Get Well

3 LGBTQ+ Figures on the Importance of Ally Activism

by Hannah Smith

With Pride month coming to a close, we felt it necessary to emphasize the importance of activism for the LGBTQ+ community year long. While members of the community fight constantly for recognition and acceptance, cisgender, heteronormative folks tend to fade out shortly after the month is over. While any form of allyship, even once a year, is better than nothing, we can do better. To help you get started and inspired, we spoke to three LGBTQ+ figures on how they advocate every day, and why ally activism takes an important step in the right direction.

Josh Jenkins, Teacher

Tell me a little bit about yourself

I’m a queer elementary school teacher in New York City. When I’m not at school teaching, I’m seeing shows on and off Broadway, thinking about seasonal decor, reading children’s literature and young adult fiction, cooking all the food, or playing with my dogs. You can call me the queer, body positive Martha Stewart rolling on a teacher budget!

What do you do to advocate for your community?

As a teacher and queer person, I think critically about practices in schools and ways we can make sure our queer children (out or not, questioning or not) feel supported and loved. I work to educate other teachers about books with all kinds of gender expression and family arrangements. I also care a lot about teacher language. We say and do so much, and we might not realize how gendered it is!  For example, separating children by boy and girl for a class activity is really problematic as it does not create a safe space for a child who might not identify as either, or who might not have said anything to an adult, but is questioning their gender. Similarly, talking to children about families and saying things like, “Have Mom or Dad sign this!” is really problematic as well. Children may live with two moms, two dads, their guardian may be nonbinary or trans because there are myriad family arrangements. I share these two quick anecdotes to illustrate that language matters – a lot – and it’s one of the ways I advocate for queer people and children.

I also advocate for queer people by being myself. I show my students through action that gender does not dictate how you dress or act every single day. I wear a whole rainbow of colors, usually sport painted nails, and am my femme / masc and inbetween self with the children I teach. Photos of my partner and I sit on the counter by the water fountain and tissues. I do not pretend to be straight at school. Children deserve their queer teachers because some children will grow up and become queer teachers, too.  

What is your response to people who say they “tolerate” the community but don’t accept it?

I know first hand what it feels like to be tolerated but not accepted. I have never really been a fan of the word tolerance. It’s always struck me as a word that means “I don’t really care for this but I will allow it as long as it doesn’t interfere with my wants/needs/wishes.” I think when people start talking about tolerance, it’s usually coded language for some form of bigotry, and it lets me know that that person may not be thinking toward justice or equity but rather maintaining the status quo (white middle class heteronormativity). What’s worse is I think sometimes allyship is co-opted; folx say they’re an ally, but they’re really just “tolerant.”

A few months ago, I probably wouldn’t have said anything to a person who said they tolerated a group or individual but didn’t accept them. I personally have been working on embracing confrontation instead of avoiding it for the sake of nicety.  Currently, I think I would question, “Whose comfort matters here?” when confronted with something that seemed (in)tolerant. A close family member asked me to remove my nail polish during the holidays so that other people in the family would not be uncomfortable, and I am ashamed to admit that I did. I have re-lived that moment a lot since then, and I have thought a lot about comfort. If I could rewind, I would leave the polish on and question, “Whose comfort matters here? Why is their [my other family members’] comfort more important than mine?” Similarly, my family has met my partner and have made small talk with him, but they introduce him to others as a friend. My family knows I’m a queer dude with a boyfriend, but they do not accept me as I am. I’m not sharing this to look for pity–I’m sharing to demonstrate what’s wrong with tolerance. Tolerance is oppressive. Tolerance is a really problematic concept.

Furthermore, how would you explain the difference between being accepting and actually being an ally?

Allyship requires action and being an ally is not a stable identity or category. Allyship is fluid – it shifts and changes from moment to moment. Allyship is raising the voices of the people you’re supporting, not speaking for them. Allyship is knowing when to step up and when to step back. Allyship is celebrating with that community so long as you’re weeping with them and doing the work with them when things get tough.

In your words, what makes a ally?

