ON BEING AN ALLY
MICHAEL LIKIER, PHD,ACT
If we are not members of the LGBTQ community ourselves, chances are we have friends, loved ones and coworkers who are. As our nation continues to make strides toward equality, oppression against people who are LGBTQ remains a harsh reality. Pride celebrations abound this month, and it’s wonderful for all of us across the spectrum of gender and sexual identities to join in the fun, and acknowledge the strength, resilience and history of those directly impacted by the struggle. Perhaps, however, what is most important for those of us who are not LGBTQ, is that we actively engage in creating a world that respects and values us all. An ally is someone who does just that.
So how does one be an effective ally? We begin with being a good friend, listening with our hearts, being empathic, and acknowledging our shared humanity. We can then build on that with some specific suggestions from this far from exhaustive list.
Educate yourself. Learn the history of oppression of the LGBTQ community. Understand the severity of the problem and how it manifests today locally, nationally and internationally. Learn the terminology, which is ever evolving. The more knowledgeable we are, the more effective we will be when we show up to stand with the LGBTQ community.
Lead by following. Understand that those who are on the receiving end of oppression know what they need. Listen, learn and support. Be compassionate with yourself and expect to make mistakes along the way. If we knew how to undo oppression, we would have by now. We all have blind spots and it’s likely that they will reveal themselves when we engage in “allyship.” Show up with an open mind and heart and receive feedback graciously.
Do the work with other non-LGBTQ people. Point out your discomfort when people use derogatory terminology or tell offensive “jokes”. Notice the hiring practices in your workplace. Be a champion for creating and maintaining inclusive environments in whatever organizations you belong to, whether work, religion, or community based.
Ally work is not an individual effort. Get support from others within and without the LGBTQ community. Support organizations that fight oppression and work to create a world of compassion, justice and equality.
Recognize intersectionality. As all of us have multiple identities with regards to race, religion, ethnicity, etc., it is likely that we experience marginalization ourselves on some dimension of diversity. As such we can use our own experience as a point of connection. LGBTQ allyship is a great place to start. However, recognize that people who are LGBTQ may face multiple levels of discrimination if they are people of color, religious minorities, immigrants, etc. Through this recognition we can ultimately be there for each other in pursuit of a just world.