Let’s be real, lez be real, as a self-identified queer woman, I can say with some authority, it’s hard to find good allies. But as someone who knows and loves many members of the straight community, I know it’s even harder to be a good ally. Being an ally to a minority group means constantly checking your privilege as a non-member of that group. It’s not enough to just sympathize with people in the queer community; “having gay friends” just doesn’t cut it. In order to be a true ally you have to educate yourself. You have to do all you can to understand what it is to be other. You also have to know that you will never understand what it is like to be other, at least not in the context of being queer. You may have parts of yourself that help you empathize with the queer experience, but acknowledging your majority identity is essential to being an ally. It is a constant endeavor that requires patience, selflessness, and humility. It is an act of love. It is no small order. Although we certainly have a long way to go, it is because of our allies that we have made such strides in visibility, acceptance, and respect for queer individuals.
So the real question is, how can allies check their majority privilege? RESEARCH. Find out everything you can about your queer friends’ experiences. The more you educate yourself, the more you will come to see all the privileges you have that you might take for granted, and in turn all the rights and considerations your queer counterparts are denied. Take a gender studies class – read the theories and literature that started a revolution. Watch queer movies and TV; they are not always the best quality-wise, but they’re great if you want to learn some gay and lesbian slang, get our perspective on our own history, gain a little insight on how queer sex works, etc. (You might also notice the amount of gay and lesbian representation versus all other queer identities – hierarchies of acceptance/representation/validity!!) Watch YouTube channels of queer individuals; they are becoming such a valuable resource – a wealth of free, mostly reliable, first-hand information. Where else can you get that?? There is such a great community available on YouTube, it really is a cultural phenomenon. READ BLOGS LIKE THESE! Hopefully my own writing can serve as a resource, but if not, then I recommend everyoneisgay.com. They are awesome and super down to earth, and they will answer your questions! BLAM! Research done. (Of course I would also be happy to answer anyone’s questions, they just have a much wider reach.) Lastly, TALK TO YOUR QUEER FRIENDS! Nine times out of ten when someone asks me a question about being queer I am flattered and absolutely willing to answer as best I can.
Once you have done all that SHARE WHAT YOU’VE LEARNED, share whenever possible – especially in all-straight situations. Do you have any idea what kind of impact a straight person speaking up for queers can have on other straight people? You know what else would make a splash? If you as a straight person made yourself visible as an ally. Go to pride events, go to your local gay-straight alliance meetings, make yourself known in queer community. That way you’ll not only be known and respected as a queer ally in the straight community, but more importantly in the queer community.
Although I identify as queer, that doesn’t mean I automatically possess an infinite database of all things queer. I went through my own journey becoming a trans* ally, in which I had to consciously educate myself. A lot of what I know now I learned by talking with my friends who were trans*; I was fortunate in that I had a fairly accessible community of trans* people to whom I could go with questions, and they were comfortable enough to share their experiences with me. However, there is only so much they were willing to share, so some of my research had to be done independently. The key to doing this kind of research is sensitivity. You have to remember, it is not your queer friends’ job to educate you. You have to find that balance between what’s respectful curiosity/genuine interest and what is just too personal. My friend has a really awesome YouTube channel, which I know has been an amazing resource for not only me but a lot of other people, where he really puts his experiences out there in a wonderfully personal way. Something like that is great because you’re still getting that personal connection that a class or a book maybe can’t give you, but it’s all information that he is willing and happy to share.
My last question is, should allies be included in the LGBT community? They are sometimes included as an add-on to the acronym: LGBTQQA… but do queer people accept allies enough to consider them queer? Well this queer person does. Being an ally actively aligns oneself to the queer community, takes a stand against heteronormativity, and effectively queers what it is to be straight. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a super-queer duck.