The only way one can truly show support and be an ally is by listening, not taking up space, and forever acknowledging the perspectives of members of the LGBTQIA+ community. It’s time that we move away from basic performative activism and engage with a shift in our collective behaviour.
One of the most profound things to keep in mind as an ally who expresses vehement support for the LGBTQIA+ community, especially if you’re a cis het person, is that your support should not take up space. Your encouraging actions, a constant willingness to educate yourself must not operate from a realm of a high moral ground.
It’s relatively easier to inculcate surface-level knowledge, engage in performative activism while ignoring the significant microaggressions that we unconsciously partake in.
Celebrating pride month, actively showing support to your friends from the community, sharing personal gender pronouns in your bio as a means to make other members, especially trans people feel inclusive and safe enough to do the same; these are equally important and perhaps a stepping stone toward unlearning exclusionary tendencies.
What really matters however, when one proclaims themselves as an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community is a more action-based approach. Calling out problematic jokes which are surprisingly persistent as inherent tendencies entrenched within all of us when it comes to referring to people from the community.
More than that, there needs to be an aggressive removal of a sense of entitlement that most straight people succumb to when they feel that people from the community are answerable to them and should constantly serve to clarify all their doubts, however disturbing or uncalled for those might be.
“ I hope people realise that it’s absolutely wrong to use your friends from the community as your dictionaries, asking them personal questions, concepts, information about certain identities, even when they’re not answerable, are uncomfortable, or simply exhausted. Please educate yourselves.”-Anonymous
As humans first, the mental, emotional and bodily autonomy is sacrosanct and we must realise that people from the community should never become subjects of discussion or scrutiny without explicit and enthusiastic consent.
This shows how being an ally must include fighting internalised and external sense of problematic tendencies that express themselves in everyday life, through routine friendships and conversations. At the same time, realising, acknowledging and duly validating the varied experiences of the community from all backgrounds and never taking up the space that belongs solely to them.
Moreover, the existing narrative around being an ally to a great extent, begins and ends with rainbow capitalism. There seems to be an influx of visually vibrant and almost jarring illustrations during pride month, especially published by big corporations and brands that otherwise seem to be silent when it comes to supporting LGBTQIA+ rights in practical, routine life. It becomes a marketing gimmick to sideline their otherwise regressive opinions and operationalities.
“ There’s nothing wrong with rainbows and colours associated with pride month per se, but having every post related to the community with a rainbow design-it seems like as if the only way you can think queer people are going to read your views is by plastering colours on it. It also unconsciously underlines the tendency of cishet people to restrict their understanding of queer problems to the upper-caste sections of society, ignoring how poorer LGBTQIA+ people and bahujans can face graver consequences for the same activities an upper-caste/privileged person from the community would mildly get away with.”– Anonymous, Bi and Non-Binary person
We need to consciously and consistently acknowledge the fact that there’s a lot of undoing that needs to be done as a society. Most importantly, this undoing and willingness to better the world we live in mustn’t evolve out of a state of obligation or with the mindset of engaging in some sort of social good but rather a necessity and a staunch requirement to let a community exist and be their actual selves.
A big chunk of our allyship and support seems restricted to social media platforms, without it actually manifesting in real life, especially when it comes to trivialising experiences of the community. Fetishising members from the community, cracking jokes because they somehow gratify you, such things operate and express themselves through our unconscious, eventually shaping the larger behaviour of the society we live in.
“ Look, I’m an ally, you must consider me one also now-this entire narrative is disturbing and problematic. So many sex positive people are transphobic, so many friends and family members are ‘woke’ as long as it isn’t someone in their immediate circle.”-Anonymous
With the celebration of Pride month, a lot of us, if you’re a cishet individual and an ally, might feel the need to express our opinions, share experiences, and drive the conversation forward. What needs to be realised is that this month is all about being sensitive, giving paramount importance to our abilities to listen. Pride isn’t something that big corporations and advertising companies need to vandalise and take over.
As Sukhnidh Kaur aka Pavemented rightly puts it; “A lot of pride is about grief and staying resilient despite it. Pride is whatever your queer friends want it to be, or rather need it to be, this year.”
There’s so much work that needs to be done. Support indeed begins with us, but what is also needed is stringent institutional backing and change. Our society has become redundant. It’s high time we change the way we perceive, think, and treat others through our interpersonal or surface interactions; respecting their autonomy in all aspects be it physical, emotional, mental, political, or economic.
- The Very Gay Love Letters of Vita Sackville West and Virginia Woolf
- Pride & Prejudice: In Conversation with the Queer Straight Alliance (QSA)
- Pride and Prerogative: Interplay of Identity and Intersectionality
Feature Image Credits: learningforjustice.org