KNOWhomo’s April Opinion/ Insight Question:
What’s the best “(lgbtq)” advice you have ever been given?
How To Be An Ally If You Are A Person of Privilege
By: Frances E. Kendall, Ph.D. (PDF here)
One way to work for social justice is as an ally. The gay and lesbian community realized ten or fifteen years ago that, without the help of straight allies, gays and lesbians don’t have the clout needed to fight heterosexist and homophobic legislation. Gradually the call for allies has spread to other communities in which discrimination is systemic.
What it means to be an ally varies greatly from person to person. For some, it means building a relationship of love and trust with another; for others, it means intentionally putting one’s self in harm’s way so that another person remains safe. Each type of alliance has its own parameters, responsibilities, and degrees of risk. For example, being an ally to someone who is in a less privileged position than I am requires different work than is necessary if the person has privileges like mine. There are also a variety of styles that an ally can use. Some of us are bold and audacious, others are more reserved. The common bond is that we align ourselves with a person or people in such a way that we “have their backs.”
Those of us who have been granted privileges based purely on who we are when born (as white, as male, as straight, and so forth) often feel that either we want to give our privileges back, which we can’t really do, or we want to use them to improve the experiences of those who don’t have our access to power and resources. One of the most effective ways to use our privilege is to become an ally of those on the other side of the privilege seesaw. This type of alliance requires a great deal of self-examination on our part as well as the willingness to go against the people who share our privilege status and with whom we are expected to group ourselves.
[Note: In the following descriptions of ally behavior, the governmental term “target groups” refers to those who are at greatest risk of being targeted for discrimination, e.g., people of color, women, gays and lesbians, people with disabilities, and so on.]
1. Allies work continuously to develop an understanding of the person and institutional experiences of the person or people with whom they are aligning themselves. If the ally is a member of a privileged group, it is essential that he or she also strives for clarity about the impact of privileges on his or her life.
2. Allies choose to align themselves publicly and privately with members of target groups and respond to their needs. This may mean breaking assumed allegiances with those who have the same privileges as you. It is important not to underestimate the consequences of breaking these agreements and to break them in ways that will be most useful to the person or group with whom you are aligning yourself.
3. Allies believe that it is in their interest to be allies and are able to talk about why this is the case. Talking clearly about having is an important educational tool for others with the same privileges.
4. Allies are committed to the never-ending personal growth required to be genuinely supportive. If both people are without privilege it means coming to grips with the ways that internalized oppression affects you. If you are privileged , uprooting long-held beliefs about the way that the world works will probably be necessary.
5. Allies are able to articulate how various patterns of oppression have served to keep them in privileged positions or to withhold opportunities they might otherwise have. For many of us, this means exploring and owning our dual roles as oppressor and oppressed, as uncomfortable as that might be.
6. Allies expect to make some mistakes but do not use that as an excuse for inaction. As a person with privilege, it is important to study and to talk about how your privilege acts as both a shield and blinders for you. Of necessity, those without privileges in a certain area know more about the specific examples of privilege than those who are privileged.
7. Allies know that those on each side of an alliance hold responsibility for their own changes, whether or not people on the other side choose to respond or to thank them. They are also clear that they are doing this work for themselves, not to “take care of” the other.
8. Allies know that, in the most empowered and genuine ally relationships, the persons of privilege initiate the change toward personal, institutional, and societal justice and equality.
9. Allies promote a sense of inclusiveness and justice in the organization, and hold greater responsibility for seeing changes throughout their conclusions.
10. Allies with privilege are responsible for taking the lead in changing the organization, helping to create an environment that is hospitable for all.
11. Allies are able to laugh at themselves as they make mistakes and at the real, but absurd, systems of supremacy in which we all live. As many oppressed people know, humor is a method of survival. Those with privilege must be very careful not to assume that we can join in the humor of those in a target group with whom we are in alliance.
12. Allies understand that emotional safety is not a realistic expectation if we take our alliance seriously. For those with privilege, the goal is to “become comfortable with the uncomfortable and uncomfortable with the too-comfortable” and to act to alter the too-comfortable.
