Wait, what’s an ally?
An ally is a person who supports a cause that doesn’t directly affect them. Sounds great, right? Well, sometimes, when you’re trying to align your support to a certain group, the privilege you’re using to defend others can centre your defence around you. This defeats the purpose of allyship.
Mia McKenzie, creator of the popular blog, Black Girl Dangerous, writes: ‘It’s not supposed to be about you. It’s not supposed to be about your feelings. It’s not supposed to be a way of glorifying yourself at the expense of the folks you claim to be an ally to. It’s not supposed to be a performance. It’s supposed to be a way of living your life that doesn’t reinforce the same oppressive behaviours you’re claiming to be against.’
It’s also easy to call yourself an ally without actually doing the work to support the cause. Being an ally isn’t an identity you can co-opt. ‘It’s a practice. It’s an active thing that must be done over and over again, in the largest and smallest ways, every day,’ writes McKenzie.
Either way, allyship is part of our language when we talk about privilege and how you use yours to take the pressure off marginalised groups. The term ‘ally’ has become a way for heterosexual, cisgender people to show their support for marginalised LGBTQ communities.
Be the right kind of ally
But if you aren’t famous or part of a safe, welcoming space? Telling your story as a member of the LGBTQ community can be terrifying and dangerous. As an ally, it’s your job to create safe, supportive spaces for LGBTQ visibility and expression. Here’s how to do it the right way.
1 ‘My Gay BFF’ Isn’t the Best Descriptor
Or any variation thereof. Being LGBTQ is not where your friend’s identity ends. Your friend has plenty of other factors that make them who they are, maybe try one of those. PS Don’t disclose anybody’s personal information like their identity or sexual orientation to anybody, ever, without permission.
2 No one is the ‘boy or ‘girl’ in a same-sex R-ship
Listen, gender roles create the illusion that someone either has to perform masculinity or femininity for a relationship to be valid, which is completely untrue.
3 No, not everybody is ‘basically bi’
That erases bisexual people who are ostracised from the LGBTQ community and heterosexual community for being ‘indecisive’, ‘confused’ or lying about their sexuality. Just because your friend isn’t in a relationship with a particular gender at any given point, doesn’t mean they’re magically not bisexual anymore.
4 Don’t speak over LGBTQ
Just because you’re using your voice for ‘good’, don’t become a microphone that only amplifies your voice and not the voices of those you’re advocating for. It also doesn’t give you a free-pass to make problematic comments just cause you’re ‘down’ with the ‘struggle’. Learn, digest, and step aside when you need to.
5 You don’t get a cookie
There is no reward for wanting to confront systems that are harmful to a lot of people. Feeling like you should be congratulated for wanting to create a more inclusive world probably means your activism isn’t coming from a sincere place. When faux-allies get frustrated at not being recognised for their activism, it makes you question if it’s real or just for the hype?
6 Let it breathe
Sometimes your friends will want to connect with members of the queer community on a level you can’t as an ally. Don’t get jealous or possessive, queer-inclusive spaces are hard to come by so let your friend celebrate their identity with those who can understand their experience.
7 Call each other out
Just because your friend is part of an oppressed group, doesn’t give them the right to oppress others. You can hold them accountable to standards whilst still being an ally.
8 Don’t ask for TMI
Don’t ask about what’s going on underneath your friend’s clothes. If they want to talk about all the wonders of the human body, sure. But don’t be inappropriate. Would you ask a straight friend that question? No? Well, then rather google it, okay?
9 Be an ally even when no-one’s there to see it
This includes calling out BS in all spaces, from your homophobic uncle to the colleague guilty of a ‘gay’ joke. Whether your friend is with you or not, showing up and sticking up for them is real support.
10 Don’t forget to educate yourself
Your friend is not the spokesperson for LGBTQ community, just like how your black friend isn’t the authority on black culture. It can be exhausting for LGBTQ people to educate everyone around them about these issues – Google is your friend!