I recently wrote a book about how we come together and how we fracture. In it, I probe the definition of what it means to be an ally. Then I got in an argument with someone on Facebook, as usual, in which the issue came up.
Here’s the thing: I think many of my straight acquaintances would be surprised by my ally criterion, mostly because they don’t fit it. In fact, there came a point in my life at which I had to question whether having friends who had no clue that I might even have these expectations was an example of self-hatred and internalized homophobia. Because really, we need to pick friends who are on our side.
In the center of this stood my friend M, straight, with LGBTQ siblings, who worked for Maine Won’t Discriminate, who donated, who listened, who wanted to know my experience rather than be validated for hers, who was best woman at both my weddings, who supported, showered me with love and kindness, and generally fought like hell for equality. She kind of ruined me for liberals who think just having the right attitude and political beliefs is enough.
So in the Lyralen Kaye Rules of Order, here are the criterion for allyship:
- Takes political action on the part of the LGBTQ community. In other words, does at least two of the following: marches, donates, makes calls, votes in special elections or on ballot measures, spreads the word, checks the LGBTQ record of candidates and makes decisions based on that record.
- Understands that when someone LGBTQ starts talking about their experience or views on LGBTQ issues, they should listen, rather than argue or impose their own views as correct. In other words, allies know not to straight-splain.
- Stands up for LGBTQ people in social or public situations.
- Has been or is personally close to a member of the LGBTQ community or lives connection to a diverse community.
- Doesn’t allow homophobic comments to pass in conversation without calling it out.
- Knows what a homophobic comment is.
- Has read LGBTQ literature, seen media or read queer theory beyond The Kids Are Alright, which most straight people don’t recognize as a homophobic movie.
- Knows the difference between queer literature and literature and media that have been created by straight people about queer people.
- Understands why LGBTQ people should have the opportunity to play LGBTQ characters in theater and film.
- Understands that queer identity and queer desire are different from the mainstream.
- Understands and acknowledges that everyone in this culture has internalized homophobic images, ideas and attitudes and that becoming fully accepting is a lifetime process.
- Doesn’t believe that LGBTQ issues don’t affect them, just because they’re straight.
- And, ideally, questions ideas and attitudes around gender and genderized behavior. That’s pie in the sky, but so is the whole list, even in liberal Massachusetts.