Thursday, October 2, 2008

Eyes on Allies

LGBT equality ... from the straight perspective.

“And thanks to our brand-new community organizer, Rebecca (our token straight employee – look, we embrace diversity!), we were there.”

This line is from our first ENCspot blog entry a few weeks ago, and is about me [Rebecca Mann, ENC community organizer]. I’ll have to admit that although I think it’s endearing, I was still a little cringe-y after reading it. It made me think of how being an ally sometimes means walking a fine line between being true to who you are, but not appearing to define yourself as “not gay.”

Soon after I began working for ENC, I ran into a supporter who was concerned about an ENC volunteer who, while leading a presentation, mentioned numerous times that she is straight.

The supporter and others in attendance believed that by talking about her own sexual orientation during the presentation, the volunteer was trying to distance herself from the LGBT folks in the crowd. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know how the topic came up in the first place. But it immediately made me think of similar situations in which I’ve outed myself as straight. … and the times I haven’t and have found myself in LGBT-only conversations, feeling like I’ve invaded “safe spaces.”

So what’s an ally to do? Especially one whose job is to talk with others about LGBT rights?

My philosophy is that it is important to use the privileges we have to try and make the world better for others. And, it’s imperative to recognize that those of us with privilege are the ones traditionally mucking things up for those without it, and therefore we should be the ones working hardest for equality.

To this end, I think men should be flocking to anti-rape rallies, white folks to anti-racism programs, and gentiles to the Anti-Defamation League. (That’s a full plate for you, straight, white, Christian males.)

Likewise, straight people should be doing all we can to ensure LGBT rights. And I think there’s power in proudly doing this work as an “out” ally.

-Rebecca Mann

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