“What is an ALLY?”
...or the question most frequently asked of those wearing the ALLY pin; “Who is Ally”?
An Ally to the TBLG community is any person who affirms the experiences and rights of TBLG People. An Ally is a person who is a member of the dominant or majority group who works to end oppression in his or her own personal and professional life through support of and as an advocate with and for the oppressed population.
A straight ally is someone who is not gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (GLBT) but personally advocates for GLBT equal rights and fair treatment. Straight allies are some of the most effective and powerful advocates for the GLBT movement. These allies have proven invaluable personally and politically, and are increasingly important in the fight for GLBT equality. Indeed, their voices often have been heard while those of GLBT people have been ignored.
Opinion polls show that people who know someone who is gay or lesbian are more likely to support equal rights for all gay and lesbian people. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that the same is true for people who know someone who is bisexual or transgender. From HRC.org
This definition can be expanded to include TBL and/or G identified people who are allies within their community. Although all of the different identities within “TBLG” are often lumped together (and share sexism as a common root of oppression), there are specific needs and concerns related to each individual identity.
Allies make a conscious effort to fight heterosexism, transphobia and homophobia. You may be an ally and not even know it!
Resources for Allies
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What is Heterosexual Privilege?
TBLG people are denied many of the rights that heterosexual people take for granted every day. These are just a few examples:
The Right to Work
Heterosexual people never have to worry that they will be fired if they disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity. There is no national law preventing this for TBLG people. Heterosexual people are also not prohibited from holding any jobs because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, such as military or many religious posts.
The Right to Family
In most states the benefits of marriage are afforded only to heterosexual couples. These include health coverage, child custody rights, medical access to a hospitalized spouse, and inheritance and pension right in the case of a partner’s death. In many states, TBLG people are prohibited from adopting or fostering children. Custody of their own children may be taken away from them simply because of their sexual orientation.
The Right to Live
Many TBLG people have experienced hate crimes, often violent and sometimes lethal in nature. A lack of social support contributes to a high rate of suicides among TBLG youth. TBLG people are not legally protected from discrimination in most places. A TBLG person can be denied service in a restaurant or store and have no legal recourse. They may also be denied housing. In many states TBLG people can even be jailed for engaging in consensual sex in the privacy of their own home.
Privilege and privacy of gender
People who identify as transgender are often discriminated against because they go against the common expectations, roles and/or behaviors associated with their birth gender. Just as feminism and other movements have sought increased freedom of expression and freedom from limitations based on gender, people who are transgendered increase freedom of personal expression for all. Unfortunately, when someone is publicly identified as transgender, there can be a sense of "voyeurism" that can exploit personal privacy. Transgender people have a sense of privacy around body issues, just as anyone does: a transgender person may identify themselves openly as transgender, but not want to discuss specifics of their bodies. Unfortunately, many of these potentially awkward and voyeuristic situations can occur in the medical environment.
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What Allies can do to help
Every person is different and feels most comfortable being an Ally in different ways. For some people being an Ally means fighting transphobia, homophobia and anti-gay prejudice, and dispelling myths and untruths about TBLG people. For others, being an Ally means having a supportive attitude towards friends, family, or acquaintances who are transgender, bisexual, lesbian or gay.
- Read about TBLG Issues. Between the Lines is a free publication you can pick up at hundreds of distribution locations.
- Attend TBLG events
- Attend or rent films featuring TBLG characters or issues.
- Talk to TBLG people.
Be a Role Model
- Notice your heterosexist language and change it. For example, use partner or significant other instead of boyfriend and girlfriend. Use neutral pronouns.
- Don’t assume everyone is heterosexual.
- Don’t ridicule people for non-traditional gender behaviors.
- Challenge transphobia, homophobia and heterosexist jokes and comments from others.
- Don't wait for a TBLG person to confront heterosexism or transphobia, do it yourself.
- Wear an Ally pin or a "Straight not Narrow" pin and tell people why.
- Join a TBLG group. Many groups, welcome allies.
- Vote for pro-TBLG candidates and laws and encourage others to do the same.
- Support non-discrimination policies and same sex domestic partner benefits.
Ideas for UMHS Pride Network Allies
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Ally Training program
Check out the Spectrum Center for more information and schedules. Winner of the Outstanding University Program award at the 2005-2006 Rosalie Ginsberg Awards for Community Service and Social Action! Don't miss a chance to be a part of this award-winning program. *And look for updates for a UMHS-based Ally training program.
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