Straight Allies: Every Little Bit Helps

Happy Ally Week! While hopefully most LGBQT people were out and sharing their stories last week for National Coming Out Day, there were a few other people getting accolades for their actions. Dear Abby spoke out against Minnesota’s marriage ammendment in a fundraising letter on behalf of Minnesotans United for All Families. Sally Field got an HRC award for her work on behalf of LGBT groups. Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue donated a large chunk of change to help support the fight for same-sex marriage in Maryland and Maine.

What do all of these lovely people have in common? They’re awesome supporters for one thing. Oh, and they just happen to be straight.

On days like the 11th, when queers are celebrating the fact they’re out and proud, it’s easy to forget the other people that helped along the way. I know we’re strong folk capable of fighting our own battles, but sometimes there’s no harm in taking the help we’re offered along the way. There are only so many of us, and we’re vastly outnumbered when it comes to defending against all of the slurs and barbs. If anything, the political climate nowadays is showing us that there are a lot of people not on our team.

There is too much hate on this map via ILGA by way of the Upworthiest

It’s a sad truth right now, but hopefully it won’t always be that way. Whenever I see someone reaching out a hand, I like to extend mine to thank them for what they’re doing. I know life is difficult when you’re queer, but sometimes coming out as a supporter can also be trying. Years before I came out, I remember jumping to my queer friends’ defense yet feeling conflicted. I was an ally for sure, but what on earth does that mean? You never really know what you’re allowed to do, when you’re supposed to defend and whether anyone actually wants your help. So often, queers and straights will throw it in your face that gay rights aren’t your battle so you should probably just back off and stop being so sensitive.

PFLAG and the HRC have both recognized this concern and got together to create and rework resources for the new allies that are that still trying to find their way. Even though gay rights have allies as a support team, it’s still important to answer their questions without making them feel like they’re taking away from the larger conversation.

In the spirit of Coming Out Day and the need for visibility, the HRC and PFLAG created a guide for all of the would-be allies. The pamphlet tries to address the myriad questions, concerns and worries one might have when a friend, relative or colleague comes out to them. Will they be safe? How do you show you care without stepping on toes? Can you get your questions answered without seeming like you’re prying?

The coming out process is tough on queers, so it tries to lay out all of the strategies for someone to be the best ally possible. As a queer I take a lot of my knowledge and logic for granted, but for someone that has never even thought about queer issues it may not be common sense. The guide starts from square one, laying out what it means when someone decides to come out to you, to explaining the problem with outing people when it’s with the best of intentions. It covers all of the conflicting feelings, new vocabulary and heightened awareness that allies will encounter.

If you take nothing else away from this guide, remember this: that person in your life who opened up to you made a conscious choice to let you into his or her life, to be honest in his or her relationship with you. That is an act of trust. In doing so, that person has said that he or she wants your relationship to be based on truth.

Now it is up to both of you to find the courage to accept the challenge of honesty. That means being honest with yourself — acknowledging your feelings and coming to terms with them. And it means being honest with this person in your life — asking questions you need to ask, learning the facts and making the effort to understand the realities of being an LGBT individual so that you can be truly informed and supportive.

 

PFLAG created an Ally Spectrum as part of their Straight for Equality campaign. The campaign started in 2007 as a way for allies to learn what to do when it comes to supporting queer communities. The new edition  recognizes that allies can be as diverse as the people they wish to support. The website offers tailored answers and resources for their entire spectrum since new allies will have different concerns than someone that’s been helping out for years. In the same way recently out queers need to gain experience and confidence before they can hold their heads high, allies need a bit of time to mature as well.

I wouldn’t be out today if it weren’t for my queer friends blazing the trail and my allies watching my back. It’s going to be a long journey towards equality for all us, so we might as well enlist some buddies for the trip. If you came out last week and your peers looked both elated and concerned, hold their hands so they can take the first baby steps and learn to come out too.

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Hailing from Vancouver, Kristen's still trying to figure out how to survive Montreal's Real Legitimate Canadian Winter. So far she's discovered that warm socks, giant toques and Tabby kittens all play a role in her survival. Her ultimate goal is to rank higher than KStew in the "Kristen + Autostraddle" Google Search competition.

Kristen has written 140 articles for us.

9 Comments

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    I made my first attempt to explain my real queer feelings to my mom and sister yesterday (Stef’s essay gave me words to use) and I think they were pretty confused. I forget that people outside the bubble I live live in don’t understand queer vocabulary. I might send them one of these guides.

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    My BFF said to me the other day, “I HATE having to come out as straight.” I laughed really hard when she said and said “wow, your life is so hard!”

    I’ve been thinking about that comment and wondering what her experiences have been as a straight ally. She’s pretty involved in the queer community but I know she struggles with assumptions people make about her. She tends to avoid calling herself straight because she knows that people (queer and non-queer) may have certain assumptions about her straightness (particularly because she looks – in her words – mainstream), but on the other hand she doesn’t feel like it’s fair to call herself queer when she is pretty strictly into cis-men. She doesn’t want to be erased or removed from a community she feels supported by/is supportive of by labelling herself as straight. And you know, that’s kind of sad! I’ll be sending her this article right away, hopefully she can gain something from it.

    To be honest, I wouldn’t be where I am today without her support, honesty, and encouragement. Hooray straight allies!

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    Straight allies are the best! I don’t know what I would do without my supportive straight friends! (Especially my friend whose life goal since she was 18 is to marry gay people. I love her.)

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    Community, community, community. We all have something to contribute to the greater well being.

    It feels so good knowing that the people you love, not only accept but *want* you as you are.

    Also this statement gets 50 Megan Rapinoes and 20 Rachel Maddows:
    “If you take nothing else away from this guide, remember this: that person in your life who opened up to you made a conscious choice to let you into his or her life, to be honest in his or her relationship with you. That is an act of trust. In doing so, that person has said that he or she wants your relationship to be based on truth.”

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    I LOVE that HRC/PFLAG pamphlet! I picked up a copy of it and their coming out pamphlet a while back during a GSA-sponsored NCOD event. They’re both really good pamphlets and I saved mine to give to my relatives after coming out (they’re actually mostly okay with it so far, btw, except my aunt and uncle. My older cousin has been the most wonderful ally I could ask for though, just like she always has been about everything.)

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    This is so refreshing! Maybe I follow the wrong blogs but I’ve seen so much bitching about ‘Allies’ on tumblr lately and I’m sick of it! You know the ones complaining about allies with feelings of entitlement and expectation of praise? I get that that happens, and those people are allies for the wrong reasons, but they are still allies voting in our favor. I really have met far more genuinely supportive allies than entitled ones. Gah! Bitches need to stop bitching. Thank you for this refreshing article.

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    Yes yes yes. I’ve seen so much hate on Tumblr saying straight people are “all the same; always get it wrong; are all entitled little shits.” And that’s just not true. My dearest friends are straight, and their support means the world to me. We’re all in this together. #Highschoolmusical

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