Here at 26, we’ve been celebrating Pride Month by focusing on the topic of education. In that spirit we’ve been delivering weekly educational pieces written by and for our brilliant teams on the origins of Pride and its progression to the present day, we’ve had a whistle-stop tour of the evolution of the Pride flag from its original creation to the current iterations and their meanings, and we’re rounding the month off with a look towards the present day challenges the LGBTQIA+ community faces and why the fight for our rights isn’t over just yet.
Now we couldn’t touch on education without also looking at allyship. If you are a part of or are close to someone in the LGBTQIA+ community then the term ‘ally’ might be quite familiar to you, but for others, it may be something they’ve not heard before or really understood. So we asked 26ers a few questions to help explore the concept of allyship and get advice on becoming a most welcome and fabulous ally.
Who can be an ally?
”Anyone and everyone! There should be no limit on who can be an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community. It should not depend on colour, race, religion; it just depends on an individual’s choice to be one.”
“Anyone (and everyone) could and should be an ally. Anyone that can use their privilege to help and support.”
“Anyone can be an ally, everyone should be.”
”I think anyone can be an ally.”
What does 'ally' mean to you?
“An ally is a supporter and amplifier for the LGBTQIA+ community. I think there is a degree of proactivity required for allyship until there is more acceptance and equality of the LGBTQIA+ community. It starts with accepting someone for who they are, without needing a justification. You can then be an ally by speaking up for people who may not be confident or comfortable in doing so themselves, where appropriate and wanted by the individual. This as well as calling out any anti-minority behaviour or language, sometimes with education on why it’s not OK to do or use. And then showing up for this community, whether physically or with other action like the support of local charities and causes or making people in this community feel seen and heard.”
“For me, simply accepting a person for who they are does not make you an ally. It is a basic human right for someone to be accepted for who they are. Being an ally means educating yourself about LGBTQIA+ issues and listening to LGBTQIA+ voices and experiences and validating their feelings. It means standing up against homophobic, transphobic, and discriminatory remarks and actions from anyone, including family members, friends, colleagues, and strangers.’
What, in your experience, stops people from being an ally?
“Education. I think educating people on the importance of being an ally, and what this means to the LGBTQIA+ community is the biggest and best way of building allyships. People fear what they don’t understand, and education is the only way of making people understand.”
”I think unless you’re close to people within the LGBTQIA+ community, it can be hard to see the truth behind the inflammatory headlines we see across social media and within the press. For some, it might be a lack of exposure or for others, simply that they don’t know where to start or where to find the right information.”
”I think there is often a nervousness on whether someone who may not be part of the LGBTQIA+ community should be the person to speak on the subject. While it may not always be essential or needed, with good intention your support as an ally is valuable. There is a lot of ignorance about the different individual communities, or why there needs to be things like Pride in the first place. People should be informed to help others be the best version of themselves, comfortably.”
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a more active ally?
“Research ways you can help and support the LGBTQIA+ community. Always call out discrimination, no matter how uncomfortable that makes you feel.”
“Take time to listen and understand the point of view of individuals within the LGBTQIA+ community. This will allow you to empathise, understand and think of ways that an ally can actively show support. Become more involved in events, online communities, and research what’s going on within the community.”
“Educate yourself and keep learning about LGBTQIA+ issues and communities. Share your support and opinions vocally to help bring awareness to different issues and most of all, support your LGBTQIA+ friends and family where they need it. It may be letting them know you’re there as a supporter, or there may be something more tangible that will help them feel more comfortable and accepted.”
What current challenges do the LGBTQIA+ community face that allies should be aware of? How can allies help?
“The proposed amendment to the equalities act to exclude Trans and non-gender conforming people (particularly trans women) from everyday public spaces. Allies can sign various petitions and write to their MP. Also, despite government pledges to make it easier for same-sex couples to qualify for financial help for IVF, it's been reported that providers are still making it difficult for same-sex couples to access treatment with financial help. Again, writing to your MP can help.”
“Beyond the obvious changes to law happening globally, that sadly feel like we’re stepping back in time, there is a huge challenge in having the right voices out there being heard. There’s so much noise right now that seems designed to divide rather than unite. I think allies can help by firstly, being a friendly face and soundboard to those in the community who may be hurt by some of the language at the moment. Secondly, by being a voice for good and speaking up when they hear inaccuracies.”
”I think there is still a lot of work to be done around the base of awareness and acceptance for the different LGBTQIA+ communities. So many challenges are based on ignorance or non-acceptance. Showing up for these communities is the least allies can do to help progress acceptance. Do you (as an ally) feel well informed on the different communities? Are there any causes to donate to in money or time? Are allies aware of their friends' and family’s opinions around the community and can they make a positive change by helping to inform them? What are the stances of local MPs and their initiatives, could they be contacted to help make a positive change?”
You’ve heard from our own 26ers but maybe you want to know more! There are some excellent resources out there, for example, The Human Rights Campaign Foundation has a great page on being an ally and includes some handy resources on terminology, identity, and the different communities that make up LGBTQIA+.
At 26 we’re not stopping here. We have booked an amazing workshop for our staff to talk and learn about allyship where we will be covering not just how this applies to LGBTQIA+ communities, but all marginalised people and communities.
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