It’s clear that the world is broken. We are living in an age of elevated cruelty and hate. Among the tragedies consuming our newsfeeds and televisions, it is important to not only express our voice through the media, but to seek out ways to actively help these marginalized communities. A great first step in taking action is becoming an ally. There are several kinds of allies, but in the wake of the Orlando Pulse shootings, but I am choosing to focus specifically on the LGBTQIA+ community.
Before I get on my soap box, I want to preface this piece by saying that I am speaking only from my own experience as an aspiring ally, specifically to members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
I am a white, heterosexual, cisgender female, and I recognize that these identities grant me with inherent privilege. Recognizing these privileges is the first step in being an ally to a community with whom you do not identify. In this instance specifically, I am straight, therefore I am privileged.
Although I aspire to be an ally to those in the LGBTQIA+ community, my aspirations do not equal membership. My verbal support alone does not qualify me to be an ally to this community. It takes activism, advocacy, and compassion. It takes love for all people and a desire for justice over fear of the repercussions that come with standing up for what is right.
It is important to note that although I write this article, I cannot label myself as an ally. To be an ally is to have someone in the community identify me as a person they believe is an ally to their identity. I aspire to be an ally to those who identify as LGBTQIA+ by educating myself and listening to the experiences of those in the community. Although both listening and staying educated are vital to being an ally, I know it is not the responsibility of someone to whom I am an ally to teach me. I must take it upon myself to learn about issues the community faces and be my own teacher.
I acknowledge that this is not my moment. My job as an ally is not only to advocate for the community I am supporting but, more importantly, to elevate and help create a space for their own voices who aren’t as easily heard.
To be an LGBTQIA+ ally is to know that gay clubs and pride events are not my home or safe haven. These places are not mine. It’s okay to celebrate the community with its members and it’s okay to mourn the hardships with its members in times of tragedy, but above all, these people are people – people who love and care and eat and breath just as anyone else. The members of this community are not here to be “othered” or commercialized.
Being an ally isn’t something that can turned off and on again when the time is “right” or the topic is “current.” Supporting marginalized identities is always relevant, regardless if it’s a hot topic in the media. Merely having the ability to make a choice about whether or not I’m going to stand up for an oppressed identity is part of the privilege I inherently have, and to be an ally is to have this choice made for me.
Being an ally does not put me in the acronym. I cannot and will not insert myself into a community that is not my own. My role is to educate, advocate, and support in any way I can. Combatting homophobia and transphobia only scratches the surface of the deep commitment required to be an ally.
To those who want to be an ally – my experience will not be yours, but I hope the insight I provided you will guide you in your journey to becoming an ally to those who encompass marginalized identities in your life. For more comprehensive reading on being an ally to those in the LGBTQIA+ community, check out this guide to being a straight ally.
To my friends, family, acquaintances, and mysterious readers who identify as LGBTQIA+ – I am here to fight the good fight by your side. I aspire to be an ally to your community, but my role is not perfect. I constantly strive to learn, listen, and educate others about issues I myself cannot fully understand. This is a daunting task and a huge battle to take on, but it wouldn’t feel right standing on the sidelines while watching you take on this fight alone. I see you, I hear you, and I’m here to support you.