Something that's been on my mind lately is 'what does it mean to be an Ally?'.

Here on GWJ it feels like there are a lot of allies to LGBTQ as demonstrated by action (at least on the forums) , however I'm not sure how many of you actually use that term. Whether you elect to use the term or not I'd like to hear what it means to you.

For members who are LGBTQ ; if someone says they're an ally what meaning does it carry for you?

My take is that it's largely a public statement of support. Personally I don't encounter many people using the term but when I do I tend to interpret it as 'support on all fronts'; actively voting in favor of things like gay marriage, actively educating against ignorance and stigma when the opportunity arises, and so on. The wiki page on 'straight ally' would seem to agree with this,

person who supports equal civil rights, gender equality, LGBT social movements, and challenges homophobia and transphobia

but I know better than to assume everyone follows the wikipedia definition.

There may be something deeper that I'm rooting for but this is an okay start for now, perhaps it will manifest itself with discussion.

This came up in IRC once and RNG linked to a blog post/article detailing requirements for being an ally. At the time I thought they were kind of strict but I was informed there's a difference between ally and supporter. That wiki definition looks closer to supporter, if I remember the conversation correctly.

I've always assumed "ally" to imply public support of some sort, while "supporter" can be more of a silent role (donations and such, for example).

RNG to the rescue: Five Attributes of Trans Allies

It's not really specific to trans allies, it can apply for any group I think.

I kind of want to open a smokehouse restaurant and name it LGBTQ.

My brother and I are straight, but began taking affirmative steps to assisting LGBT causes in colleges-my brother was one of the earliest members of Marquette's Gay Straight Alliance. We have together and separately attended protests, written letters to our elected officials. Sadly, I have since lost my ally lapel pin.

I see it as one of the two most overt institutional violations of civil rights in this country. The other one I seek to reform is quite less socially acceptable. And I hesitate to even mention it here, for how contentious it is.

Being an ally is kind of a tricky subject. There's a lot of bitterness at times due to messy situations where someone feels they're an ally, but the people they think they're allies to really don't agree. Sometimes that's motivated (look up the bitterness a lot of trans* people have for the HRC, for example). Sometimes it's that sort of bitterness spilling over on people who honestly would like to be good allies but don't really know how. Sometimes it's from a sense that people want to feel good about themselves by proclaiming themselves to be allies, but aren't likely to actually take any positive action.

I'd say that if you don't think you'd be willing to risk serious complications from being an ally, you're probably not an ally. A friend, maybe supportive. But not really an ally. Being an ally means being willing to stand up for people even when there's a cost.

That doesn't mean that you have to put yourself at massive risk. For example: considering that trans* people frequently hide their identity out of fear of serious repercussions, how can we ask our allies to not be careful of themselves as well? At the same time, though if you're in a position of privilege you can frequently speak up when it would be risky for someone marginalized to speak up for themselves. It's tricky to figure out the right way to do that that satisfies "speak up for us, don't speak for us". But, yeah, that's what you should aim for.

But yeah, don't call yourself an ally if you don't intend to take action. Don't call yourself an ally if the most you're willing to do is be someone to talk to in private. Be an ally and be willing to stand up for people who have a hard time standing up on their own. Be an ally if you're willing to trade the safety of your privilege for doing what you believe is right.

You're likely to get attacked at times by the people you're standing up for, but understand that this is because of trust being betrayed to cruelly and too often. If you keep at it, you will gain respect, because actions are what matter.

And honestly, if you can't deal with that level of criticism and suspicion, you're probably not willing to do what it takes to really be a good ally.

Of course, this all gets much much messier because people aren't sure what "ally" means. So a lot of people who don't plan on being anything more than supportive call themselves allies. And a lot of people who don't plan on anything more than tolerant call themselves supportive. And so on down the line.

Finally: If you're not willing to be an ally in fact, don't let that stop you from being as supportive as you can be, or as supportive as you can afford to be. You'll get respect from people for doing the best you can. (Just don't expect any extra credit if you don't go beyond treating people like human beings. That's the baseline, not any sort of accomplishment.)

