During Pride month, we tend to give a lot of airspace to the conversation of being “good allies” to the LGBTQIA+ community. But what does this really mean? How does one officially “become” an ally? What does it require?
Oftentimes, folks who believe they have the best intentions (more on this later) are looking for a direct and easy course of action to take on the road of allyship. We search for a quick, five-step plan that doesn’t ask too much of us, but just enough for us to feel we’ve “done something.” More often than we would like to admit, at least some of our motivation to act is grounded in a fear of being judged if we don’t act, and not being perceived as a “good person.” And while the terror of being a bad person is deeply human, it does nothing for others; this will never fuel a movement of change.
Many of the allyship initiatives we see across issue areas and movements fall short in a number of ways. The first is that actions that fail to be specific enough will not reach the people who need prioritising the most. Are you prioritising queer people, but not specifying queer people of colour, who experience multiple forms of oppression daily? Are you specifying women of colour, but not specifying Trans women of colour, who face a startling degree of violence and discrimination? When we fail to specify, we fail to be intersectional. When we fail to be intersectional, our actions fail to have the needed impact.
The second way our allyship efforts can fall short is by failing to take a risk. True solidarity has a cost. It asks us, as allies, to give something up. It asks us to recognise that holding onto whatever form of power we may have, that which is unearned, is not worth the continued marginalisation of others. Put simply, we “allies” must pay the cost of our comfort for the deeply worthy work of ensuring more safety and wellbeing for others. This cost must be paid both intangibly and materially, via hard (and consistent) conversations with ourselves, with family members who “grew up in a different time” and by giving time, money, and other resources.
If you’re doing something in search of being awarded with the title of “good ally,” it might be worth exploring if you’re doing it for the right reasons. You cannot self appoint yourself as an ally; only those of the marginalised communities in question have that ability.
The aim is not, and never should be, “allyship.” The vision is care, well-being, and material change for all.
If the above words strike discomfort or upset, we invite you to lean into the discomfort- and stay there. Welcome to the beginning of what we hope is the long, uncomfortable, and beautiful work.