By: Camille Fassett
In any social justice movement, the vast majority of the unrest comes from the oppressed group. The LGBT movement, like others, began with the brave voices of just a few individuals. It has grown into a global subject, however, and LGBT individuals are no longer the only ones demanding change. Straight cisgender allies are without a doubt essential to reaching equality.
For years before I began to identify myself as LGBT, I identified as a proud ally to the movement. Nonetheless, at times I was also guilty of making the social justice movement about me. The fire and spirit of change is overwhelmingly beautiful, often motivating eager people to become allies. Yet allies must consciously evaluate their role in the movement. These tips, while intended for allies, could be useful for anyone. We can all be more tolerant, thoughtful, and respectful people!
1. Listen. It is easy to wear rainbow face paint at Pride and scream out for equality, but it is difficult to take a step back, stop talking, and listen to the oppressed. I promise, there is more to learn.
2. Speak. Having LGBT friends or attending rallies does not make you a good ally, but refusing to endorse systematic and institutionalized oppression when it is apparent does. Do not use the word “gay” as a synonym for stupid, and if one of your friends does, it is your responsibility to say something. If you are silent in situations of injustice, you are choosing the side of the oppressor.
3. Be aware. If someone tells you which gender pronouns they prefer, respect and honor them. Do not ask uncomfortable questions about anyone’s body or sex life. Do not objectify LGBT people.
4. Apologize. No one is perfect, so if you use the wrong pronoun, simply apologize. If you think you are being a good ally and someone suggests differently, listen instead of reacting defensively, think, and then apologize. Your open mindedness is an inspiration.
5. Respect. If you are straight and cisgender, the LGBT movement definitely needs you, but the movement itself is not about you. Being respectful means understanding that you may not automatically be welcome into all LGBT spaces just because you’re an ally.
6. Vote. One of the simplest and most effective ways to show your support is to vote against laws that endorse discrimination. This means voting for gay marriage, yes, but that also means being informed about all propositions before voting – read the fine print. There are all kinds of privilege.
7. Keep reflecting. Oftentimes, allies believe they are not part of the problem. However, they do not have it all figured out and it is vital that everyone individual continues to evaluate his or her own roles in privilege and oppression.
8. Act. Social justice is in the action individuals take. Consider volunteering behind the scenes, perhaps making phone calls, managing rallies, or simply donating.
9. Give. Continue to give your time, support, and resources. Make yourself available to friends, relatives, classmates, etc. Consider offering your home through reliable networks to trans* people looking for safe living situations.
10. Don’t give up! You are not going to a perfect ally. However, by accepting your privilege and working actively to improve the world, you will be a better ally every day.
Thank you for showing your support, allies! We can only do this together.