It’s something that I’ve noticed on social media with increasing frequency of late. Being an ally is gaining more attention, whether this is to support women, BAME and LGBTQ+ community, or, as time is going on, any of the many other intersectional groups out there.
This weekend marks Brighton Pride celebrations, a festival which brings so much joy, and has lots of meaning to me on many levels. It is a celebration where I take pride in standing alongside this vibrant community as an LGBTQ+ ally.
But what is an ally exactly?
I wear my rainbow lanyard at work every day, alongside my RICS Diversity and Inclusion badge. I’ve received many comments, not offensive or rude, but curious and perhaps confused in some cases.
“I didn’t realise you were gay”
“But if you’re not gay, why would you bother supporting the community?”
“Aren’t you just virtue signalling?”
I’ll address each of these comments in turn, as I did when they were posed to me. I have to say I was a little surprised, but I wasn’t insulted or upset, because I’d rather that people speak with me than make incorrect assumptions. As far as education is concerned, if you can’t discuss an idea, you don’t have the opportunity to provide the information which might just change that thought.
I didn’t realise you were gay. An interesting question really, which really says a lot more about the thought process of the assuming party, than it does about me. The question I posed back, was that “Does it matter if I am? What difference does it make to how you view me, the quality of my work, how I conduct my life? Does it change who I am?” And the answer to all of that is, it makes not a jot of difference. I never dignify the question with explaining my sexuality, because I shouldn’t have to justify who and what I am to anyone. More importantly than that, no one does. Gender and sexuality is simply something that someone is, no one should ever have to explain that to anyone in order to be accepted.
If you want to know more about someone from a genuine place of understanding, and wanting to move forward and help eliminate bias, then lets discuss, and I’ll happily explain. But from a point of judgement, no one ever, should have to justify who and what they are.
“But if you’re not gay, why would you bother supporting the community?” Another assumption which is deeply ingrained in society. “If it doesn’t affect me, why would I support it?” But it does affect me. It affects all of us. If you stand aside and let the minority groups struggle and only represent themselves, how will we ever effect change. Simply put, it is for us in the majority, to champion and support those in the minority. We’re the ones who can change the bias and understanding in society. *We* are the society which needs to change and accept. It is not for those who are already disenfranchised to reinstate the rights and privileges that we have taken away.
“Aren’t you just virtue signalling?” Another assumption, that people only do good things to be seen as a good person and gain brownie points. Quite a cynical view point, which again, says more about the person assuming, than the person doing apparently ‘good’ work. So what if people think you’re doing something good for attention/validation etc? Surely doing the good things outweighs any jealousy or bitterness on anyone else’s part? It comes down to this. Respect other people, accept other people, ignore snide comments and those trying to justify away why you might be doing something. You know deep down why you’re standing up and demanding to be heard. That’s all that really matters. And the more of us who stand together in this respect, the less power those other voices will have.
So – how can you be an ally? It doesn’t matter who or which group you support. You can support more than one, and in fact you can support everyone who is different to you. Simply look beyond the group you might find yourself in, and support someone. Anyone. No minority group is more or less valid than the other. Do what you can, support who you can, and if we all do that, there will be a much stronger and safer community for all of us to live in.