A.L.L.Y. is a verb: how to be an ally!
Happy Pride Month, friends!!! As a queer person, I get asked: "How do I be an ally/be a better ally?" quite a bit! I want to start by saying that there isn't one 'perfect' way of being an ally, but I've put together a helpful analogy & definition from my personal experience as a privileged, white, gay/queer, cis gender man.
Imagine you have a friend who is amazing at building furniture. They’re super handy when it comes to power tools, they’ve got some gorgeous designs that are museum worthy, and a lot of folks are buying the stuff they build.
Now, imagine that same friend asks you to help them build furniture, but you’ve never done it before. It's probably a little scary, perhaps a bit overwhelming, but regardless it would probably be a good idea for you listen to your friend for instructions and guidance instead of just winging it. Otherwise, the furniture might fall apart—or worst—someone might get hurt. It’s the exact same thing when it comes to being an ally.
Take on the struggle as your own.
Stand up, even when you feel scared.
Transfer the benefits of your privilege to those who lack it.
Acknowledge that while you, too, feel pain, the conversation is not about you.
Your friend still needs your help to build the furniture, but it’s a great idea to listen first so you know what to do.
With that context & definition of allyship, I want to talk about 4 things to remember when you want to up your allyship game. All you have to do is remember this awesome, applicable acronym: A.L.L.Y.
You'll make mistakes
The first, and one of the most important steps, is to recognize where you're at, what privilege you might have, and how you can make a difference as an ally. There are some things that others are experiencing that I will never have to think about just because of the circumstances that I was born into. This isn't a bad thing, but the acknowledgement of that is critical to being an ally.
More than ever before, we have access to libraries of information. Social media, blogs, books, videos, etc. are a great resource for listening—and learning—from folks who are living the experience. You'll want to learn why they're speaking up, what inequities they're facing, and equip yourself with speaking up, but not over.
I'll be the first to recognize that I'm a pretty cheesy person, but love is one of the most important aspects of allyship. When we're able to live openly and wholeheartedly, we innately create safe spaces. Putting love first allows us to lift others up alongside of us, rather than pushing people down.
You'll make mistakes
Making mistakes is part of the human experience so avoid being too hard on yourself. It's easy to get in a cycle of being critical. You should be compassionate to yourself so you can be compassionate for others. When you have a speed-bump, apologize, commit to change, and move forward. It's also important to realize that when someone calls out a behavior, it's not about your intent. It is about your impact.
Now that you have this acronym, you’ll be able to go even further with your allyship. As someone whose identity is part of a marginalized group, let me say, allies really do matter. There are a lot of situations where marginalized groups don't have the privilege or access to certain resources. Allies matter because they are really strong voices adding to the chorus and all you have to do is start with A.L.L.Y.
As you finish this article, I want to leave each of you with two simple challenges:
Think about a group that you can be an ally for
Remember the acronym: A.L.L.Y. and treat it like a verb
For some extra content related to allyship, check out our podcast episode: 10 Questions You Shouldn't Ask LGBTQ+ Folks.