The word “ally” is trendy — and it’s time we think more intentionally about the term.
Many media outlets are responding to Taylor Swift’s music video and its relationship to the LGBTQIA-plus community, but PGN has never been a newspaper for allies. We center on our community, providing news for and about LGBTQ people — and that’s why here, “allyship” will be examined within our own.
The LGBTQ community continues to struggle with racism, transphobia, biphobia, ableism and ageism, among other issues. When Philadelphia added black and brown stripes to the Pride flag, it was met with controversy from within. QTPOC, under the umbrella of our initialism, have completely different experiences than white community members. Cisgender folks are not innately aware of what it means to be trans. Many members of the community may have little awareness of asexuality or aromanticism.
We are not simply allies because we don’t actively discriminate against one another. Being an ally is difficult work. An ally must take on the struggles of the more oppressed and use their privilege to support the underrepresented, while simultaneously listening and following the direction of those directly impacted.
An ally also must allocate resources — not just monetary, but that too — to whichever struggle they feel aligned. An ally must be, above all, humble — refraining from defensive behavior while also being open to self-education, self-work and criticism.
Here at PGN, we love that we are an educational resource for our community. Use resources like this paper, others around the nation and independent websites to garner information. Allies should not depend on individual members of any community to educate them.
Trans folks do not need to educate cisgender folks, and nonbinary folks do not need to explain their rejection of “he” or “she” pronouns. QTPOC should not be constantly engaged in discussions surrounding white privilege and myriad other racial injustices, like the justice system. Gay men who lived through the ’80s and ’90s should not constantly be a resource for AIDS education, and no one should have to defend their gender presentation.
Pennsylvania’s active-bystander legislation (HR-117), which encourages witnesses of a hate crime to voluntarily take action, is stalled in committee. For those of us with privilege, whether white or cigender or male, we also have to commit to, and reckon with, putting our bodies in the way, whether we’re witnessing individual violence or police brutality, or attending a protest, if we are to identify as “allies.”
For those of us within the LGBTQIA-plus community, we know what oppression looks like and what it’s like to be misunderstood. We should be easily able to garner empathy and extend our understanding of oppression to others.
Our individual experiences are different. Even slurs are different. QTPOC might be harassed for skin color, gender and sexual orientation during an altercation, while cisgender white folks will only be targeted for orientation.
Throughout our history, we have been allies and also, at times, inhumane. Transwomen of color stood beside other members of the LGBTQIA-plus community in activism — and yet some of these women were booed off stages or ostracized by women assigned female of birth.
It’s time we think about the way we are allies.