong in the LGBTQIA+ acronym.

1. Allies Aren’t Oppressed In The Same Way

An ally, by definition, is someone from a privileged group who commits to supporting a group they have privilege over.

In my experience, plenty of (well-intended) cisgender, heterosexual allies – especially those who are new to social justice – think their allyship means they don’t have privilege and can’t be called out on it.

But nope. Allies can and should be called out. Being an ally doesn’t erase privilege, in the same way supporting animal rights doesn’t mean you’re not a human, in the same way mourning someone doesn’t make you dead.

When we talk about the oppression the LGBTQIA+ community faces, it doesn’t include allies, because allies aren’t oppressed in the same way.

In that sense, adding ally to the acronym can dangerously imply that allies don’t have privilege while erasing the oppression the community faces.

2. Allyship Is An Action, Not An Identity

Being an ally is about what you do, not who you are. It’s an action and not an identity.

To support an oppressed group, allies need to actively demonstrate solidarity by calling their peers out or in, by listening to the oppressed group, and by holding space for us in times of tragedy, to name a few ways of showing support.

Being a part of the queer or trans community, on the other hand, is a matter of identity and not action. Each individual should get to label their orientation and identity as they want, if they want to do so.

But allyship is different. Someone doesn’t get to decide whether they’re an ally or not. Rather, people of the oppressed group get to decide whether they consider someone an ally, based on their actions.

The acronym represents identities, which ally is not. For this reason, lumping ‘ally’ in with the rest of the acronym isn’t only illogical – it also perpetuates the harmful idea that allyship is an identity and not an action.

3. Who Are They Allies To?

If I’m honest, a big reason why I get nervous about adding ally into the acronym is because I’m not sure with whom those allies are allying themselves.

If someone says they’re an LGBTQIA+ ally, what does it mean? Who are they really supporting?

The LGBTQIA+ community is a large group – which is one of the criticisms against the use of the acronym. Of course, everyone should show solidarity with people of all queer and trans identities. But I often find that people who say they’re “LGBTQIA+ allies” are actually just supportive of cisgender lesbian and gay folks.

I’ve often had my bisexuality scrutinized and erased by cis het folks who claim to be “LGBTQIA+ allies” simply because they have a handful of gay friends. Similarly, I’ve seen people who support lesbian, gay and bisexual people say transphobic things and erase asexual and aromantic people.

Putting ally into the LGBTQIA+ acronym is a big step to take when so few allies truly support us all. So when I hear people call for the inclusion of allies in the acronym, I have to ask: Who are they allies to?

Allyship in the context of such a diverse group is complicated. In many ways, we need to be allies to each other.

Monosexual lesbian and gay people need to be allies to polysexual people – that is, bisexual people, pansexual people, and others who are attracted to people of more than one gender.

Cis queers need to show solidarity with trans people.

Asexual people need to be supported by allosexual people. Similarly, aromantic people should be supported by alloromantic people.

And to get intersectional, white queer and trans people need to be allies to queer and trans people of color. Male queer and trans people need to support female and non-binary queer and trans folks. Abled queer and trans people need to support their disabled counterparts. You get the picture.

So, saying you’re an ally to LGBTQIA+ people is a bit broad – so broad that many people can use it to evade supporting some folks by saying they support others. In that light, I’m very wary of including ally in the acronym.

4. Including ‘Allies’ Often Erases Asexual And Aromantic People

In my experience, quite a few people assume that the “A” in the acronym stands for ally. What it’s usually meant to stand for is asexual or aromantic.

By assuming that “A” stands for ally and nothing else, we’re leaving out asexual and aromantic people – people who face a great deal of oppression.

This isn’t to say that one letter can’t stand for multiple identities. As I said, there are dozens of different words that queer folks use to describe themselves and their orientations, so it’s understandable if one letter stands for a few different identities.

But often, this misinterpretation of the acronym actively erases and harms asexual and aromantic people.

The erasure of asexual and aromantic people from the acronym is a symbol of a deeper issue. They’re not just erased in an acronym, but often erased within queer communities.

Asexual and aromantic people are underrepresented in the media. They’re harmed by the amatonormative assumption that we all need and want one central, sexual, romantic relationship with a spouse. There are plenty of myths around asexuality and aromanticism that harm and vilify those who identify as either or both.

In our communities, and in our acronym, we need to support asexual and aromantic people – not further that erasure. And we definitely shouldn’t erase them in order to include allies – a group of people with immense privilege.

5. Allies Shouldn’t Center Themselves

Whenever activists speak about the role of allies, we get a lot of pushback – especially when we ask allies to take a step back and check themselves.

Because of this common reaction, I want to reiterate an important truth: Allies shouldn’t center themselves.

As my colleague Jamie Utt writes,

“True solidarity means supporting the work of those you’re allying yourself to, not solely creating a platform for your own voice and work.

Sure, your privilege may afford you the spotlight sometimes, and there are times when you can use that spotlight to talk to people who share your identity… but whenever possible, allies turn that spotlight away from themselves and to the voices that are so often marginalized and ignored.”

So if you’re an ally who feels excluded by those of us who don’t want to include you in the acronym, think about why you feel that way. If it’s because you want to be centered in our community, remember that we’re meant to be supported by you – not vice versa.


As a queer person, I deeply appreciate the work many straight people do to show support towards my community. I’m grateful for those who push back against their heterosexual privilege, even when it’s tough.

Allies belong on the sidelines, cheering us on. They belong in our classrooms and workspaces, where they can use their privilege to promote our safety and access to equal opportunities. They belong on social media, educating others and signal-boosting our words. They belong in our homes, advocating for our acceptance.

They belong in a space where they can support us and our work.

But they don’t belong in our acronym.

Originally published on Everyday Feminism.

You must be to comment.

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

Similar Posts

By Tania Mitra

By Kunal Gupta

By Ritushree

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below