The idea of allyship as more fluid than a permanent identity marker and one that is rooted in action might be a new concept for some people, so I’ll say a little more about that. If you call yourself an ally, but don’t step up when you see injustice or discrimination, you are not an ally in that moment. If you see injustice and use your privilege to do something about it, then you are an ally in that instance.  For example, Alabama passed a heinous law re: abortion recently. If you say you support people with a uterus who can get pregnant (e.g., women, trans men, etc.) but did not take some form of political action in response to that injustice, then you are not an ally in that moment.

If you say you support your queer friends but then don’t speak up to a colleague who makes a homophobic joke or femme-shamed someone, you’re not an ally in that moment, even if you donated money to a queer organization in the past.

I know this take on allyship may seem harsh, but when you’re thinking about being an ally, allies have privilege–they do not identify as the group they are claiming to support. So, allyship means leveraging that privilege in all moments of discrimination or injustice for that group. Allyship is less about your own identity and more about action for the sake of others who lack some privilege or access to something you have. It’s also intersectional – I’m queer but I’m also white and male. So, I have some privileges of my own that other queer people might not. That means that even within the queer community, I have a responsibility to use my own privileges to support queer people who do not have white or male privilege.

How important are the words and actions of allies?

So important! We all know that maxim, “Actions speak louder than words!” And they certainly do. Your actions as an ally demonstrate your allyship more than your statement that you identify as an ally. Allyship involves your ability to listen, be open to different ways of thinking, and taking action.

Recently, a person who has said they support LGBTQ rights criticized my statement about how we should be more mindful about gendering children. (For example, instead of addressing a class of children as “Good morning boys and girls,” we should make statements that are not gendered, “Good morning, class,” or even just, “Good morning.”) The person asked why I cared so much about this. I explained that in our society, gender is constructed as a binary (boy / girl), but that there are many folx who do not identify as one or the other, or who express their gender however they wish or may feel that their assigned sex does not match how they think and feel. I reminded this individual that I myself identify as a man but am fairly creative with my gender expression, see: painted nails and a preference for more traditionally feminine colors and styles.

The person accused me of taking on what they called “a crusade” because it was selfish, all about me, and because of my own gender performance. This is, obviously, not allyship. This person supports queer people when queer people mold to heternormative ideas, like (same sex) marriage, but they do not support queer people when it means disrupting heteronormative ideas or expanding what we mean by gender. Thinking about gender differently was uncomfortable to this person. Allyship is not about your own comfort but rather about fighting for the comfort you have in your position of privilege for those who do not.

What are your top tips to allies or people who wish to be?

Do your research. Listen and be open. It’s okay to be uncomfortable. Allyship is political, and politics require action. Recognize there’s diversity in every community, and there’s no need to homogenize a group. Finally, make sure your motives are sincere and selfless; if it’s about making you look good or seen, that ain’t it. That’s what good lighting and makeup are for!

Julia Pennick, Social Worker

Tell me a little bit about yourself:

My name is Julia Pennick, I use she/her pronouns, and I identify as a cisgender woman and a lesbian or queer (I use them interchangeably). I was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles and have moved around a lot since then, but currently I live in Santa Barbara, CA where I work with survivors of interpersonal violence, such as sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, stalking, and harassment. It is my dream job because I get to support people on a daily basis find what paths are right for them, and I get to truly see the power of human resiliency. I love to knit and crochet, which are my favorite two past times and self-care activities; they help me feel centered and grounded the quickest. I have a wonderful girlfriend who I live with in a small studio apartment with a million more house plants than are needed in the space, and a family who supports every aspect of my life from my career choice as a Social Worker, to being out and proud, to loving the trashiest reality tv shows.  

What do you do to advocate for your community?

My work with queer survivors is how I advocate for recognition and fair treatment for the community every day. Understanding the intersections of oppression is important for a broader society to remember since there is not one type of survivor of violence there is also not one life path for LGBTQIA+ folks. Understanding, recognizing, and supporting the differences creates a more accessible and community focused world. I often see the issues of violence within the LGBTQIA+ community as a lack of conversations about what is the right way to treat each other. It is our responsibility as members of each and every community to watch out for each other and address the problematic behaviors our friends and acquaintances are engaging in. It will lessen the pain in others’ lives if we can end it before it starts.

What is your response to people who say they “tolerate” the community but don’t accept it?

