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PA OPINION

We can all be LGBTQ+ allies

The journey of Pride is one of great strength and inclusion.

It started on 28 June 1969, when police raided the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighbourhood of Manhattan as part of a bid to shut down LGBT bars for good. This raid was the tipping point for a community who had been persecuted persistently – the Stonewall uprising began as people fought for the basic right to be accepted.

People from all walks of life stood strong against injustice and discrimination. Marsha P Johnson, a self-identified drag queen and transgender woman, Raymond Castro, a Puerto Rican immigrant who had chosen to make New York his home, and Danny Garvin, a gay man who had been brought up Irish Catholic, are just a handful of the people at the forefront of the historic uprising.

Both LGBTQ+ people and allies were, and still are, vital to moving society forward. Allyship shows people they’re truly seen and truly respected for who they are. It allows people to be their authentic selves and provides a support network of people who, although they don’t identify as part of that community, will work to create a better world. Without people from all backgrounds standing for what’s right, we can’t grow as a society.

So, what is allyship?

Allyship is the consistent and life-long practice of creating space for others. That means creating space in your mind to learn about and accept new ideas. Creating space in the noise for other voices to be heard. And creating space in the world for people to be their true selves.

But there’s no set way to create this space. Some choose to be cheerleaders – a visible and vocal supporter who encourages people to engage and makes room for inclusive and diverse events. Some are natural amplifiers, ensuring others hear, value and respect all the voices in the room. Some take naturally to the supporter role – a trusted and willing ear, allowing people to share their thoughts and fears. And some take the role of researcher to build their knowledge of the lived experience of those they’re supporting. There are also born interveners, actively defending others and calling out offensive or problematic behaviour.

All these approaches are key to building a better world – diversity of approach allows us to see new perspectives and ensures we can support across a full spectrum of experience.

How can people be effective allies and be proud?

It’s important that we all find our own voice and individual way of practicing allyship, understanding that how our allyship manifests might change depending on the situation. It’s common to choose to be a cheerleader one day and the next find yourself taking on the role of researcher. Our personalities also play a critical part in determining the type of ally we’ll be, and it’s important to remember that there’s no best way – each approach brings a different strength to the fight against injustice.

We should all develop our allyship skills and celebrate LGBTQ+ rights. So, as well as trying out some of the roles above (maybe in your next meeting, try channelling your inner amplifier), try diversifying your own world by:

  • practicing creating space – open your mind to new ideas, let another voice be heard and give someone space to be their true self
  • using inclusive language – be aware of gendered terms and how different people might want to express their sexuality and gender
  • taking time to educate yourself about LGBTQ+ rights
  • seeking out LGBTQ+ voices – expand your knowledge of authors, creators and musicians from the community; take in a lecture on the history of gay rights; or tune in to a podcast from a different point of view.

Now is the time to stand alongside your friends, family and co-workers as proud allies of the LGBTQ+ community. As Marsha P Johnson put it: “How many years does it take for people to see that we’re all brothers and sisters and human beings in the human race?”

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