13. Allies know the consequences of not being clear about the other’s experience. Some of these are:
• Lack of trust
• Lack of authentic relationships
• Lack of foundation for coalition
For allies with privilege, the consequences of being unclear are even greater. Because our behaviors are rooted in privilege, those who are in our group give greater credence to our actions than they might if we were members of groups without privilege
Research Websites You (Should) Know
KNOWhomo’s April Opinion/ Insight Question:
What’s the best “(lgbtq)” advice you have ever been given?
LGBTQ* Theory Books (You May Want) To Know
- Queer Theory, Gender Theory - Riki Wilchins
- Feminism is Queer: The Intimate Connection between Queer and Feminist Theory - Mimi Marinucci
Mad for Foucault: Rethinking the Foundations of Queer Theory (Gender and Culture) - Lynne Huffer
- Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity - Judith Butler
Queer Indigenous Studies: Critical Interventions in Theory, Politics, and Literature (First Peoples: New Directions in Indigenous Studies) - Qwo-Li Driskill (Editor), Chris Finley (Editor), Brian Joseph Gilley (Editor), Scott Lauria Morgensen (Editor)
Please Select Your Gender: From the Invention of Hysteria to the Democratizing of Transgenderism - Patricia Gherovici
Queer Cowboys: And Other Erotic Male Friendships in Nineteenth-Century American Literature - Chris Packard
Aberrations In Black: Toward A Queer Of Color Critique (Critical American Studies) - Roderick A. Ferguson
- Queer Girls in Class (Counterpoints: Studies in the Postmodern Theory of Education) - Lori Horvitz
Dapper and Fashion Insight 101
Birchbox’s “How To: Take Your Own Measurements for a Suit”
LGBTQ* Statistics and Graphs
(source - Philly Mag)
Personal Note: Over the last few weeks I have had many heavy heart and deep tissue conversations about things we push away and try not to talk about. I never repost from my personal page but I want to pass this on to many of you.
Please remember, if you are having a rough month, week, day, hour, minute, moment:
You Are Loved(!), You Will Be Missed(!), We Need You Here(!)
You are not the only person who has felt those infinite seconds of everything in a blender of nothing.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
The Trevor Project Call 866-488-7386 (24/7)
National Domestic Violence Hotline Call 1-800-799-7233
Keep On, Keeping On!
Trans* Pronouns 101
Nobody wants to be that person in a social situation. You know, the one who gets their pronouns all wrong? There you are in a room with people identifying as ze, they or hir and it doesn’t even occur to you to ask. You make a few assumptions about peoples’ genders, are met with blank stares or even worse, and pretty soon you’re in a corner all alone. Well, we’re here to help you not be that person.
If you’re not sure what went wrong, but are sure you don’t want to be that person in any room, then it may be time for you to update your gender and pronoun vocabulary. Avoiding a social faux pas and respecting a person’s ability to identify themselves, will ensure you get an invite to the next function. Pronouns are a basic building block of language that indicate the gender of the person you’re referring to. Traditionally, pronouns come in he/him or she/her, and are determined based on what’s assigned at birth. For example, when somebody is born and the doctor says, “It’s a girl! She’s beautiful. What will you name her?”Cisgender folks are those who feel their bodies are aligned with their gender assigned at birth, which is the experience most supported by society. So, for many cis folks, the story of their gender ends right there, as does their thinking about the appropriate label in which to address a person.
But the two-party system of pronouns is outdated, as there are a range of people whose gender stories are more complex. Finding self-descriptive language that feels right can be a tricky process, and one that only the individual can determine best. Some transgender folks identify as male or female, though it’s the opposite gender of the one assigned at birth. Genderqueers don’t subscribe to the idea of only two genders and may feel more comfortable somewhere in between. Bigenders identify as male and female and some First Nations folks embody both feminine and masculine spirits. Agenders identify as no gender at all. Luckily, there are more neutral personal pronoun options now, including they/their, ze/hir, ey/eir and the newborn, Swedish ‘hen’ . Recognition of diverse gender identities has a long history around the world, and neutral pronouns are language’s way of catching up.