Hearing that someone tolerates the LGBTQIA+ community always takes me aback. Even reading this question I can feel my body take the step back and need to take a deep breath. Tolerance scares me; it makes my innate fight or flight instincts kick in because this person is not someone I can truly be my full self around. Tolerance can end, but there is always a limit to how much someone can tolerate and I do not want to be around when that limit is hit. Tolerance is what brought on laws like Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and actions of folks who will not serve people based on their identity. Tolerance still distinguishes me and people like me as somehow inferior to you, and that is not ok.

Furthermore, how would you explain the difference between being accepting and actually being an ally?

So, I find that acceptance is helpful when needing laws and policies to be created for equitable treatment, but an ally is someone who will take part of the weight, the struggle, the pain off my shoulders for a bit to carry it with me. An ally is someone who without being instructed to do so, joins the movement to create an equitable society.

In your words, what makes a ally?

Put simply, an ally is someone actively engaging in learning about the needs of a community, and actively working toward the changes the community has identified as needed. An ally does the work on their own time, and they do the work without benefit to self. This is something I do not think lots of folks address, but there should be no personal gain in an ally’s actions.

How important are the words and actions of allies?

I think in true allyship the words and actions of allies following the needs of a community are so important, because a marginalized community will never reach a critical mass alone, which is needed for a culture change.

What are your top tips to allies or people who wish to be?

Learn, keep learning, and never stop finding more things to refresh your mind on or understanding. You are never done in the action of learning in an allied position.

I want to also add that we often lump the LGBTQIA community all together as this one group, but the individual letters need to work together and be active allies to each other. Right now, what is really needed to be recognized is that we, white cis queers, need to step up our allyship to our trans siblings of color. Their ancestors were the ones who fought hard when we had very few rights, and moments of recognition for these communities need to be upheld and honored through actions of true allyship, such as ensuring trans folks of color to have access to jobs, housing, and can safely living in our communities. We, folks who do not identify as trans, need to step up and help protect our folks who are being murdered at alarming rates.

Elliot Fletcher, Actor

What do you do to advocate for your community?

I try my best to uplift the voices of marginalized folks by reposting fund links, donating to them myself, showing up to necessary events, and making myself visible and vocal inside and outside of my community. Right now, a lot of my focus is on protecting trans women of color.

What is your response to people who say they “tolerate” the community but don’t accept it?

Tolerance is one step in the direction of acceptance but, it’s currently not enough. Cisgender and heterosexual people need to be jumping into acceptance, not slowly stepping. It’s also important to know the difference between understanding and acceptance. You don’t have to understand my identity in order to accept me. I think a lot of people get caught up in trying to know everything, rather than just respecting others on a human level.

Furthermore, how would you explain the difference between being accepting and actually being an ally?

It’s like if a firefighter saw your house burning and said “I’m so sorry, you don’t deserve that.” They never tried to actually put out the fire, even though they had all the tools available. Being an ally means actually using the tools and privileges you were born with to help others. Accepting people is a good initial step, but it takes minimal effort and ultimately has no lasting effect on their lives.

In your words, what makes an ally?

Having your actions speak louder than your words. Carrying your activism into your everyday life.

How important are the words and actions of allies?

In our current political climate, the words of cisgender, heterosexual, white men is valued about all else. Having them take part in a rally and chanting along with marginalized folks makes a real difference to the public’s eye and to the LGBTQ+ community. Allyship speaks loudest to the community itself, as a lot of us are still afraid to be visible. Being vocal and taking action about your support for us makes us feel safer.

What are your top tips to allies or people who wish to be one?

Volunteer, donate, show up, and protect. Volunteer at your local LGBTQ+ center to help when you can. Donate directly to a queer person or small queer businesses. Show up to protests, vigils, and rallies. Attend events that are centered around the fight for equality, the ones where truths are discussed and spoken loudly.  Pride is a wonderful celebration but there are ways to take a step further to fight for LGBTQ+ rights, especially under our current administration.

All of these actions protect the LGBTQ+ community. When you volunteer, you show people love and respect that might be keeping them around for another day. When you donate, you help someone survive by paying the bills for their food and housing. When you show up to events, you are directly showing us that you will make our battle yours as well. These are all important parts of being a real ally.

