How To Be An LGBT Ally Words by Olaoncé Carey

How To Be An LGBT Ally Words by Olaoncé Carey

May 18, 2019

 

When Manchester Pride released a new rainbow flag including black and brown stripes- homage to Philly Pride who adopted this design back in 2017- there was huge divide and pushback on social media from (mostly) white gay men. Ironic, as the flag was originally updated to show inclusion and much-needed solidarity to people of colour in the LGBT community who routinely face racism from their white counterparts. 

The rainbow flag is a well-known and iconic symbol for LGBT communities, and there are many different versions for LGBT people in the army, bisexual people and a trans flag.

However, it seems that soon as the narrative is not white and Cis-focused (and POC voices are given a much-needed spotlight) those that hold societal weight within the community due to legal and social advancements throw their toys out of the pram. 

Feedback called the flag “divisive”, demanded a white stripe or simply said “Why are we making this about race?” while they did just that and made it about race. Whiteness is so used to being the standard that as soon as others are centred, it’s an issue.

We only have to look at Toronto Pride 2017 where Black Lives Matter staged a protest near the end of the city’s parade. Amongst many demands for black representation and equality was a request for the exclusion of uniformed police at the event. Black LGBT experience racism and violence from the police, but instead of support from the wider community, there was a backlash.

This is another blatant irony, as Pride, aside from being a good time, is a protest started by black trans and non-binary people who were literally fighting for their lives. Stonewall Riots, anyone? Pride literally challenged the police as agents of an anti-LGBT state. While white gays have advanced and assimilated into mainstream society, LGBT POC has been left behind and their battles often overlooked. Further, white gays have encouraged solidarity among us all only to throw us under the bus after (as some would say) their white privilege became complete. 

Why do we need a new flag? Well, visibility and a continued conversation about race. As a gay black man struggling to type this with long acrylic nails, my dual identities co-exist and blend as seamlessly as a Fenty foundation. I am an intersectional being.  

I often get asked "So what next? How can I help?’’ As Pride season approaches, here are a few things you can do. Whether you’re a part of the LGBT community or not, you can support efforts to help the most marginalized people. Here are some suggestions. 

 

  1. Educate yourself. Support LGBT POC content and amplify our voices. Share our blogs, follow these amazing agitators on Instagram: @travisalabanza, @munroebergdorf, @kai_isaiah_jamal, @siete_saudades, and @rachel.cargle. Watch my YouTube videos!
  1. Listen to learn, not to speak over. This is a tricky one but it’s important that you fully engage with difficult conversations. 
  1. Respect our agency, we as Black/POC LGBT+ people are not here purely to educate you, nor do we always want to talk about race. I’m at least partly writing this blog post so that I’m not cornered at 4 am at a house party when all I want to do is dance to Ariana. This is our lived experience, not just a cute convo. Thank you, next.
  1. Speak up when you see injustice or hear something off. You have the ability to infiltrate certain spaces, use whatever platform you have-friends, colleagues, and your aunt Carol- and make your impact. Don’t just speak up when we’re around. 
  1. Leave your white fragility at the door and stop centring your feelings when POC talk about race. These conversations are uncomfortable, but if you’re not uncomfortable then you’re really not pushing yourself. See point 2.
  1. Use yourself as a shield if necessary. Challenge individuals who seek to threaten LGBT+ people with violence. If you see homophobic behaviour or transphobic behaviour, step in. If you feel it may escalate into violence, step in. Don’t just record with your phone. This is probably one of the more difficult suggestions, but it is critical that antagonists are aware that it is not safe for them to attack our people. 

 

Remember that allyship is in your actions and that it is not a one-and-done kind of thing. True allyship is a devotion to the protection and elevation of marginalized people, even if it isn’t easy, and especially when it isn’t easy. Use your privilege to support and uplift your LGBT siblings.



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