In 2020 going into 2021, the word ‘ally’ has been used a lot. Overall, it means someone who supports a cause or a group of people. In this case, we will be discussing what it means in terms of the LGBTQIA+ community. Being an ally is more than being not against the community; it means much more. Most importantly, allies need to speak up for the community. Not everyone can speak up for themselves, whether that is that they are not safe if they speak up, or if they don’t feel comfortable speaking up, it is still the case. Even though same-sex marriage is legalized in the U.S, it does not mean that all issues are eradicated. Conversion ‘therapy,’ trans rights, and social issues are still oppressing the community. This does not mean that you have to go to every march or sign every petition. It can be as little as just being there for people in the community. Know that everybody makes mistakes, and it is not the job of an ally to correct people every chance they get. Thankfully, there are many allies at Lowell High and worldwide, but we still need more voices to make more positive changes.
Many things are acceptable and aren’t acceptable to say to do regarding the LGBT+ community. You should avoid many words, including ‘decide,’ ‘choose,’ and ‘become.’ These imply that what someone identifies as is a choice. Finding yourself is a long and complicated process that the vast majority of people go through. On a related note, do not refer to someone’s pronouns as their preferred pronouns. If somebody wants to use a certain pronoun, then use those pronouns; it is not their preference; it is who they are. Not everybody feels comfortable sharing their pronouns, and that also needs to be respected. Many assumptions are made about the LGBTQIA+ community. An infamous assumption is that if someone is in a heterosexual relationship, both parties are heterosexual (the same principle goes for people in homosexual relationships). Although some people’s sexuality may match the relationship that they are in, this does NOT mean that it is true for every case. Just know that the community is not responsible for educating everybody. We don’t have every single answer. Nobody does.
Thank you to everyone who had submitted questions for the GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) to answer during one of our weekly meetings. Please note that these are the answers of fellow students, so these answers may not be true for everybody. We tried to think as objectively as possible.
Q: What should you do if you don’t use someone else’s correct pronouns?
A: Just apologize and move on. Don’t make a big deal out of it.
Q: What should you do if someone else uses the wrong pronouns?
A: If it is an accident, wait for the person who made a mistake to correct themself. If they don’t, then you can. Make sure that the person is okay with you correcting the pronouns (just ask them beforehand). If the person being referred to is there in the conversation, let them handle it, but if they aren’t, then make sure that they’re comfortable with everyone knowing what their pronouns are, and if they are comfortable with that, correct them.
Q: What questions are/aren’t okay to ask?
A: If you are going to ask something, always start with “if you are okay with answering…”. Don’t get too personal. NEVER ask someone about what is ‘in their pants’!!! Certain people are more comfortable answering questions compared to others. When in doubt, if you don’t know if something is appropriate or not, don’t say it.
Q: Do you have to know someone who is part of the community to be an ally? Do you have to be part of the community to be an ally?
Q: How do I support someone?
A: Talk to them. Ask what you can do to help them, even if that means not doing anything—volunteer to help them figure things out if they are still questioning. Don’t overdo it either. Give them the space they need to find themselves. Just listen, be patient. There are a time and a place to talk to them, though.
Q: Does being an ally come with social responsibilities?
A: Yes, absolutely. (See article above.)
Q: What should you do if your friend isn’t safe where they are because of their identity?
A: Ask them what they need from you. Make sure that they are physically safe. If they are in danger, seek help from a trusted adult; but if it comes down to it, call 9-1-1. The friend can also go to thehotline.org for a domestic violence live chat or call. Make sure that your friend is okay with you, calling for assistance.
Q: What’s the difference between someone’s gender and sex?
A: Sex is more about the physical body. Gender is more of a brain or feelings side. The expression is a whole other category.
Q: What is the bi umbrella? What does it cover?
A: It is the overall term for people who identify with sexuality or romantic preference attracted to multiple genders. Bisexuality, in itself, is a spectrum, like most things are.
Q: What does gender-blind mean?
A: Gender-blind is when someone does not see someone’s gender in terms of attraction.
Q: What are some things that most people don’t think are offensive but actually are towards the LGBTQ+ community?
A: Calling trans ppl a third gender. Assuming ppl are gay if they’re in gay relationships and straight in straight relationships (bi+ ppl exist). Conflating romance with sex. Slurs are offensive, calling things gay or saying “I identify as a [random object]” as a rebuttal for respecting pronouns some of these things people don’t realize that they’re offensive. ‘Acting gay.’ ‘Are you the guy or girl in the relationship?’ Assuming that two people of different genders are attracted to each other. Overall, stereotypes.
Q: What’s it like at a pride parade?
A: It is a colorful fiesta of fun. It makes you feel like you are really part of something, which feels amazing. We are allowed to be ourselves. We are surrounded by people who understand what it is like to be us, which is hard to come by. Simply put, ‘AWESOME.’
Q: Do people in groups ever feel like they are targeted in conversations?
A: Sometimes. It depends on the friends that we are in the group with. Very few people enjoy being the constant spokesperson for the community. The worst is when someone mentions something about the community, and everyone turns to you, waiting for your reaction; it’s awkward and makes us feel uncomfortable.
Q: How do you feel about gay jokes/ memes?
A: When people say stuff like no homo or that’s so gay, it’s rude. Depends on the context. As for gay jokes/memes, it’s okay if someone is making a joke about something that applies to them, but you can’t make a joke about another group of people (like straight cis people can’t make jokes about the transgender and gay community).
Q: Any tips on how to find your gender identity?
A: Experiment and research. Find what you are most comfortable with. You can ask some of your friends to start calling you by a different name or use different pronouns; go with whatever makes you feel like your best self. There is no rush to finding your identity. Know that you do not have to have a label.
Q: How did you come out to your parents? When did you know it was the right time?
A: There are millions of ways to come out to parents. There is no ‘right time.’ When you feel comfortable and safe, that would be the best circumstance. Know ahead of time that they are going to ask questions. A good recommendation would be to take them on the journey of finding yourself together. This does not work for everyone, but it does help with the overall process. Pro tip: do NOT do it in a car.
Q: Is it scary coming out to part of your family that probably won’t support you?
A: Yes, it is terrifying. You are putting yourself out on a limb and hoping that your family will still love you. It is different for everybody, but it is a nerve-racking experience that everyone should take seriously.