Are You an Ally?

This month I am participating in The Blogging from A to Z Challenge with over 1600 other bloggers. Being a part of this challenge extends my support of fellow bloggers and allows me an active opportunity to connect with a larger community. From the title of the challenge, it's obvious that we're all going through the alphabet. Today is the letter A. What better way to kick off this challenge than to talk about the importance of being an Ally, with a capitol A.

Specifically, I am talking about being an Ally for the Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, and Intersex (LGBTQI) community. This is more than just quietly supporting the human rights of your LGBTQI family and friends. An ally is someone who takes an active role.

Jack Antonoff, member of the band Steel Train, recently wrote about the challenges and reality of being an Ally at The Huffington Post, Straight Allies: The Importance and The Realities,

A large part of being an ally is establishing ourselves within our social and professional circles as people who will not tolerate homophobia in any form or under any circumstance. This is also, in many ways, the hardest part. It goes without saying that bringing up weighty issues can be awkward in social situations -- even more so, standing up to a colleague or a friend.

Antonoff further points out the social stigma that is often placed on straight people who openly and loudly support equality for the LGBTQI community. It's not an easy role to wear every day. We often hear about the difficulties that LGBTQI people face and our Allies need to know how much their support is appreciated.

My academic background is steeped in Gender and American Culture studies.  Early in my academic career I learned that history is full of people who stand up for the rights of others, even in the face of being condemned themselves. What I learned from personal experience is that change happens one person at a time and often accompanies personal risk.

One of my favorite bloggers is Jacob Woods (Good As Gay), a young scholar, who has keen insight and thoughts on being queer and about the queer community. Jacob recently attended a training program for creating safe zones that are free of homophobic rhetoric. I am always impressed by Jacob's ability to articulate theories in a way that is approachable for the non-academic. He wrote about the safe zone training, The Making of a Straight Ally - Part One

Basically, in regards to queer issues, if the social norms surrounding queers are thought to be unhealthy and immoral, then that status quo remains intact. However, if they find out that their peers think otherwise, they too will begin to think otherwise about groups of people or about other behaviors and assumptions associated with other peers. Ally trainings aim to enlighten individuals about what their peers truly think by tapping into that silent and often times anxious majority.

And this is where being an ally moves from passive to active. It is one thing to be part of the population who silently support equality. Allies are most effective when they are public and project what they believe through their daily interactions with others. The more that allies stand up, and share their views in a rational and reasonable manner, the more the acceptance of those views spread.

An individual can often make the difference in one person's life through the simple act of saying "Yes, I accept you unconditionally." An ally can positively effect many people by being an active role model in their own local community. This active participation opens dialogue for other people to join and add to the growing global movement toward support of a marginalized group.

History has shown us it works successfully. So, are you an Ally?