Final note: Here's a story that demonstrates how someone can believe they're an ally but really really not be.

(And I hope that all didn't come across as too harsh, but... yeah. Like I said, there's a lot of bitterness out there. So don't try to sign up for ally status unless you're prepared for it. :D)

My wife was dubbed an ally of the NASA (Native American Sisters Alliance) at her university, but in that case it was because she doesn't have the heredity to be an official member but she was just as involved as if she were a member. I dunno if that helps.

Wow, I had no idea this was even a thing. I thought they were just terms for support. I didn't know there was actual criteria and that using a designation improperly could cause an angry reaction.

Eh. It's not so much that as that it depends on situation a lot, and what you're trying to say. There are some people who are like "I'm an ally" and want an award for it. Some people who people say "they're an ally" because they'll help. Sometimes organizations explicitly list "allies" as welcome members so that there isn't stupid politics over whether straight/etc. friends can come to meetings. Other times, allies are excluded from support groups because some people don't feel safe sharing their experiences with people outside the group.

(Those last two: I saw a discussion somebody was having elsewhere just today about their local campus LGBT org and questions of when allies were welcome and when they weren't, and the person sharing about this was primarily frustrated at all of the effort being spent on that question.)

And yeah, also related to the whole "being supportive is the trendy thing to do" sort of thing that comes up, and in general loss of queer/etc. spaces to such trends. (Like how a gay bar I've been to ends up with >80% straight cis people on nights that they have drag shows. Can't blame the bar for being okay with that, it's a lot of customers. But it is kind of frustrating to be a tourist attraction.) And the phenomenon described as "speaking for people" rather than "speaking up for people" in that other page. When the conversation about some marginalized group starts getting dominated by (usually not quite correct, even if partially correct) explanations from people outside that group, it's very very frustrating.

That kind of trend-following tends to result in surface support but no real lasting impact, as the mob moves on to the next big thing without many of them even starting to understand the first thing.


I guess the short form is: Don't be a [em]bad[/em] ally, don't expect a medal, and things are complicated.

Ah, that makes sense. I just hadn't thought of the politics of it but now that I do I definitely see the instances you're talking about of people not in a particular group taking over the discussion for that group. And yeah, I usually view that as a bad thing. Being PART of the discussion, great, but becoming the face of it? I dunno.

Yeah—it's a hard balance to strike: you want to use your privilege to lift up the voices of others, but at the same time you know there are people out there who will ignore their voices and listen to yours because of that privilege you have, etc.

And it can be hard to notice when you've gone to far. I'm always paranoid and trying to check and double-check myself with regards to feminist issues, for example: I know that because of my lived experience as a man, I have weird blind spots due to privilege that most women don't. So I want to be very very careful not to speak out of turn. And I know I don't always get it right.

I expect more from an ally than support while in friendly space. If someone calls themselves an ally then I expect their support when it isn't convenient.

I have called for the support of allies locally in regards to combating HIV stigma because there are people that will listen to them, but will ignore anything I have to say simply because I'm HIV+. Broadening the audience is the most powerful thing an ally can do... as long as their message is the same as those for whom they are speaking on behalf of.

I assume all my gay allies will attack anyone who breaks a treaty with me or launches a Planet Buster at one of my bases.

I assume this of my straight allies, too. Equality.

Bad assumption. Alexander will Declare War on you even when he says he's your ally. The nice thing is that he won't take it badly if you tell him after that he's not an ally after all. He's cool that way.

Bloo Driver wrote:

I assume all my gay allies will attack anyone who breaks a treaty with me or launches a Planet Buster at one of my bases.

Psh. It's easy to claim you're an ally when you live all the way in Iscandar.


Crap, does anybody remember if we chose "Alliance Victory" when we generated this universe? I'd hate to have to murder Hypatian, Phoenix Rev, and Rubb Ed once we finally defeat our opponents.

KingGorilla has built the United Nations.

Necro for question;
Can anyone recommend some good reading or watching material to share with well meaning people who don't understand the need to come out?

