a Letter from Peter: How to Ally

Hello TPS Family (and extended Family),

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This message is for all of you, but I especially would like the ear (or eyeballs in this case) of the people who might not identify as members of the LGBTQ / Latinx communities, and who want to help.  I’m talking to you, Allies!  (and those of you who want to be Allies, but don’t feel like you know how).

It should be getting clearer to those of us who want to be good allies to the queer community that passive support and celebration are not enough.  Thoughts and prayers and moments of silence are important displays of solidarity, but actions are needed.  We want to act.  We want to DO something.

Some of us may be worried that we do not know what to do, or that we will do the wrong thing, or offend somebody, or that perhaps because we are not members of those communities that it is not appropriate for us to participate. I’m still learning about how to be an ally too (it’s a process – we’re never done learning), and I’ve written this blog post based upon talking to my LGBT and PoC friends about how to help.  To keep it simple for now I’m going to suggest Five Actions that you can do right now and where you can’t go wrong.  Good Ally Actions, Guaranteed!

1. Listen

The action to take before all others is to Listen.  Listen to LGBTQ voices, listen to Latinx voices and the voices of other People Of Color.  I know this may not feel like an action, it might feel passive.  But it’s the first and most important thing.  Listening is active.  Listen and make space for what you are hearing.  Recognize that the people to whom you are listening have different experiences and that you can make room for and believe in all of them.  Listen and Learn about the big things, like Stonewall, Matthew Sheperd, the AIDS crisis; and the smaller but equally important things, the everyday experiences of aggression, prejudice and struggle that are unique to the lives of people who are LGBT and/or PoC.  They know best how they need to be helped.  Listen.

2. Love

Remember that Love is an action.  It’s not just a noun, it’s also a verb.  Everybody needs it, especially when they hurt.  It’s not just something you feel, it’s something you DO.  It’s something you can do right now for as many people as you can think of or have time to visit or call or text or message.  Love somebody.  Loving someone is one of the most important things we can do.  It makes us human.  It’s revolutionary.

 

3. Say Something

Because you have listened and because you love, you can speak up to others who are not members of the queer community.  These are the people to whom allies must carry the message because they are like we were before we listened to and got to know our queer friends.  For example, they may not understand that the attack in Orlando specifically targeted LGBT / Latinx people, or they may not understand why that is so important.  Say something.  Now that you’ve listened, let them know what you’ve heard.

Most of us have a co-worker or friend or acquaintance or relative who says homophobic or racist things, perhaps unthinkingly and all too often as a joke.  That makes us uncomfortable, right?  You might as well make them uncomfortable too (that’s only fair!) and let them know it isn’t okay, especially now, even if they’re “kidding”, even if “they didn’t mean it that way”.  Say something.  This might not sound like a big deal to you, but please trust me, it is.  Silence is complicity.  When you don’t say anything, it’s as if you’re saying that it’s OK.  It’s not.  Say something.

4. Volunteer

Even if you think you don’t know that many queer people (you probably know more than you think you do), or that you don’t know them well enough to reach out, even if you’ve never participated in an event before you can Volunteer.

You can try being a volunteer very soon!  SF Pride is right around the corner! I have heard people express concerns about going to Pride this year, especially because a queer safe space was so recently targeted by such a horrible attack.  Acts of aggression against the queer community and people of color are why Pride began, and are why it continues to be important.  Allies can help.  I am volunteering this year, and I’m looking forward to it.  http://www.sfpride.org/volunteer/

Admission: I’ve only lived here for three years and I’ve not yet been to SF Pride or Oakland Pride.  I didn’t want to be a tourist, I didn’t want to be disrespectful, I didn’t want to be someone who was along just for the good times.  I didn’t want to be looking for credit or to get a cookie for participating.  I didn’t want to be leeching onto something that was the result of the hard work of an oppressed community.  This year, I got the courage up to ask somebody if it was OK for me to help.  I reached out to friends in the queer community and they all told me: “if you want to help out and your heart is in the right place you can’t possibly do it wrong”.  That goes for you too!

Pride is a massive event that needs lots of volunteers!  What better way to be an ally than to assist the Queer Community, and do some dang work to help them put together such a big and important event?  You can contribute!

5. Stay Informed

I guess you could also call this one “keep listening”.  Listening is important, so I said it twice.  Also, a goal I have made for myself is that I want to be more active in my support of the community and be more of a resource to allies.  So if you see me at the gym (or wherever, I’m around and you can e-mail or message me!) and have any questions (Especially if you are embarrassed or afraid to ask a queer person or person of color because you think your question is silly or stupid or ignorant.  I won’t judge you because I don’t know everything either!) I will be happy to talk to you, and I will do my best to Stay Informed and be a source of information about events and activities and other ways that you can be more involved and be a better ally.

 

With <3

Peter Townley

Personal Trainer & Spirit Animal

PS – if after all this you still are confused about being an ally GOOGLE IT.  There are so many great resources online if you want to educate yourself and discover more opportunities!