So, where does this leave you? When you’re mingling at a party, heading up a meeting, or in school, just be mindful of the potential for multiple genders in the room. If you’re unsure of someone’s preferred pronouns, don’t be afraid to ASK. Once you learn them, use them every time, like you would for anyone else. Not being that person can be as simple as that.
Thank for asking!
Want to learn more? Check out:
LGBTQ* Insight and Ideas
An Effective Ally…
• Respects confidentiality.
• Allows individuals to lead the direction of the conversation, lets them
make their own choices, and listens, listens, listens.
• Talks to LGBT family, friends, and coworkers.
• Avoids assumptions and stereotyping.
• Tries using gender-neutral terms when talking about significant others,
spouses, and partners.
• Expects to make some mistakes, but doesn’t use them as an excuse
for not acting.
• Acknowledges how homophobia, transphobia, and heterosexism have
operated in their life.
• Educates themself about issues facing LGBT people.
• Has a sense of humor.
• Knows when and how to refer somebody to outside help, and to get
professional adult intervention when necessary.
An Effective Ally Doesn’t …
• Have all the answers.
• Try to “fix” problems
• Proceed with an interaction if boundaries or personal safety have been
Photo from: NYU’s Ally Week. Copied from: Toronto District School Board’s website
LGBTQ* Privileges (or lacking privileges) You Should Be Aware Of
(following text from: Its Pronounced Metrosexual )
Following is a list of cisgender identity privileges. If you’re not familiar with the term, “cisgender” means having a biological sex that matches your gender identity and expression, resulting in other people accurately perceiving your gender. If you are cisgender, listed below are benefits that result from your alignment of identity and perceived identity. If you identify as cisgender, there’s a good chance you’ve never thought about these things. Try and be more cognizant and you’ll start to realize how much work we have to do in order to make things better for the transgender folks who don’t have access to these privileges. If you’re unsure of what it means to be “transgender” you can read about it in our gender identity guide.
LBGTQ* Pride History and Insight
Forty Years After Stonewall
Youtube Discription: Historian Tim McCarthy, director of Human Rights and Social Movements program at Harvard, sees pros and cons to using the riots as a point of origin for the gay rights movement.
I cannot agree more with his discussion about the lacking understanding and education of lgbtq* history. This blog started because I wanted to push my understanding deeper. This history is really important for me. Had I not started KNOWhomo’s page, I may have never learned about Lisa Ben typing and creating the first lesbian publication in the US, or Henry Gerber’s work in Chicago which predates the Mattachine Society, or The Black Cat Tavern or Compton Cafeteria Riots which both occurred BEFORE Stonewall.
This is my history as a queer* woman. I have to seek it. It isn’t supplied in grade school (or almost any college) textbooks. It is very fragmented.
Should there be a push for more dialogue/discussions/history?
What do you think?
LGBTQ* Quotes and Quips
Lorraine Hansberry (you can read more about her HERE)
* African-American Playwright, Author and Speech Writer
* Most known work: A Raisin in the Sun
LGBTQ* Website, Tumblr, Advice, Insight, Comedy, Lip-Sync,
(ALL OF THE THINGS) You Should Know
Kristin and Dannielle give advice to those who are confused about sexuality, gender-identity, dating, falling in love, or even dressing up like Super Woman. They also visit high schools and college campuses nationwide to help bring change and awareness while keeping everyone laughing. (from website)
Also, Kristin and Dannielle are currently touring. If you can make an event, I highly recommend doing so. (Personal Note: If you are around the western Virginia area, I will be attending the Hollins evening. Come say hey and we can laugh and listen together.)
APR 16 The Berkshire School: Sheffield, MA 9:00am, Private Event
APR 16 Endicott College: Beverly, MA 7:00pm, Free Public Event
APR 24 James Madison University: Harrisonburg, VA 7:00pm, Free Public Event
APR 25 Hollins University: Roanoke, VA 7:00pm, Free Public Event
MAY 4 SUNY Oswego: Oswego, NY Private Event
JUNE 10 Capital Pride: Washington, DC Check
JUNE 24 NYC Pride: New York, NY