Allying 101

I’m one of those kids that falls at the very end of the LGBTQIA spectrum–an ally. If you’re not using the alphabet soup acronym, this basically means that I’m a straight kid who hangs out at GSA/Pride events because it bums me out that my friends from the first chunk of the acronym don’t get treated the same way I do. In college, this has worked out pretty well–the Pride kids support the feminist programming that I try to get pushed on campus, and I’ve made some entertaining, progressive friends through the club (plus I met my roommate for next year there, so that’s a plus).

But it wasn’t like this at my high school’s GSA. There, the club managed to be almost nothing but allies, and the LGBTQI kids split from the club because the allies , though well-intentioned, weren’t exactly providing the support they needed to. So, with that in mind, here’s a list of what I’ve learned about the etiquette of being an ally:

  1. Don’t freak out if someone assumes that you’re not straight: As an ally, you’re actually not the primary intended audience for the club. When people come into a GSA/Pride group, they’re typically assumed to be LGBTQI until they identify as something else–just like they’re probably assumed to be straight until proven otherwise in every other situation. Don’t freak out if other people make the pretty reasonable assumption that that’s why you’re in the club. If someone brings it up, the right way to correct them is something along the lines of, “I’m actually here as an ally,” not, “Ohmygod, why would you think that? I’m cool with gay people, but I’m straight.” Freaking out implies that you’re intolerant.
  2. Don’t try to control the agenda: Again, as much as you may be excited about joining a progressive organization whose goals you care about, you don’t get to control what the group wants. If the club on your campus is more focused on acting as a support group rather than an advocacy organization, that’s their prerogative. If they want to deal with getting gender neutral housing on campus rather than working towards gay marriage, there’s a reason. Feel free to ask why the priorities are what they are, but be aware that if something seems like a big deal to the non-ally club members but not to you, you’re probably rocking some straight privilege. Read the rest of this entry »