Feature Image via Vanessa Granda

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Let us slide into your inbox with things that'll make you feel good.
Read more

Polisi rahasia bermain di situs Pertaruhan Poker Online paling dipercaya untuk beberapa pemula 2019 Untuk beberapa player perintis, terkadang mereka masih gelisah dan belum tahu apa yang butuh mereka lakukan agar bisa menang pada permainan judi di web Judi Poker Online mengelokkan dipercaya. Nah kalaupun mempergunakan langkah menang bermain pada situs pokerqq paling dipercaya, tetapi pastilah bukan langkah hebat yang butuh dipelajari tetapi langkah yg biasa saja. dalam hal ini, kamu harus bisa tahu secara benar berkaitan cara-cara teristimewa yg bisa dibutuhkan. Dikau semestinya bisa tahu serta tahu jika ada kurang lebih langkah teristimewa yg mampu anda terapkan dan punyai kekuatan menang meskipun dikau hanya player pemula. Untuk beberapa pemula, diantaranya mengenai jadi masalaj adalah kepandaian. Karena mereka belum demikian memiliki pengalaman, jadi kemudian akan ada banyak kesalahan yg digerakkan karena memang dikit tahu berkaitan segala sesuatu –apa saja yang butuh dan tidak harus digerakkan. Anda semestinya bisa optimis dengan betul-betul baik berselok-belok apa yang butuh & tidak harusdijalankan. Dalam langkah teristimewa yg bisa ditangani, memang yg anda sepatutnya perhatikan dengan baik merupakan berkaitan cara-cara yg cuma sesuai dengan dan sesuai untuk pemula saja. Kurang lebih trick menang bermain pada situs Judi Poker On line paling dipercaya pas untuk pemula Jika anda benar-benar masih pemula, jadi kamu harus bisa mencari info dan studi cara-cara paling istimewa yg cocok dan serasi dengan juga bikin pemula. Dalam hal ini, dikau harus bisa coba menelaah informasi dari beberapa sumber pelajari sampai anda bakal tahu apa yang zakar dan tidak harus digerakkan. Anda harus bisa manfaatkan cara-cara menang main di situs Judi Poker Online paling dipercaya yg selama ini sudah serius sesuai dengan dan bagus bikin digerakkan. Anda harus bisa studi semua dengan sahih, dan tersebut cara-cara yang sesuai dengan untuk pemula: Berusaha sebaik-baiknya pahami sajian – cara pertama yang butuh untuk anda lakukan adalah bagaimana anda mampu berusaha sebaik-baiknya pahami sajian. Wacana akan permainan oleh sebab itu kunci penting yg butuh sekali bikin dikendalikan jika anda nyata-nyata benar akan mendapatkan kemenangan dan sukses seterusnya dalam permainan itu. Tips untuk pemula di bermain di situs poker online IDN paling dipercaya Cari berbagai peluang gaji – setelah itu kamu juga harus bisa mengetahui dan tahu berkaitan gimana anda bisa mendapatkan moral. Selama ini banyak yang mempunyai asumsi jika bikin bisa mendapatkan penghasilan, jadi kita harus menang di permainan itu. walau aktual itu sebetulnya tidak tunak benar karena ada selalu peluang yg bisa kamu dapatkan meskipun tidak unggul seperti dari bonus & promo. Bermain dengan jalan bertahap saja – guna player pemula, pola serta cara bermain yg akan digerakkan serta digerakkan sewajarnya memang digerakkan dengan jalan bertahap saja. bermain secara bertahap itu perlu amat bikin digerakkan karena dengan begitu, anda bisa mencari ilmu dari masing-masing stage yg anda patuhi itu. silahkan anda bertahap saja cantik dalam memastikan level sajian atau tempatkan deposit. Selalu konsentrasi tetapi jangan secepatnya – sikap konsentrasi serta tenang jadi bagian berarti lain yg anda sepatutnya kuasai dengan baik. Kalau anda bisa konsentrasi di bermain, jadi anda bisa keuntungan banyak dimana dikau bisa tenang mainkan semata. Coba untuk anda dapat konsentrasi saja dalam tampil karena dengan begitu, oleh karena itu anda bisa banyak moral. Gunakan beberapa cara di atas jadi diantaranya sesi trik agar anda mampu menang mudah. Tidak cuma beberapa cara di atas, ada banyak sebetulnya trik dan langkah menang permainan di situs Judi poker online paling dipercaya yg bisa anda gunakan dalam permain poker online itu.