Disclaimer: I need to preface this by saying I’m only one member of the LGBTQ community and I am not attempting to represent everyone from every under-represented and disenfranchised community. We all have our own individual experiences and it’s important that we all talk about them.
I’m a queer female. I’m privileged enough to live in a progressive, usually safe area of the country. I work for a company where my life is just as normal as the next person and I have never felt as if I were treated differently based on my sexual orientation. I’m an elected official on my town’s City Council where I am the first openly LGBTQ member of the council. 95% of the time I am completely comfortable with all of that. The other 5%? I really need my allies there.
Here are some recent examples of how my allies have supported me, walked beside me, given me space, and even stepped in front of me:
- I was invited to a formal dinner that would be primarily attended by men in fairly conservative careers. My first thought was how awkward I would feel walking into a formal dinner with a nicer bow-tie than the men there, and how out of the norm that would be in their day-to-day life. I talked to another invitee about that and she offered to wear a suit with me. That’s a true ally.
- When I was campaigning, I had volunteers doorknocking for me and they were met with questions about why I looked like Al Franken on my lit (I don’t know.), rolled their eyes when they saw a picture of my wife and I, spent hours listening to misogynistic old men talk about how women were terrible and had no place in local government. Instead of walking away, they continued to be proponents of why I would be a great representation of the people in our city. Those are true allies.
- I experienced some mild stalking shortly after winning the election. I told a friend about it. She sent her husband and son out to drive by my house several times to make sure all was well last night. That’s a family full of true allies.
- At the start of my new role, my leader at the time wanted to send out an organizational communication announcing my arrival. She asked if I wanted her to write anything about my family, specifically asking if it was okay to say I had a wife. She let me make that call. That’s a true ally.
We all want to be allies. At least I hope we do. I want to be a true ally and I know I can be better. It takes work because we have to check our privilege and the vast majority of us don’t realize we have to constantly do that. We can’t assume (i.e. pretend we know) what each person needs at all times.
On the other hand, those of us who need allies will be hard pressed to approach someone and say, “Hey, will you be an ally for me for a hot second?” I know that’s tricky, so it’s up to those of us with the privilege to step up, step out, and be a true ally to those that could really use one.
A few links to familiarize yourself with what this all means:
- GLAAD’s “10 Ways to be an Ally & a Friend“
- The Muse’s “7 Examples of What Being an Ally at Work Really Looks Like“
- “Dear White People: Here’s how to be a REAL ally instead of just playing one on social media” by Blue Telusma
- “If You Want To Be An Effective Ally, Be Quiet And Know Your Place” by Brandi Miller