May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia, so I am participating in my usual blog-style, with a rambling and slightly preachy post 🙂
I don’t identify as Homosexual or Transgender, and though I don’t consider myself 100% “straight” I really have no place in the LGBT acronym. So I call myself an Ally, and I try to be one.
I don’t go around saying it, though. In fact I think this might be the first place I’ve actually said those words “I’m an ally.” I have an HRC bumper sticker on my car, and I have some Rainbow-ish love-is-love T-shirts, and I don’t tolerate any hate speak in my presence… but I never openly identify myself as an ally.
As it stands in terms of homphobia and transphobia: There are the people under the LGBT* umbrella, who are discriminated against, and then there are the people who are actively doing the discriminating. The rest of us are either silent witnesses, doing nothing to help (almost as bad as the discriminating assholes) or we are “Allies,” willing to stand up for what is right, even if only in small ways.
Promising to be an ally is awesome, because you are basically saying “I know the world isn’t always safe for you, but I promise to be a safe place, and to support you.” That is a beautiful sentiment, and a powerful vow. I love it.
But “ally” isn’t an identity. It isn’t a thing you are. Rather, it is an action, something you have to do.
And in my opinion, it isn’t something to be proud of. It is something we all should be. Being an ally is like the bare minimum of human decency. Men should be allies to women, people who are LGBT should be allies to each other, young people should be allies to the elderly… anyone with privilege should be an active ally to those living without that privilege. We should try to do better, all of us, every day.
I could totally go on a rant about Ally pride, and how much it pisses me off, but I don’t want to fill this post with negativity. This hop is supposed to be about positive change. And so I thought I’d list some ways to actually BE an ally, everyday. Beyond the shirts and the bumper stickers.
- The way we teach our kids is a big way to be an ally, maybe the biggest. Kids depend on us to show them what is right and wrong, and showing them that acceptance is right and discrimination is wrong is a powerful way to create positive change. If you have kids, you know there are a million tiny ways you mold their opinions everyday. Do it carefully.
- Speaking up is another way. And I don’t mean when someone is being actively bullied or harassed, though of course we should do that, I mean in the tiny everyday things we all see and hear. When my neighbor said “I have no problem with gay people getting married, as long as they don’t kiss in front of my kids.” I didn’t want to say anything, but I did. When I hear people say “That’s so gay!” I speak up, even if they all think I’m an oversensitive PC bitch. When my kid wants to paint his toenails pink, I let him, and I make sure anyone who suggests there is something “wrong” with him gets a verbal slap. We are all in situations like this every day, especially as allies. It is important to speak up.
- Changing the way we think is a way that I think many allies might ignore. You might think that you are totally “in” the LGBT movement, are completely supportive. But I have heard a lot of negative comments among so-called allies. Little comments about bisexuals with partners of the opposite sex being in a “straight” relationship. People saying “I hope my kids turn out to be gay” or “My gay friend, Joe, is coming over later.” I’m sure I’ve also said tons of things that were offensive and hurtful, but the point is just that we should all try to do better.
I guess the core of it is, to truly be an ally (verb, not noun) we need to constantly acknowledge our privilege, try really hard to have empathy, understand that just because we don’t see oppression doesn’t mean it isn’t happening, and take action whenever possible. I’m trying.
I will leave you with this really awesome but slightly unrelated TED Talk, about building empathy and rejecting categorization:
❤ Don’t forget to visit the other great blogs in this hop! Click HERE to go to the main HAHAT blog hop page
One commenter will win a copy of my latest book, Love You Forever, in either signed paperback or e-reader format, your choice. note: If you want to win, you must comment and leave your e-mail when it asks (I think if you are a wordpress user it will not ask, it will just know) otherwise I won’t be able to contact you! This contest will be open until May 24 and one winner will be chosen at random.
But because giving away my own book really doesn’t cost me much, I will also donate $1 per comment (Only up to $25. Sorry, I’m poor) to Youth Pride Inc, an organization local to me that supports LGBTQQ youth and provides community education. So come on, talk to me!
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