Did you know that the Pride Month is celebrated every June to commemorate the Stonewall Riots of 1969? These riots broke out as a retaliation for the police attack on Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York's Greenwich Village. Having faced years of discrimination and harassment at the hands of authority, the gay folks couldn't take the idea of even their secret haunts being raided by the police. The agitation found an escape through riots that lasted for three days and keep resonating to date. The riots paved the way for the subsequent LGBTQ movements and the formation of organisations that strengthened the movement like never before.
The purpose of starting my story with this piece of information is not to educate you about Pride Month or the LGBTQIA+ community (you'd have to do it yourself), but to signpost the spirit in which allyship for the community needs to be approached. This Pride Month, as the celebrations go virtual, the LGBTQ+ community needs your allyship more than ever. And while fact-checking, like we just did, is an important stepping stone for the newly initiated, there's still so much more that needs to be done.
In fact, chances are you might have called yourself an ally all this while and still must have continued to indulge in actions counter-productive to the LGBTQ+ discourse. To help you with the same, we have thus compiled a list of ways in which you can work towards becoming a better ally to the LGBTQ+ fam. Read on:
To really understand the space that someone else comes from it’s very important to evaluate your own as the first step. If your identity as a man or a woman is in alliance with the sex assigned to you at birth, it makes you a cis (cisgender) person and irrespective of the fact that we take it for granted, this identity comes with a ton of privileges. From personal expression to marriage rights, we are talking about the kind of privileges that you would not be able to imagine your life without. And yet they are privileges when you compare your life with so many in the LGBTQIA+ umbrella.
‘Hey, I am reading this article to become an ally, how can I be prejudiced?!?!’ one might ask. Well, there are a plethora of ways in which our prejudices and conditioning manifest themselves. Thus, seeking to be an ally for the cool gay person in your office but flinching from the idea of the transgender person who shows up all decked up is also prejudice. When you seek to be an ally, you have to be an ally to everyone, irrespective of their sex or gender. Understand that a true ally wouldn’t discriminate on the basis of sex, colour or gender expression.
Besides being the Pride Month, June also happens to be the month in which same-sex marriages were legalised in the US in 2015. Imagine, it took the LGBTQ+ community almost half a century to legally pursue one of the most human needs: companionship! Sadly in India, same-sex marriage is yet to be legalised. Educating yourself about their history is important to actually associate with their cause. Read about the concept of “social constructs,” gender makeup, and the history of oppression that all of this comes with. Read why the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 isn't what it sounds like, read about how it curbs so many of their rights instead of empowering them. To be an ally, it is important to know their story as well as their collective history. Also, don't seek them to educate you on the same, do it for yourself.
Most of us have grown up in a heteronormative society where pronounces like “he,” “she,” “him,” “her,” keep reigning the narrative. However, your education about the queer community would quickly teach you about the other pronouns that exist, “they,” “them,” “zer” to name a few. Now, since it is new to you don’t freak out if you don’t know what pronoun someone would like to be addressed with. You can always politely ask them. And in case, you end up using the wrong one, apologise sincerely, correct yourself and don't embarrass them by making a huge deal out of it.
As an ally, your aim should be to support the LGBTQ+ community and amplify their voice when they raise it. You don’t come from the space of prejudice and injustice that they come from and that’s why you cannot tell their stories the way they would. Thus, cheer for them when they take up space, amplify these narratives but make sure you don’t overpower them.
Being an ally does not just mean you accept and support the LGBTQ+ community. It also means that you educate and sensitise those who don’t. I have been in a year-long conversation on the topic with my mom now and while we have come quite far, she still has a long way to go. The entire idea of allyship goes obsolete if you don’t educate those who refuse to listen to the community or accept them as equals.
Okay, this might sound counter-productive but this is an integral step towards recognising the LGBTQ+ folks as one of you. Let them be human, let them have their flaws, cut them some slack, and let them disappoint you or make amends when need be. Also, let them disappoint you when it comes to their image in your head (all thanks to stereotypical media representations). Let them be humans. Just, let them be.
Lastly, this Pride Month, join them in their virtual celebrations by floating message of support, cheer, and their unyielding spirit. Remember, every bit counts.
Featured Image: Instagram