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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Straight allies are important to LBGT activism

More than a week after the tragic mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, millions are still grief-stricken for the victims and their families.

In particular, much of the LGBT community is pained, having lost 49 of their own. In times like these, it’s important to come together and support each other in order to heal.

But the simple four-letter acronym doesn’t account for a group of people who could offer security and greatly influence the future of LGBT activism: heterosexual and cisgender allies.

Rightly so, allies don’t exactly belong to the community, as they don’t share the same sexual preferences, gender identities and other traits that set LGBT people apart. But for that reason, allies serve very unique — and potentially critical — functions for the community.

For example, allies are incredibly empathetic sources of support and understanding to those who are struggling with identity issues. Straight people have all of the rights they need, with little to no judgment in regards to their sexuality. Any straight person could easily turn their back to a suffering gay person, dismissing the situation as someone else’s problem or something from which they couldn’t benefit by helping. Allies are inherently compassionate and selfless, as they want to help the LGBT community regardless of whether they gain anything for themselves. Many LGBT individuals find security in knowing that even outsiders understand and support the battle for an equal and judgment-free environment, for a world in which gay and transgender people are not targets of hate crimes.

Not only can allies provide unique emotional support, but they can assist with furthering the fight for equal rights and acknowledgment. While members of the community are willing to fight relentlessly for themselves, their battle can still be ignored by their opponents. To reference Orlando once more, at least 16 Republican senators or House Representatives failed to acknowledge the LGBT community as the target of the Pulse nightclub shooting Roll Call reported. This unfortunate ignorance exemplifies how easy it is for those anti-LGBT individuals to turn a blind eye to those who desperately need to be seen and heard. Perhaps allies could have more success at communicating these issues, especially to homophobes and transphobes who have no desire to listen to the LGBT community itself.

In addition to bettering communication, allies have proven that they can help to bring about progress for the LGBT community. Take Susan Collins, for example. The Republican senator from Maine has shown support for LGBT both in statements and with her votes against the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and discrimination in the workplace based on sexuality . Collins’s allegiant support “has played a pivotal role in advancing support for LGBT equality,” said Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin.

LGBT allies — even those not connected closely to the government — are capable of effecting serious progress to the fight for equal rights and treatment, especially if they find strength in their numbers. The portion of the United States population which identifies as LGBT is something around 3.4 percent according to Gallup polling. While even a relatively small fraction of the population can make a difference by themselves, the overwhelming majority of the population — the people who do not identify as LGBT — could still contribute greatly to the cause by identifying as allies and doing what they can to aid the community.

The relationship between LGBT people and their allies could be massively successful when both parties fully work together and accept one another, despite identity differences. Allies should remain informed about what’s going on in the community and contribute whenever possible. A person should be proud of their identity as an ally and clearly show their support to the LGBT community – a closeted ally doesn’t aid the cause, emotionally or politically.

In turn, the LGBT community should be welcoming of its heterosexual and cisgender allies and help them to understand the issues being faced. To exclude allies would be to hypocritically mimic the behavior of those who exclude LGBT individuals. Allies are there to help, and it’s the job of LGBT community to show them how they can help.

In light of the Orlando tragedy, it seems there is still a long road ahead for the LGBT community. Hopefully allies can continue their invariant support and love, making the journey just a little more bearable for those traveling.

Follow Rhiannon Bauer on Twitter.

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