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10 Ways To Be An Ally

10 Ways To Be An Ally

Allyship can take many forms, such as emotional support, being there for people when they come out, and being a voice when homophobia and transphobia are present. If you're a member of the Queer community, here's some tips for being there for everyone.  

 

1. Listen

Regardless of your position either inside or outside of the Queer community - it's your job to listen. Make sure when someone speaks about their experience that you make space and time for people to discuss their experience if and when they're ready. 

Whether you’re newly out, or a seasoned sea witch Queer, nobody better understands their experience better than themselves. Whether you have views on various letters of the LGBTQAI+ community, it’s your job to sit with any discomfort or newness when hearing about others’ lives and identities. Learning to empathise with differences in the Queer community will only deepen and broaden our connection to each other. Queer people are experts in their own lives, and one narrative doesn’t fit us all. 

Don’t walk around yelling to high heaven about what a great ally you are. We will know (since there’s like, 5 Queers in NZ) sooner or later, and your self promotion is often a red flag. 

 

2. Use Peoples’ Correct Names And Pronouns

Not sure which pronouns someone uses? Just ask! Then use that pronoun and encourage others to do so. It’s okay if you make a mistake—just be sure to correct it and move on.

Remember - if someone wants you to know, they will tell you. Important things are pronouns (get these right, and if you don’t then thank a correction and move on), however there should never be any pressure on someone to divulge their gender diversity or pronouns if they are not ready. Sometimes people aren’t out to everyone in their lives, and it can be a mountain of emotional labour to re-out yourself to everyone you meet. 

It’s also important to check in when around new people to make sure you’re not outing someone in a potentially dangerous situation. Ask when and where it’s appropriate to use someone’s pronouns in public situations to mitigate this risk.

Someone who is figuring out what pronouns work for them, or if they’re trans, nonbinary, or have yet to become comfortable in their gender identity might change their pronouns as they work through this. 

If you’re cis, a great way to normalise using pronouns in day to day conversation and work settings is to add your pronouns to any social media bios or email signatures. This makes it safer for trans and nonbinary people to advise others of their pronous, and creates less stigma around asking and checking you are using the correct pronouns for someone. 

If you’re Pakeha, it’s a good first step in the decolonisation of the Queer community to remember that Queer identities intersect with race, privilege, class, indigenous cultures, and colonial power structures. They also intersect with size, language, and education. Thin, white and/or tertiary educated is not the default experience. 

 

3. Speak Up And Show Up

Even if there’s no Queer people in the room, nip that shit in the bud. That goes for racist and ableist language too - let people know it’s not okay to have a giggle or a goss about someone using offensive language and terms, or by deadnaming them. Being an ally behind closed doors lets everyone know it’s not ok. 

It can be exhausting being an advocate for yourself to cishet people when you’re in the Queer community. Sometimes it’s not safe to stand up for yourself, so if you’re an ally - check that it’s appropriate and then call out fuckwittery. This can be done without tokenising a person, which is why it’s important to check the language you use and how you explain things to other allies. A lot can get lost in translation. 

If someone has taken the time and energy (physical, mental, and emotional) to explain their identity to you, then thank them. This can be an arduous task, and we’ve contemplated printing out pamphlets to hand to new people. 

Write letters to local homophobic politicians. Show up with banners and signs. Be a protective body if transphobes show up. Report them on social media (you know who we mean). 

 

4. Mind Your Beeswax

For the love of Dolly Parton, don’t ask trans and nonbinary people about their bodies. Don’t as Queer people how they have sex, or what their genitals are like. Don’t ask about surgery or hormones - you’re not asking these of your cis friends are you? 

  1. a) it’s fucking rude
    b) it’s objectifying as hell
    c) it’s gross. 

Don’t be that guy. 

Keep in mind there’s more than one way to transition, and this doesn’t need to involve hormones or surgery, or even gender affirming products. These are financially prohibitive to a large group, and some people just don’t want them. Check your classism if you feel like there’s one right way to be trans. 

Know a trans person who is still using the pronouns they were assigned at birth? Cool, use them. Know a trans person who exclusively uses they/them? Cool, use that. Pronouns don’t equal gender, so keep that wee mouth shut when the “but….” wants to come out. 

Re: sexytimes - Queer people have historically been hypersexualised by straight people, and this often means that there can be little to no boundaries with questions about our sex lives. I once had a friend remark at length about how the glorious Queer sex that I was having wasn’t really “sex”, since neither of us had a nondetachable penis. 

If we are close mates then you might know some rad stuff about Queer sex, but if you’re not then it’s not your place to either ask, or to expect divulgence about the (absolutely rad) sex that Queer people have. 

If you want tips, however, ask away (politely). We’re quite good at it. 

 

5. Stay Informed

Queer people aren’t a registered education provider. There’s so much online for allies to use to educate themselves, as well as specific Queer providers who are able to come into your school or workplace. These peeps are trained and remunerated - so are an incredible first port of call. 

