This post originally appeared on Maine Ethics. It was written by Emilie, an ethics, sustainability and social justice consultant, speaker and writer who has been working in the social justice field for over six years, and identifies as queer.
Throughout the blog, I will be using ‘LGBTQ+’ and ‘queer’ as terms to encompass many different identities, sexualities, and genders. It is important to ask people in your life/ in general, how they’d like to be called or identified as. For myself, queer is the word I feel most comfortable identifying myself as. For others, queer may feel uncomfortable. Respect what people tell you they prefer.
– Privilege: Privilege can be seen as a system in our society that benefits some people over others. Our world, due to many different oppressive factors, grants privilege to people because of certain aspects of their identity, which includes race, socio-economic class, gender, sexuality, language, religion, and even geographic region.
– LGBTQ+: A collection of different sexual and gender identities. Sometimes this acronym is replaced with “queer.”
– Queer: Queer is a general term for genders and sexualities that are not cisgender and/or heterosexual. It’s also a word with a frought history, and while some have reclaimed the word, others may not feel comfortable with it.
– Cis-gender: A term for someone who identifies as their biological sex that was assigned at birth.
– POC: Shortened term for ‘people of colour’ (anyone who is not white.)
I’m a queer woman who has spent many years thinking, studying and writing about queer people, queer history, and queer theory. When people asked me to write about how to be a queer ally, I had to sit back down and think about what being an ally to my community even means. As a white, able bodied, middle class, cisgender woman, I hold a lot of privilege, and therefore this blog won’t be a comprehensive source of how to be the best ally to the LGBTQ+ community, simply because the community is too large, diverse and full of intersecting identities to lump in to one easy way of being an ally. With each intersection of the queer community comes different types of ways to be an effective and active ally.
I think it’s important to first state that being an ally is not a label you can call yourself, simply because you have no opposition to queer people. Ally is an active term that requires an immense amount of work and is an ongoing processs. Allyship is about questioning and challenging yourself, and being willing to learn about the unintentional or intentional ways we contribute to injustice. It requires you having hard conversations, maybe even having hurt feelings, or uncomfortable realizations. You cannot be an ally simply because you state you’re one. You must show up every day and do the work. I’ve created a non-comprehensive list of ways you can start being a better ally to the LGBTQ+ community. It’s not intended to be all encompassing, but instead, a starting point to a lot of hard work.