Evolving into an ally can be bumpy, but thats OK

20 06 2012

I’m writing this as part of Gertyz’s diversity carninval. I wanted to write something because I would like to think of myself as an ally to the LGBT community and I want other people to understand that they too can be allies even if they don’t “get” the LGBT community. Here’s the thing, I don’t necessarily “get it” either, if by getting it you mean understanding their thoughts, feelings, perceptions, motivations. But I don’t get that about anyone other than myself and hell I don’t really get myself either. The LGBT community is as diverse as any community. They do not speak with one voice, just as men don’t nor do all women or all punjabi people.

The only thing you need to do to be an ally is to accept that LGBT individuals deserve all the same rights and freedoms that we do. Full stop. If you don’t, believe that, I’m actually OK with that. As long as you’re willing to try and understand why you don’t believe it and really critically analyze it.

You might be shocked to see an ally say that right? Heres’ the thing though, I wasn’t always an ally. Sure I never had a problem with LGBT people, but then 1) I didn’t know any 2) I never thought about 3) I wasn’t sure I cared.

The first time I met a gay male, I was in first year university and working in the mall. My co-worker was the same ethnic descent as me and cute. He annoyed the crap out me because he would not flirt with me (had not experienced that before) and was more into shoes and fashion then anyone I had ever met. Another individual mentioned that there were rumors he was gay. My only thoughts were oh that makes sense and oh shit. Why oh shit? Because he was the same ethnicity as me. An ethnicity that is not the most accommodating of homosexuality. My father can’t even watch Will & Grace. All I thought was, this poor individual has to hide who he is otherwise his family may kill / disown him. How shitty is that?

So I went from not caring to being empathetic. I realized that LGBT people shouldn’t have to hide who they are. I was comfortable with the idea of LGBT people being around me, but looking back, I was still not accepting and sadly was oppressive.

While still in university, I taught summer camps with someone who was a lesbian. She was a wonderful human being who I got along with great. We were both feminists but at the time I was still young and wasn’t sure I identified with feminism for a variety of reasons one of which was the fear of being labelled a “man-hating lesbian” and vocalizing this to her. I remember describing things as being gay. She had “a friend” that I also really liked and admired, who hung around alot. And no I did not put 2 & 2 together until I walked in on them kissing. They freaked! To which I was like seriously why are you hiding this? I don’t give a shit. But they didn’t know that because of the language I used. I flippantly referred to things that were different as being gay, I resisted being called feminist for fear of being labelled a lesbian man hater. Tell me how is that being accepting! Its not.

And thats OK. Why? Because I’ve always been willing to analyze and think about how I’m feeling about something and why. Now some of you will probably comment that “how can I be ally if” I’ve done these things or how do you think these people felt. etc etc. I can come up with all sorts of comments of how I was a shitty person. The point isn’t that I was a crap ally. The point is that I changed. If we only talk to our allies or the supporters it doesn’t us any good. We want people to go from where I was to where I am.

Where am I?

1) I have lots of LGBT friends IRL and on the intertubes. 2) I think about how my words and actions affect those who don’t have the same privilege as me 3) I care. I fight for, argue for and vote for those who are will to advocate for LGBT rights.

but i’m not always perfect.

This past year a new colleague joined our building and one evening S/he described to me, how s/he was going to spend the evening with a same-sex friend, watching the sun set. As I wished hir good night, I laughing said something about it being a date, wink wink hahaha. I walked away and turned on my twitter stream and read some funny tweets from my LGBT friends. Then I stopped and it hit me like a brick.

Did you see what I did there? I made of joke of hir possible date. If this individual was LGBT, I just let them know that being LGBT was a joke. I felt pretty shitty about it and could only imagine what s/he was feeling if they were LGBT.

What did I do?

I did what I would do if it was anyone else going on a date. I normalized being LGBT. The next day, I asked the person how their date went and I sincerely wanted to know, which I made clear. The person looked at me like I had two heads and was like that was not a date. But we had a great conversation about it.

They asked me why I ask about the date and wondered if someone had said something about their orientation, as idle gossip. I very honestly told them that no one told me, but I realized my comment was insensitive and wanted to let them know that being LGBT was totally OK and NORMAL.

I’m happy I did that, not because I get to pat myself on the back for being politically correct but because the person felt comfortable and supported enough to come out. This person had only recently come to terms with their orientation, so they were struggling with their identity. When I asked them about their date, I let them know they were normal. I’m glad that I could do that.

More importantly I feel I should not have to do that. No one should have worry about being who they are. I don’t tell anyone that I’m heterosexual nor should someone have to hide or announce they’re LGBT. Its should be de facto accepted that peoples sexual preferences vary.

My childs amazing male gay care giver, who my son LOVED and worshipped should not have to listen to other childcare workers talk about how putting my son in pink will encourage Mr.SM to remember to bring a change of clothes. Because we all know wearing pink will make him Gay.

My hope by writing this isn’t that everyone piles on about the shitty things I did, but really sees that I want you to think about why you have certain beliefs and try to think about how those beliefs impact others. To realize that you can do better, you’ll make mistakes and that you can become an ally by simply understanding that people are more than just who they love.




6 responses

20 06 2012

This is great! Thank you for being open to changing, and learning. That is all we can ever hope for in ourselves. You are an excellent ally 🙂

20 06 2012

Great post, SM! Yes to this: “The point isn’t that I was a crap ally. The point is that I changed.”

I also used to use similar language (calling things “gay” or using the phrase feminazi), but I’ve changed and grown and now speak up if I hear that kind of language.

21 06 2012

I would tweet this, but twitter is down ;(. Nicely written!

5 07 2012

Your annoyance made me chuckle. The only times I’ve been made aware that someone thought I might be gay, it seemed to involve my radical non-playa behavior in situations where I suppose I was expected to respond to the usual games. Apparently my particular brand of interpersonal feminism is annoying to those who wish to deploy “wiles”.

5 07 2012

Your comment about using homophobic slurs likewise resonates. It is embarrassing that I can’t say for sure exactly when I stopped those. It is certainly one of those things that nagged at me when people I knew from earlier stages of life came out. One wonders if one was the asshole who made things that little bit worse. I don’t think I’d even want old friends to let me off the hook, seems a fair price for youthful ignorant behavior never to be relived of that regret.

22 11 2013
Conditionally Accepted | Tolerating Anti-LGBTQ Intolerance In The Classroom

[…] the constraints and obstacles faced by queer faculty, we need more cisgender and heterosexual allies to stand with, by, and up for us!  Even/especially if your classes and scholarship does not focus […]

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