You Keep Using That Word “Ally.” I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means.

“I support you, but I think you’re making the wrong decision.”

“I accept that you feel like a girl, but you’ll always be my son to me.”

“I respect your identity, but I can’t see you as a man.”

“I’m an ally to the transgender community, but I don’t think trans women should be allowed to use the women’s restroom.”

We’ve all heard these types of statements from people who call themselves allies. And I think it’s time we stopped letting them slide.

Privileged folks of all kinds need to wise up to the fact that words like “support,” “accept,” “love” and “ally” have meanings—meanings that (excuse me) get shit all over when they make statements like these.

The act of supporting someone means more than tolerating their presence and cherishing some vague idea that they probably don’t deserve to be murdered. Supporting a marginalized person means listening them when they say they need something, and taking their demands seriously.

Acceptance means believing someone when they say they know who they are.

Respect means not acting like you know a marginalized person’s mind better than they do.

And “ally” means showing up to help us fight our important battles.

You cannot support, accept, respect, or ally with somebody while gaslighting them, feeding their self doubts, belittling their identity, undermining their aims or dismissing their needs.

You cannot support, accept, respect, or ally with a trans person while misgendering them, questioning their motives for transition, giving them “helpful advice” on how to look more cis (or otherwise criticizing their trans appearance), or in any way acting like or believing that your gender is more valid than the gender of a trans person.

Is this so hard to understand?

About these ads

About Asher

Asher Bauer is fast becoming a fixture in the San Francisco kink community, and intends to stay that way. He has worked as a Queer Educator at LYRIC (Lavender Youth Recreation And Information Center), and since has taken his talents as an educator to a wider variety of audiences, teaching on subjects ranging from safer sex to BDSM to trans and queer identities. He is also one of the hosts and originators of Transmission, the new trans-centric party at the San Francisco Citadel, and Invasion, the Citadel's all-genders queer party. View all posts by Asher

10 responses to “You Keep Using That Word “Ally.” I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means.

  • Gemma Hentsch

    Awesome bit. There are so many people who say “I have gay friends” or “I have no problem with my gay nephew” but at the same time vote for and support homophobic positions, feeling absolved by their “gay token”

  • Tyro Kathar

    If it helps, I’m an ally by your definition – and I make a point of calling people out when they spout bullshit like that.

  • quenyar

    I am reminded of Phil Ochs’ song “Love Me I’m a Liberal” (http://web.cecs.pdx.edu/~trent/ochs/lyrics/liberal.html) – in particular the last verse:
    Once I was young and impulsive
    I wore every conceivable pin
    Even went to the socialist meetings
    Learned all the old union hymns
    But I’ve grown older and wiser
    And that’s why I’m turning you in

  • allyneeds

    I swear there should be a leaflet you can handout when people offend – I mean they could be meaning well, but just not be informed…

    I think this covers the basics.

  • MockShark

    Completely agree – i was just reading about this earlier this month here http://schlomosteel.com/2011/06/03/the-im-an-ally-so-trope/

    and thinking about it with all the ridiculous racist comments people moderate by saying i’m not racist, but… like here

    http://www.notracistbut.com/

    i wish people would all have the profound ability to believe everyone is human and autonomous and venerable and complicated and worthy of celebration unless proven otherwise because that’s what makes us so great.

  • Randi Pearson

    I’ll use the women’s restroom if and when I need to go no matter what.
    I’m going back in the closet, I’ve been out too long now and I enjoy
    being a woman.

  • mdh

    I tend to feel like ‘ally’ is an easy way of saying “Oh, sure, I’m not homophobic/transphobic/etc… but I’m not one of *those people*” At the end of the day it really feels like it comes down to people wanting to be seen as non-fascists while at the same time distancing themselves from being seen as queer themselves. Otherwise, why not just say “I’m a queer activist” or something else that doesn’t seem so disassociative?

    Because at the end of the day, being a fag still isn’t cool.

  • Cheree

    Much like unconditional love, “ally” doesn’t come with a “but”. Because isn’t being an ally just a representation of unconditional love?

  • Rachel Kantstopdaphunk

    thanks for this! I sorta wanna tattoo this on my ass.

    ‘You cannot support, accept, respect, or ally with somebody while gaslighting them, feeding their self doubts, belittling their identity, undermining their aims or dismissing their needs’

    AND ally is an essential term when it comes to supporting any group which you are not a part of, without co-opting or appropriating a struggle that isn’t yours.

  • Nick Mathieson

    This needs to be said! More like this over at http://liarlunatic.blogspot.com/

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 784 other followers

%d bloggers like this: