This week has been kind of chaotic.
Everything has been in the final planning stages for our series of events that begin on October 8th. So it’s been a lot of administrative stuff for my internship this past week. One of the big things that we decided to do this year was focus on the inclusion of allies. In a week designed to highlight the LGBTQ community, we’re really working to make sure the importance of allies is integrated.
I think it’s crucial to recognize that the fight for equality is going to be nearly impossible without allies. People who don’t identify with the LGBTQ community but are still invested in it. These are the people that this fight needs in order to ensure that our voices are heard. The LGBTQ community can do many great things, but it needs its allies.
For this reason, we’ve taken a different perspective for Coming-Out Day, which happens nationally on October 11th. Our theme is “Out and Allied”, and we’re encouraging people on campus to come out as an ally on coming-out day. Now, it’s important to emphasize that you can identify as LGBTQ and still be an ally. You can be an ally for other people in the LGBTQ community that identify differently than you. You can support each other and be in ally in that regard. Anyone can be an ally.
What matters is speaking out. Speaking out and being a voice that’s willing to make a difference. It can be scary to be an ally, especially when none of your friends have spoken out for LGBTQ issues before. This is something that I’m becoming very attuned to in the Christian community: the underground allies. The allies that are there, but haven’t spoken out.
I had a moment this week when I realized that being an ally comes with its own coming-out process. It’s not to the same degree as coming out as LGBTQ usually, but it’s definitely there. You have to deal with people making assumptions and stereotyping you. You have to worry about the potential fallout with certain friends. You have to be willing to deal with the ramifications of speaking out for what you believe in.
So I guess I could say that I have a lot of closeted allies in my life right now, which is such a role reversal. Identifying as LGBTQ, you expect to have LGBTQ peers who are struggling with the coming-out process. You don’t really expect to have a bunch of heterosexual peers struggling with their identity as an ally. But somehow that’s where I’ve ended up.
I’ve realized that one of my major roles this year is going to be helping people gradually become willing to speak out, even if it’s scary. Because that’s where true transformation is going to happen in the Christian community here. When it’s not just the LGBTQ Christians, but it’s the heterosexual Christians too who are taking a stand and becoming a voice.
Being LGBTQ, it can become easy to contain yourself and only surround yourself with people who are already very connected with the LGBTQ community. It feels safe to form relationships with LGBTQ people and people who are already vocal allies. I know that feeling, because I experience it all the time. There’s a part of me that thinks about how much simpler it would be if I only had a bunch of LGBTQ and fully accepting ally friends.
But if I do that, if those are the only relationships that I foster, then I lose the underground allies. I lose the people who might become another voice to speak out, but aren’t quite there yet.
People ask me all the time why I’m still friends with people who aren’t fully accepting of the LGBTQ community. This is why. It’s because I know that change will never happen if I accept the status quo. I need to continue to foster these relationships and be vocal about my LGBTQ involvement so that ally development can happen.
Is it difficult? Absolutely. It sucks sometimes. It’s frustrating, and disheartening, and occasionally hurtful. I’m putting myself in the path of prejudice and then encountering what comes my way.
But I can already see the benefits it’s reaping and the difference it’s making.
Allies are invaluable, and they can speak out when you’re least expecting it. I’m discovering that more and more with each week that passes.