I know a few such individuals who do not openly oppose LGBTQ lifestyles but have an old fashioned notion along the lines of 'I don't know why they have to proclaim it'.

They seem to feel that, for example, a homosexual person could simply introduce their partner as their partner and leave it at that. I seem to be having difficulty expressing the internal and external importance of the act of coming out.

Then again as an asexual I tend to encounter difficulty explaining the need I feel for us to be out even to members of the LGBTQ community so maybe I'm not the best person to be tackling this endeavor on behalf of others.

Now Is the Time to Come Out
With same-sex marriage laws changing rapidly in the U.S., there’s never been a better time to come out. But is it safe for gay men and women yet?
(Samantha Allen, The Daily Beast, 2014-10-11)

This might be up your alley. Talks about the history of coming out a bit, in addition to the importance and also dangers of coming out in the modern U.S.

That all centers around the political visibility side of things: too many people assume that they know what gay (or bi, or trans, or whatever) people are like. If you don't tell people these things (come out), then you are [em]assumed to be straight, or cis, or whatever[/em]. When we stand up to be counted, people realize we're not what they expected, and they realize there are more of us than they thought, and they realize that they've known us all along. And those are important realizations.

There's more to those questions too, though, that I thought I'd mention:

One is the whole "proclaim it" thing--which tends to also get thrown around as "flaunting it" around simple PDAs between gay lovers. This leads to the obvious (but not obvious to people complaining at times) point that "if it's OK for hetero couples to show minor affection in public with a kiss on the cheek or by holding hands, it's patently unjust if non-hetero couples' equivalent affection is picked out as somehow "flaunting it".

And kind of related to both visibility and fair treatment: If somebody's in the closet, people will often feel free to make inappropriate comments around them. Off-color and offensive stuff about being bi, or gay, or trans, or whatever. And... that's a horrible place to be in. If somebody doesn't know you are X, and they make an offensive joke about X people, it's [em]way[/em] harder to point out that it was inappropriate than if you're openly X. (And... since as noted above, everybody assumes you're not X... yeah.) Of course, nobody should make comments like that [em]regardless[/em]. But it's extra hard when you're closeted. It's one of the worst feelings in the world.

Broadly, there are also problems with people making assumptions about the "default" case. If people don't see you with a (person they assume is an acceptable sexual partner), they might make attempts at setting you up on the mistaken assumption that you need that. Maybe they try to set you up with the wrong sort of people. Maybe they don't realize that you're not interested in being set up that way in any case. Regardless, it's easier to make it clear what's going on ahead of time than to have to explain it [em]after[/em] the preconception has happened.

In short: Queer folks will have to proclaim it for as long as people treat them as if they're not queer unless they do. It may not be offensive to assume that somebody is cishet. But that doesn't make it any less annoying.

krev82 wrote:

They seem to feel that, for example, a homosexual person could simply introduce their partner as their partner and leave it at that. I seem to be having difficulty expressing the internal and external importance of the act of coming out.

Then again as an asexual I tend to encounter difficulty explaining the need I feel for us to be out even to members of the LGBTQ community so maybe I'm not the best person to be tackling this endeavor on behalf of others.

"Sure, we treated the Blacks badly for centuries, but I don't see why they have to dwell on it so much, now that they have their rights..."

Spoken like a Cardinals fan...

Eh? No, I'm in Orioles/Nationals territory.

Robear wrote:

Eh? No, I'm in Orioles/Nationals territory. :-)

Haha - someone in the Ferguson thread pointed out that, when dealing with protestors at a game, Cardinals fans shouted (almost ver batim) your post above.

Oh, I didn't see that, sorry for not remaining au courant.

Robear wrote:

Oh, I didn't see that, sorry for not remaining au courant. :-)

Bet your Cards fans don't use such fancified French phrases.

I *knew* I should have gone with "au cormorant", but I didn't quite have faith in my audience.

Robear wrote:

I *knew* I should have gone with "au cormorant", but I didn't quite have faith in my audience.

I wouldn't have gotten it.

Actually, I thought you would have.