The Anatomy of LGBT Allyship
We’re going to have to dig a little deeper than that and acknowledge that there’s still wiggle room left for your allyship to be taken to the next level.
Art by Jill Arteche
The Anatomy of LGBT Allyship
Dani Avanzado (The Philippine Star) - June 22, 2019 - 12:00am

Supporting the people closest to you who identify as LGBT goes beyond love and understanding — it’s a matter of self-education and conviction, too.

MANILA, Philippines — We’re talking about LGBT allyship because it’s 2019 and we’re tired of the silence and the “othering” of our community. There are undoubtebly people who still think homophobia is “just an opinion” they can have and there are still people who are under the impression that being vocally accepting or tolerant of your LGBT friends and family are equivalent to allyship. Breaking news: it’s not.

We’re going to have to dig a little deeper than that and acknowledge that there’s still wiggle room left for your allyship to be taken to the next level. If you want to be an LGBT ally, you’re going to need to understand that this is going to take some measure of self re-education so you can see for yourself if you’re going about this in a way that’s productive and helpful.

It starts with reframing how you think (which is arguably step one for all of us!); begin with examining your intentions, and then make a conscious effort from here on out to expand your definition of good LGBT allyship, because there is such a thing.

There are plenty of ways to show that you’re a good ally! One of the first is to get rid of the notion that we need to check in on you and validate your allyship. There’s a difference between being loud and proud for us and being heard just so that people can see that you’re an ally. Know that there is such as a thing as self-serving and performative allyship. People will claim that they “protect the LGBT community” or people can say that they accept us and love us but refuse to acknowledge that they may still be doing things or saying things that are, in truth, actually harmful.

This is not something to be afraid of. We’ve heard it before; we get things wrong sometimes — even people within our own community. Trust me, an ally’s willingness to learn from mistakes and correct them — their own discernment, their understanding — is going to go a long way.

Here are some other ways you can get the ball rolling and get a head start:

Read up and keep lines of communication open. There are several books and resources online touching on allyship and the LGBT experience. We’re not saying that the internet is the mother of all information, but it helps to want to begin this conversation in the first place. Maybe start by looking things up or even ask us! We’re not obligated to be your teachers, but if you want to come forward and talk to us about it — we’re all ears. It’s better that we know you’re willing to learn from us (our pronouns, maybe our issues), than for you to assume that what you’ve discovered by yourself is the only authority on our experiences. That’s the last thing we’d want to hear. Especially from someone who claims to champion our causes.

Think about where you stand. Confront your own biases and your understanding of the LGBT experience. Oftentimes, it’s uncomfortable seeing beyond “Oh, I love their company” or “Well, it seems like they’re fine now; it should be okay.” Sometimes, we don’t realize the big blaring “but…” still tacked on at the end of the sentence which is usually followed by “…he can be too flamboyant” or “…I wish she acted more like a girl” or “…when will they stop complaining about how we show support — sinusuportahan na nga ayaw pa!”

Rally our causes. Take it to the streets! Rally with us! Hold politicians accountable! Hold your supervisors accountable! Hold each other accountable! Understand that marriage isn’t the only barrier or only issue that the LGBT community has struggled with over the years (although wouldn’t it be great if it were). In fact, the issues we face every day don’t magically disappear after laws pass to legalize unions in our community — it doesn’t even stop when laws are created to protect us. Until now, we struggle to be fully and unconditionally accepted instead of being just tolerated. As far as legislation goes, our basic rights are still up in the air. We need you to help us get the point across — that we deserve rights as much as you do.

Normalize. That said, help us get rid of that “otherness” often associated with differing sexual orientations and genders. Heterosexuality is not the standard. It helps when you’ve expressed early on that you’re not the type to make loose assumptions about people’s genders or preferences. Creating these kinds of spaces for us gives us great comfort. Being in the LGBT community shouldn’t seem like a consequence or a nuisance or that there are only “certain gays that are okay”; it just happens, we exist, we deserve to be here.

Push back. At a family dinner, you hear your Tito or Tita offhandedly throw out an “Ay bakla pala si John. Sayang.” (Or worse, I’m sure.) Don’t let it slide! Try to correct them. I know it takes energy and emotional labor to do so; trust us, we know. Sometimes we even lose the will to correct these microaggressions ourselves because it happens over, and over, and — you get the point. It’s not Tita just being Tita  — we all know it’s not. It’s Tita being close-minded, it’s Tito not understanding that these small “no offense meant” comments are actually offensive, and more often than not, they do hurt.

Reach out. You can reach out to us. You can also check yourself before you overstep, and then give us the floor and the room to explain. Once you’ve helped us build the platform, once we’ve cultivated that environment together, we can work together and keep ourselves in check.

Reinforce the idea that it definitely matters. Please. Help us correct the idea that “Kahit ano naman si ano, okay lang yan — pare-pareho naman tayong tao” or “Gay, straight, bi, we’re all the same!” or “Gawa na lang kasi sila (trans community members) ng sarili nilang category! Wag sila sumali sa pambabae or panglalaki.” Confusing? Maybe. But here’s where we can start delving even deeper. We can be inclusive, yes, but comments like those are dismissive and harmful. It’s true that we love who we love and that we can be who we want to be all the same — but we shouldn’t forget to acknowledge that the right to do so has not come easy (it hasn’t yet, really).

Implicitly, people think that these are all consequences and inconveniences brought about by being part of the LGBT community or knowing somebody who is. Well, they’re not and they shouldn’t be. I’m sure some of you know this by now. You can be guilty of having thoughts like this, but what separates you from all the people who still think like this is that you caught yourself, and that you don’t see things this way anymore. We have no time to linger around you being apologetic. Just correct yourself and move along, so we can move forward together. When all is said and done, it’s enough to listen, to understand, and for us to feel like we’re being heard.

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