Being an ally to any community means committing to build relationships with marginalized people or groups that are based on trust, accountability, and consistency. Allyship is a lifelong learning process.
These are some things that I believe are important to keep in mind if you’re an ally to the queer community, but they can be applied to any marginalized group.
Showing your support for us online is great, but make sure you’re walking the walk in your daily life.
When somebody professes their support for a cause online to be seen as a good person or on the right side of history rather than to show their support for the people behind the cause, this is called performative activism. Performative activism is harmful because it reduces the work behind movements to a simple hashtag and takes the focus off of the real issues and onto a social media trend. On a personal level, seeing my peers post an Instagram story condemning President Trump’s rolling back of an Obama-era policy that protected LGBTQ patients from discrimination in the medical field and then supporting businesses that donate to anti-gay and transgender organizations or saying nothing when their friends drop the f-slur every other sentence is incredibly painful. It’s disheartening to see someone use something that will affect the way that my community lives as a tool for their personal gain and then throw it away the second it doesn’t benefit them.
I don’t get to take my queerness off whenever it doesn’t suit me. If you’re going to commit to allyship, you have to stand with us every day, everywhere you go. Call people out who are saying homophobic or transphobic things, especially if they’re your friends or family members. Give your money businesses who don’t donate to anti-gay and trans groups and who actively support the LGBTQ community. Understand that being an ally is not a social media trend or a vanity project.
Listen to queer people.
As an ally, your job is to support the queer people around you. This means to lift the voices of those in the community, not speak for us. Pay attention to what queer people are saying, and use your voice and platform to amplify theirs. Seek out queer creators, writers, and artists and learn from their work. Have conversations with your queer friends and family.
That being said, I am not your personal encyclopedia. I’ve had people message me asking me to explain the situation in Poland and other issues, and I’ve pointed them articles that they can read and people who have put out information about those things. It’s not my or anyone’s responsibility to educate you about all things queer, and it’s a huge privilege to be able to seek information from books or websites about the discrimination that queer people face instead of having to live it every day. Just because someone is LGBTQ doesn’t mean that they have all the answers to your questions or that they have to give you answers.
I, like many other queer people, am relatively open about my identity and my experience, but that doesn’t mean that you can expect me to answer intrusive questions or share absolutely everything about what I’ve gone through. How much somebody chooses to share about their queerness is their decision and nobody else’s. Even if we’re outspoken about some things surrounding our lives as queer people, some topics are off-limits and that should be respected.
Be willing to learn.
Allyship is a lifelong learning process, so you need to be prepared to grow and change along the way. People make mistakes, and that’s okay. If you make a mistake as an ally, reflect on what you said or did and see what you need to adjust instead of taking it personally or making excuses for your actions. Think about why allyship is important to you, and pick yourself up and keep going. If you see that someone is misinformed, help them by sharing the real information instead of immediately cutting them off. Allyship is not a woke-ness contest, and we’re all constantly evolving as we move through the world and have conversations and experiences.
I don’t expect you to be perfect and never say or do anything wrong. I expect respect, accountability, and openness to growth. Look beyond the social media posts and focus on the people standing in front of you.