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The Importance of Being an Ally (even if you already think you are)

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November 14, 2014

Ally_webSelf-identifying as queer sometimes makes me feel like I immediately have the title of ally as well. The definition of an ally is a person, group, or nation that is associated with another or others for some common cause or purpose. So of course I’d be an ally to the LGBTQ community, why wouldn’t I want to help further the cause of equality within a group that I identify within?

So when my university  was offering an ally training specifically geared to learning more about the LGBTQ community I was reluctant to attend, I figured I already knew everything I needed to. Even so however, I registered and attended the 3 hour seminar. Although they did focus a lot on vocabulary and the history of the gay movement and how to combat homophobia, topics that I’m already familiar with, something very personal stuck out for me.

At the end of the seminar we did a couple of group activities meant to place the participants in the role of coming out, whether it be to family, friends, co-workers, or strangers. I understand that I am going to have to come out for the rest of my life, it’s not a one time process and I accept that. Doing those exercises made me realize though that despite identifying with a marginalized community, I have been so priviledged. When 43% of students consider their college campus to be homophobic, I’m lucky enough to attend a university that I feel safe in. While 20% of homeless youth are LGBTQ, I was lucky enough to not have to worry about my living situation after coming out to my parents.

While the purpose behind the ally training at my university was to teach individuals who may not have ties to the community how to be a source of comfort and safety for those who are through the creation of safe spaces (after training everyone who participated receives a placard to display on their office or dorm room door signaling that space as a safe one). I walked away with a lot more than a participation certificate. I walked away with a new understanding of how deeply rooted my privilege is and how vital my own it is that I continue to develop my skills as an ally. It’s through my own acknowledgment of my experiences and privilege that I am most accurately able to help those who haven’t had experiences like mine.

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