So, your timeline is inundated with posts expressing solidarity with the LGBT+ community. You use a lot of filters in vibrant hues and GIFs on Instagram stories with hashtags such as #allyforlife and #proudally. And then your friends on social media realize, ‘Oh, is it Pride Month already?’
As Pride Month approaches, heterosexual allies must keep in mind that true allyship extends all year round and not just one month.
Here’s some food for thought. It’s one thing to check all the right boxes during Pride Month, but it’s a whole new ballgame being a true ally. An ally for all seasons, irrespective of the time of the year, the place, or in a global crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
A true ally is about being a friend for life, a support system when you are not on social media, and when people are not looking. Away from your phone camera, posts, stories, and the works. More than anything, it’s about not hesitating to speak and stand up for the community against discrimination, biases, and not having access to information and opportunities to lead a dignified life. It’s about advocating for and providing safe spaces for the community be it at home, school, college, workplace, or in society.
Having said this, the question that naturally arises is, how do we become true allies? Well, the first step is to acknowledge the fact that the absence of hate is not equivalent to allyship. It’s much more. Or rather, if your understanding of allyship is limited to this, you may be a closeted ally.
Picture this, someone in your friend circle is coming out as a member of the LGBT+ community. The parents are gradually coming to terms with this reality. Their attitude is not one of hate, but they haven’t completely embraced the idea either. They might even say, “I love you and I support your gender and sexuality,” but deep down, they continue the status quo – they are not emotionally invested in this new development.
The biggest hurdle to someone coming out of the closet in leading a dignified life is the family itself. As long as they do not validate and acknowledge their family member’s queer identity and personhood, your friend from the community hasn’t made any progress. And this is where you come in.
As a true ally, your friend needs continued validation and support. This is because you may be one of among the few that recognizes your friend is more than their sexuality and gender. For this, you need to acknowledge that these aspects are important, at least in terms of the most obvious and visible parts.
Like millennials, Gen Z or Gen Y, we are in a privileged position by socioeconomic advantages, or simply put, we are not in the era of our parents. But this is a position we cannot take for granted. We all have a role to play in creating a space for LGBT+ voices where they are at ease with sharing their experiences.
It is this space we’re exploring with equALLY: Stories by FRIENDS of the Queer World, an initiative by Pride Circle to celebrate and put a spotlight on life experiences, perspectives, and sentiments of people on their journey to allyship. This collection is a token of appreciation for their acceptance, support, and positive impact on the lives of the members of the LGBT+ community.
An anthology of 45 stories, these are the first-hand experiences of individuals that stood up, spoke up, and created safe spaces. These are not just narratives by influences such as Nandita Das, Anjali Gopalan, or Suneeta Rao, but also corporate leaders, parents, teenagers, and people from every walk of life.
You can read Ally stories in the recently published book equALLY: Stories By FRIENDS Of the Queer World, Published by Rupa, the first of its kind anthology put together by Pride Circle that was released on 9 April 2021. It contains 45 stories of everyday unsung allies making the world a bit more welcoming for the LGBT+ community every single day.