How to be an ally

a straight person’s guide to allyship

I grew in a homophobic environment and was forced to believe that homosexuality is unnatural and as a straight cisgender woman these beliefs never affected me. As I grew up and became my own person, I realized that these claims were false and was convinced that this realization is enough. For the most of my life, my friends and I had been unaffected the problems faced by this community and our understanding of allyship and support was limited to the occasional pride flags pictures and singing Taylor Swift songs.

But more recently I have come to realize what it is to actually be an ally and why is it necessary. I have recognized the toxicity in our compulsory heterosexuality and our lack of education and empathy towards the community. I have come to realize that although it’s easier to mind our own business it is necessary to understand one another and become a good ally.

Growing up in a highly homophobic environment like India. It is hard to navigate ones way through allyship but hopefully, after completing this article you will be able to understand what it truly means to be an ally.

Now, starting with the basic,

WHAT IS AN ALLY?

An ally, straight ally, or heterosexual ally is a heterosexual and cisgender person who supports equal civil rights, gender equality, and LGBT social movements, challenging homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia.

Ally is a verb; it isn’t passive. You aren’t just supposed to be believing or supporting the community but actively acknowledging their struggles and using your position, to create a more equal society for them. Allyship isn’t neutrality. You aren’t an ally if you keep quiet when there is discrimination. As an ally, it is your job to call people out.

NOW HOW TO BECOME AN ALLY?

Start by recognizing your privilege and no that doesn’t just involve saying that. Before you start fighting for the right of others you need to understand what rights you have and others don’t. Understand that you are in a position that benefits you and that you do not worry about certain things. As a cisgender I can freely move around talking about what guys I find cute; I don’t have to explain the legitimacy of my pronouns every time; I don’t have to worry about getting fired if my boss finds out my sexual orientation; I don’t have to fear and worry every day about the violence and the harassment that I might have to endure; I don’t have to fear that my family, my friends, the society, the law will not accept me. These are somethings that I will never have to experience or deal with just because of an identity I was born with. And that’s my privilege.

I know it is challenging and it won’t happen overnight, it’s an ongoing process. But make this a part of your daily consciousness. Stop using this as a defence to your inactiveness in certain conversations rather use your position to start these conversations.

Recognize your ‘cisgenderness’ by learning what cisgender actually means. When I shared the idea of this blog with my friends writing about how cisgenders can be better allies, I was surprised to see that some of my well-read, woke and LGBTQ+ allied friends were completely unaware of what cisgender means. They were completely unaware of a term that describes their sexual identity.

This brings me, to my second point — recognizing privilege isn’t enough. You must educate yourself

Now, what might that entail? Start by making considerable efforts to understand the community and its various identities. The community in itself is very diverse; it isn’t as simple as gay and lesbian. Some people identify as queer, non-binary, pansexual, bisexual demisexual, asexual aromatic (apologies if I missed any). KNOW THESE TERMS and understand what they mean and how they’re different. Learn about the part of their struggles that are conveniently removed and just the sanitized fun version. Learn about why pronouns are important. Learn about the most marginalized groups within this community, how their identity is related to other social issues like racism, prostitution etc. Educate yourself about the laws that protect the community and the organizations that support them.

As an ally, it’s your job to be constantly learning. It is only by listening that you will learn.

SO LISTEN.

My friend came out to me a few months ago and I have had no idea what to say. So, I did what any normal person would do, I googled it and I realized that all I need to do is hug them, listen and be there. (IT’S THAT SIMPLE). If you’re preparing for a dance competition and well you don’t know how to dance. What will you do? You will listen to someone who knows how to dance. That exactly what you need to do.

Listen to their stories, their struggles, their problems, their issues, their messages, their history. Listen to them vent, listen to them cry. Don’t talk over them or provide solutions just stay quiet. Even if think you have heard everything.

Then, get to work.

Use your resources, your access to help and fight the cause. Use your pronouns, stop making stereotypical assumptions, stop believing that there are certain normative pronouns until someone says otherwise, Sign petitions, call authorities and government, call homophobic and transphobic people out, correct them and yourself, follow LGBTQ+ activists. Artists, people, support their causes, help them financially, provide them with resources if they need any, follow LGBTQ+ pages, educate others around you volunteer for supportive organizations, make your institutions and workplaces a safe and accepting place for LGBTQ+ people. Wherever you can bring diverse people into the conversation. Use your privilege to speak where other people are silenced.

Having said that, remember this doesn’t mean that you speak over the community members and occupy their spaces. Understand the difference between speaking up for someone and speaking for someone Let them speak, don’t cut their voices. Stop doing this for your own personal gain and to satisfy your egos. Don’t do this because you want the world to know you are an ally or because you want to feel better about your privilege. Do this because you want to witness the change and be a part of it. Do this so that you are a better companion to your LBTQIA+ friends and family. Most importantly unlearn what has been taught to you, make unintentional mistakes and accept those mistakes. When you get called out for your mistakes make sure to listen, apologies and commit to change. Remember it is not about your intent but your impact.

There’s a huge gap between the two communities and our allies are the way to bridge the gap. Differences and exclusions based on one’s gender identity and sexual orientations are something I will never be able to accept. Underneath all the pinks and blues and the rainbows, we are all just the same people and it is by working together that we can win bigger battles and great a more just environment.

Now go you, there’s a battle you have got to fight!

Hey! I am 16 year old girl trying to share my views and read yours. Give my blog a read. Thanks!