By Colette Fitzpatrick
Happy Pride, everyone! Hope you have fun plans. I have none but I’m gonna foster some Pride spirit and carry it around with me today, no matter what happens.
Pride has made me think, once more, about something that I’ve been dwelling on a lot lately: how to be a better ally. When I started Bean, one of the main things that I had in mind was that I really wanted it to be an inclusive space that gave support to all voices and not just ones that we hear from often. I wondered how I could foster inclusivity and diversity on the site and these ideas carried into thoughts on how I could also be a better ally in my daily life.
I’m still utterly imperfect and not always great at it but here are some tips that I’ve come up with so far in my pursuit of being a better ally to others on this planet who are held back and, potentially, endangered by systems of power and privilege in society.
1. Educate yourself
As a good ally, you have a duty to educate yourself. It is not the job of all LGBTQI+ people or people of different races, religious backgrounds or degrees of able-bodiedness to explain things to you. If you are in the position to politely ask a person things that you have been curious about and they feel comfortable and safe in giving you an answer, fire ahead. However, as a general rule, you should try and do most of the legwork yourself. The internet is rich with all sorts of resources and there are plenty of people who have told their stories. We have no excuse to remain ignorant any longer.
…speaking of which, while being active enough to educate yourself is important, it is also valuable to shut up and listen when people who have experiences outside your own are speaking. And give them room to speak. Be sure to support projects and media where people get to tell their own tales rather than a room of executives and writers deciding to let others speak for them. If someone tells you they want to be referred to in certain ways or by certain pronouns, if they tell you something is triggering or upsetting, if they say they feel uncomfortable, listen to them and respond accordingly.
3. Speak up
Which also goes to say: don’t just watch someone misgender another, use a slur or reinforce hurtful stereotypes; speak up. Stand up for your brothers and sisters. In normal conversations, even if it can be uncomfortable, call out those around you for ignorance. Maybe your racist uncle won’t be utterly receptive. Maybe your young cousins are only trying to troll you. Maybe they won’t listen but things won’t change unless they are challenged. And they definitely won’t change if they seem normalised.
4. Own your mistakes and learn from them
None of us are perfect and you can be someone who suffers from one system of oppression and still have fucked up when it comes to how another affects others in the past or, even, currently. Maybe you said stupid crap in the past out of ignorance, maybe you just realised something is wrong in your speech or system of beliefs, maybe you noticed a bias you were carrying around…whatever it may be, it’s normal. However, you have the power to change it. Apologise for your wrongdoings, acknowledge them, understand them, educate yourself, and do better next time. Realise that you will continue to make mistakes or face your own prejudices and aim to always learn and try to improve in the future.
5. Don’t develop a saviour complex
Understand which battles are your own and the limits to how you can aid in others. Don’t try and lead in spaces where other voices are more important and just try and offer support where possible. Understand that not everyone feels like a victim and you don’t need to save them with your privilege.
Being a good ally isn’t easy. We all screw up, all the time. As an ally, we don’t know best, we can only try our best. I mess up all the time and I’m constantly learning how limited my understanding of things is and how much more I need to learn and listen. However, being open to being kinder to people in other marginalised groups is always a good thing. Being kinder and supportive, in general, is a good thing. So, are you go out into this Pride, have fun and be loud and proud but also keep all of your sisters and brothers in mind.
For more information and resources, check out the Guide to Allyship as a great jumping off point!
Want more articles like these? Check out Cara’s experience as a juror on a rape trial and why we should still encourage women to go for their smear test in Ireland.