Queer people aren’t a monolithic structure - we’re all different and will sometimes have deeply contrasting views on what is right and wrong, and about our places in the Queer community. 

Trans women and trans feminine people experience sexism and misogyny as well as transphobia, so having measures in place to help with this double whammy will allow you to help the trans people in your life - which in turn also benefits cis women (*cough SUFW*). Trans women deserve to have rights to the women-only safe spaces in your group or organisation. 

 

6. Check Your Privilege

Be aware of how much space you take up.

Pay attention to how you act when you come into our spaces. We all love feeling free in a gay bar, but how are you acting? Nobody likes being treated like zoo animals or a cultural attraction - so stop telling us how much you love Queer people and how you wish you were Queer as well. We’d bet you’d get pretty fragile about it if we started commenting on straight people the way Queers get it. 

Sometimes things get very Queer in a Queer bar - so either be cool or gtfo. Don’t stare. And, if someone hits on you (because you’re in our space, so we might assume *gasp*), then politely advise that you’re straight and move the eff on. If you can’t handle being approached in a Queer bar without losing the plot, then you shouldn’t be there. We’re trying to relax, maybe flirt, or maybe have a wee pash. You have literally any other place to go to do this, we only get a few, and even then the quality can vary.

Checking your privilege counts for Pākehā members of the Queer community too. Yes, you experience marginalisation, however you are experiencing this as a white person - which is both not the default, and remarkably different from BIPOC and Māori in the Queer community. 

 

7. Accept Queer People Are Just Humans Sometimes Too

Are you placing us on a pedestal? You might be in for some disappointment then. 

Queer people aren’t perfect, angelic people to be lauded. We’re people. That means that sometimes we can be rude, get a bit too sauced and get messy (whoops), or sometimes just be a bit of an ass. We’re not all funny, stylish, or tireless advocates. We can be mean, anxious, insecure, and flawed. 

It would be exhausting to live up to these higher standards constantly, and sometimes just getting by is all we can do. Please don’t make noble caricatures of us to make us seem more personable. Some of us are grotty filth monsters, and that’s absolutely ok. 

 

8. Challenge Homophobic And Transphobic Policy

Man some politicians are stuck in the dark ages. Thankfully Head of Fuckwittage, Gerry Brownlee, is out, as well as his number two, Tracey Martin, but just because we’ve got the highest number of Queer members of parliament in the world (!), there’s still so much work to do. 

We need to get the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill back in and passed. We need funding for more than 2 public gender confirmation surgeries per year. 

We need homophobia and transphobia to be actioned against by authorities, not as an afterthought or an expected part of being Queer. 

Being able to get married hasn’t magically made things better. How did the New Conservative party emerge if not for at least 150,000 New Zealanders holding homophobic, transphobic, and sexist views?

We’ve got three more years to hold Labour to account in banning conversion therapy, and making it a hate crime. 

Sign petitions
Turn up to parliament
Write to your local MP
Demand more from organisations in your area
Challenge your shit mates who are verbally or physically abusive to Queer people in the community

 

9. Offer Financial Support

You can donate to a Queer person’s GoFundMe, support local drag artists, or fundraise for community providers like Gender Minorities Aotearoa. 

Money can make or break both individual and community efforts to improve the lives of marginalised people and those in the Queer community. 

Make a habit of redistributing wealth each payday, and encourage other cishet people to do the same. Our Community Group page has links to lots of national and grass roots organisations that you can fundraise for, and they will also be able to provide more guidance on how to provide assistance. Check it out!

Searching the phrase “transgender” on GoFundMe, has more than 10,000 results - it’s as simple as that. 

 

10. Support Queer Artists And Businesses

Like Agnes & Edie!

There are a tonne of rad NZ-based Queer artists and creatives (check out attendees at the Queer AF markets if you’re in Auckland). By supporting these peeps you know  your money is going directly to a member of the Queer community. Sometimes purchasing something means a topped up grocery budget, or the power staying on, or perhaps a replacement for a pair of worn out shoes. 

We’re a huge fan of the Queer creatives in Aotearoa, and we’ve got zines, art, and some secret special cool rad things in the mix for 2021 to showcase the incredible talent we have locally. 

Remember Queer businesses and creatives come Christmas and holiday times - it means the most to us!

 

DON’T

“Out” a transgender person without their prior, concrete permission.

Assume someone’s gender or sexual preference based on their appearance.

Use derogatory language when referring to someone in the Queer community. “It”, “he-she” or “tranny” are fucking horrific, and we’ll give you a hard slap if you ever use them. 

Ask about genitals, body, sexual proclivity, or surgery.

Assume that, because you cannot visually identify anyone in a room as Queer, there are no Queer people present.

Question whether an incidence was in fact, homophobia or transphobia. Let someone decide for themselves if they have experienced a traumatic experience due to their gender or sexuality. Queer people are experts in their own lives. 

 

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