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How to be a good ally

Abi Whitcomb, Podcast & Opinions Editor, Marketing Manager

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You may feel enlightened knowing that Neil Patrick Harris, who plays womanizing Barney Stinson on “How I Met Your Mother,” is actually gay. Or you might feel “open-minded” because when you come home from school each day you turn on “Ellen,” hosted by Ellen Degeneres, who is an open lesbian.

But this doesn’t make you an ally.

But, the kid that sits five seats away from me is gay!

Okay, but that doesn’t make you an ally, either.

This past week was Ally Week, where straight/cis people stand up for their LGBTQ+ community members against bullying and harassment and show that peer support for LGBTQ+ students is stronger than what it may seem.

In an increasingly troubling time where some students feel the need to sneak back into the closet, it’s vital that straight/cis people stand up, get their rainbow on and proudly state that even though they aren’t queer, they know that queer people aren’t as different as some may think.

There are an infinite number of ways to be an ally, but if you are stumped, here are a few to get you started.

  • Don’t Out People

Imagine you told your friend something you wanted no one else to know: You adore My Little Pony. You just think those ponies and their power of friendship is so adorable. You told this friend to treat this information as Top Secret and not tell a soul. But, the next day, someone throws you a My Little Pony doll and starts snickering in class. Your friend had loose lips and now the USS Friendship has sunk.

That would make you feel pretty horrible, right?

That is the equivalent of outing. Outing people is the worst possible thing you could do. Outing is the act of sharing an LGBTQ+ person’s identity without their permission. It can have severe negative consequences, from bullying to getting kicked out of home. Your LGBTQ+ friend entrusted you with this secret, and to share it without their permission would be a quick and easy way to break their trust.

  • Listen With an Open Mind

Just like when you need to rant to your friends about the sheer mass of SPAM homework you have or when you are having emotional trouble with your significant other, your LGBTQ+ friends just need to be heard. They want to know someone is listening to their issues, just like you. The best thing one can do as an ally is listen to the voices of those you are looking to ally with. If you can listen to that friend complain about their SPAM homework for the twentieth time already this year, you can listen to your LGBTQ+ friend’s issue, which can also help you because hearing marginalized voices may help you understand important issues.

  • Always Keep Fighting

Allies are always, always, always standing up for what’s right, even when it’s hard. Oppression is constant and by choosing to be an ally, you are stating that you will constantly fight oppression. You can’t throw in the towel when the going gets tough.

Eh, I’m not feeling it today. I’m not LGBTQ, so do I really need to? There are dozens of other people who can.

Yes, there may be others fighting, but with you included, there is one more person standing up and fighting back.

  • Educate Yourself

If you want to become an ally, you need to know what you are getting into, just like if you want to become a doctor, lawyer, or anything. I don’t know about you, but if I’m getting surgery, I don’t want a doctor who’s last words before I go under are “So… how do I do this again?”

Look into what are the current issues, legislation, and history of the LGBTQ+ community. But, don’t expect for your friends to teach you everything because chances are, they aren’t a walking encyclopedia of all things gay. There are endless credible resources to get yourself informed.

  • Use Gender-Neutral Language

So, boys, how would you feel if every time I saw you in the hall, I wiggled my fingers in a wave and said, “Hey, girl!”. I am positive that would be a huge blow to your masculinity and your self-esteem would plummet faster than a deadly roller coaster.

For transgender and genderqueer individuals, language associated with gender like “Dude,” “Girl,” “Guys,” etc. makes them uncomfortable.

But these kids are too sensitive! This Political Correctness is getting out of hand!

This isn’t being “PC.” This is being respectful and treating people how they want to be treated. Instead, use gender-neutral language like “people” and use “they” pronouns instead of “he” or “she” pronouns unless otherwise asked. The best way to establish which pronouns to use is to ask.  

  • Accept all members of the LGBTQ+ community

When becoming an ally, you are choosing to fight for all members of the LGBTQ+ community. That doesn’t mean you get to say, “You know, not a big fan of bisexual and genderqueer people. I only support gays and lesbians.”

This isn’t a pick-and-choose type of thing. Even if you don’t agree with the gender spectrum, you have signed on to fight for everyone.

This list is only a drop in the bucket. There is so much more to being a good ally. Allies are crucial to the social justice movement. The more people that band together and stand in solidarity against marginalization the better. To all allies out there, the LGBTQ+ community thanks you for standing side by side with us.  

For anyone looking to become an ally, know you are welcome at the LHS GSA. It’s called the Gay-Straight Alliance for a reason.

Meetings are every Tuesday at 2:00 in room 411.  See Mrs  DeWinkeleer for more details  


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1 Comment

One Response to “How to be a good ally”

  1. LGBTQ Communtiy Member on October 1st, 2017 3:10 pm

    As a member of the LGBTQ community I would like to thank you for writing this. Your points are very accurate, as they always are. Outing someone is VERY serious. It can change someone’s entire life. You never know what might happen at home if a member came out, that alone may be what is keeping them from telling people. Also, educating yourself doesn’t apply to just allies. It is always a good idea to fully understand a topic that is being discussed before you throw a pigheaded comment into the conversation. Now, I am not asking for you to research every little thing about the LGBTQ community, just asking that you know what the words you are using mean and the true facts of the conversation you are talking about. Yet again, thank you Abi!
    Lots of Love, LGBTQ member

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