What non-black and BAME LGBT+ people can do to show allyship and how to be a good ally?
Vice Chair Rikesh Nagamah sets out how LGBT+ people can show allyship and be good ally.
By Rikesh Nagamah
Rikesh Nagamah is a Vice Chair for the Civil Service LGBT+ Network. You can find out more about them here.
Allyship is a lifetime commitment to educating yourself, listening to constructive criticism, learning from your mistakes, doing your research and staying aware. Allyship shouldn’t be a performative act that lasts for a day or a week.
As an LGBT+ community, we continuously question how non-LGBT people should act as better allies and actively do more to support us. Whilst that’s true, we cannot deny or conceal that even within our own community, discrimination is so evidently and blatantly present. The more we fail at identifying and tackling those prejudice views and behaviours, we inadvertently encourage non-LGBT people to continuously use inappropriate language and behaviours because we’ve shown them that its normal to do so.
Black Lives Matter has necessarily highlighted the abuse and animosity against Black individuals, not only from white groups but BAME communities, who have become far too comfortable in using negative and insensitive language. Much of this is due to the damaging media representation and misconception of history. Within BAME communities, casual racism and colourism exists at home and in relationships, much of which is because of ‘generational’ differences and never being challenged on controversial views.
Although Black Lives Matter protests have erupted across the globe, the plight of the Black trans community – who face disproportionate levels of violence and discrimination in comparison to other LGBT+ people – have been overlooked. We are eager to say Black Lives Matter but are withheld and absent when trans and queer are added. This is evident with the murder of two Black trans women, Dominique ‘Rem’mie’ Fells and Riah Milton, who are believed to be the 13th and 14th murders of trans or gender non-conforming people in the United States this year.
One of the most important jobs that we can do within our community as allies, is to amplify the voices of the unheard. An ally who makes space, is one who is caring and supporting the community on a constant basis. Avoid being a performative ally who only cares about issues when it’s trendy and takes up a lot of space. Using your voice to amplify the voices of others, will help to keep the momentum of bringing social change and difference to the lives of those who need it the most.
For a majority of us, we’ve grown up within communities or households that weren’t so open and understanding of the LGBT+ community and even growing up in environments that didn’t even allow for conversations about sex, gender identity and expression. If you find yourself feeling uncomfortable during discussions with or about the LGBT+ community, make sure you challenge yourself. There is never a wrong time to challenge the personal discomforts you are feeling. Being an ally means encouraging acceptance wherever you see a lack it. Be confident enough to go against the norm respectfully.
The key to being a valuable ally is listening. If and when someone is comfortable to open up about their experience, simply listen to them. If a person shares their personal pronouns with you, be intentional about using them, even when that person isn’t in the room. Be an ally that encourages others to stop and listen.
Education is fundamental to becoming a better ally, both for the community and non-LGBT individuals. It’s selfless to keep up-to-date on the issues that currently affect the LGBT+ community. By taking responsibility and keeping informed about issues which affect black and BAME LGBT+ individuals, you then begin to develop an understanding to the experiences and traumas people have faced. Remember, it is unfair to expect LGBT+ people to relive their trauma (e.g. someone’s coming out experience) or validate their existence for your own understanding. There is an extensive amount of research, statistics and historical information available through online resources but make sure they are trustworthy before sharing and educating others.
We often feel uncertain or uncomfortable to ask questions but re-evaluate yourself to ensure those questions are not offensive or inconvenient. If you find difficulty in understanding certain topics, like the importance of using correct gender pronouns, locate resources that will help you navigate those concepts.
LGBT+ charities in the UK are continuously doing ground-breaking work to support disadvantage groups and strive to make a positive change in the community and in people lives. Whether you choose to donate, volunteer or even share this article to help spread awareness… do whatever you can to help.
With all that is going on in the world, we need to remember the importance of being a good ally and the positive impact it has. Even if that means reminding ourselves again and again to what we need to do, then so be it. Our lives are so busy and many us are in fortunate situations, so help to be the best ally you can be to those who need it the most. Let us continue to keep the momentum of bringing about change.
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