What Does the "A" in LBGTIQ/A Really Stand For?
By Kelly Schweda, former LBGTIQ & Allies Task Force Planning Committee Member
Allies have played an important role in the history of many social justice movements. They work to end oppression and make positive, compassionate changes within the dominant cultures. It is easy to declare yourself an ally to LBGTIQ communities. However, really defining the role of being an ally and how we can fulfill that role can be a more difficult task.
In a recent discussion, the LBGTIQ/A task force tried to define and recognize the role and importance of allies to the community. We found several common ideas:
- Allies educate themselves on the culture of the community.
- Despite allies being outside of the community they remain supportive.
- Allies are always working on being mindful of their own privileges. They are willing to confront not only their own prejudices, but the prejudices they encounter from others.
- Allies have a compassionate listening ear. They strive to be open-minded.
- Allies can educate the public on the needs of the community.
- Allies can help keep the issues relative to LBGTIQ communities "on the table" constantly as they interact with the majority community.
- Allies remain supportive in their public and private lives.
- Allies are willing to recognize and learn from their mistakes.
When exploring your own role as an ally, it is important to look at your own personal prejudices that may inhibit your full support to LBGTIQ communities. Many times, these barriers and prejudices can prevent us from becoming compassionate and open-minded. Some personal areas to explore include:
- Fear of offending someone from the community you are trying to support.
- Not recognizing your own privilege as a member of the majority. Being oblivious to the many ways LBGTIQ communities are marginalized.
- Not growing or working through your own biases and emotions regarding these issues.
- Not knowing anyone within the community you are trying to support.
- Being fearful that people will label you as LBGTIQ if you are seen supporting their cause(s).
When faced with these barriers, it is important to reflect on your values and commitment to equality:
- Maintain a core belief that people should be treated with equal dignity and respect is key to becoming an ally. If you remain open and respectful, even if you make a mistake, it can be used to help you grow and become more self-aware.
- Recognize your personal experience with the communities you are trying to support. Many allies begin with supporting a friend or loved one.
- Educate yourself on the myths and facts of the communities you are trying to support. This knowledge will assist you in confronting prejudices and misconceptions that the LBGTIQ communities face.
- Commit to being an ally. Remain open, honest and willing to talk and listen.
As an ally, I know I will make mistakes. However, I also know that I am part of bigger movement to end oppression. So, the "A" in LBGTIQ/A belongs exactly where it is. Right along side the community allies strive to support.