Illness, Injury, Inclusion: A Third Dive Into LGBTQIA+ Health— Allyship
November 11, 2020 ⋅ 4:30 P.M ⋅ Faaizah Arshad ⋅ Editor: Guadalupe Sandoval⋅
There comes a time when remaining silent and failing to actively participate in conversations that affect marginalized communities is equivalent to complacency. Choosing to remain neutral becomes part of the problem. The only way to ensure that all members of society have an equal chance at health, economic, and social opportunities is to raise awareness about issues. Speaking against injustice and standing up for groups who are disadvantaged is critical in order to ensure that we do not perpetuate the inequitable structures that we try hard to remove.
As students, future health professionals, and members of intersectional communities, we must think about our own role.
How are we involved in various systems? What conversations do we take part in, and what conversations have we yet to engage in? How do we benefit from certain resources (health, education, etc.) that others still don’t have access to?
Reflecting on our own privileges is important because it enables us to think about the ways that we can directly engage with communities that are facing injustices. Because October was LGBTQ+ History Month and Transgender Awareness Week takes place on November 14-20, this paper will focus on ways in which we can serve as allies specifically to those in the LGBTQ+ community.
Since the early 1900s, progress has been made towards equality for people of LGBTQ+ identity. Human rights organizations have pushed for activism and states have passed bills declaring that discrimination against poeple based on gender and sexual orientation is unconstitutional. However, full equality cannot happen without the support of community members, like you! But, what does it really mean to be an ally?
An ally is someone who publicly and privately supports the LGBTQ+ community’s push for fairness and equality.
An ally can be an individual of any gender or sexual orientation as long as that individual has a desire to help LGBTQ+ people feel supported and included. Before you can be an ally, you must educate yourself.
The first step to being an ally is to do some research. It can be challenging to understand the difficulties that LGBTQ+ people face if you have not experienced them first-hand. But,
allies recognize that there is always more to be known regarding LGBTQ+ issues. By learning about the history, struggles, and milestones of the LGBTQ+ population, you will be more knowledgeable to communicate effectively when you decide to have conversations about LGBTQ+ rights.
It is unfair to expect LGBTQ+ people to justify and educate others on their identity. Taking the time and effort to see the world in their perspective will enable you to connect with them and identify similarities and differences. You will recognize that while you may or may not be LGBTQ+, LGBTQ+ rights matters to you.
The second step to being an ally is to use the right words and pronouns when referring to others. Never assume another individual’s pronouns because our assumptions are based on our own conscious and unconscious biases. Using gender-inclusive language is important. Common pronouns are she/her/hers, he/him/his, and they/them/theirs. One respectful way to create an inclusive space is to begin by introducing your own pronouns and then ask others for their pronouns. For example, “Hi, my name is ________ and my pronouns are _____. May I ask what pronouns you use?” If you accidentally refer to someone using incorrect pronouns, apologize and correct yourself.
And remember, as you keep educating yourself about the LGBTQ+ community, there is always more to know. So, be a listener. Keep listening to people’s experiences. If appropriate, ask questions to clarify misconceptions. It is a powerful thing to use your voice to advocate for others and to initiate conversation about equality, but it is even more powerful to hear what others have to say. When you misunderstand LGBTQ+ people or use stereotypical words, be willing to accept correction. You won’t know what you don’t know until you listen to what’s being conveyed.
Overall, allyship is a journey of your own, and we all have the potential to be allies. In fact, there is even an Ally Spectrum, which recognizes that allies can offer a range of support. There isn’t a label that makes one ally more advanced than the other. All LGBTQ+ allies can empower. At each stage, there are things to learn and to do. The goal is to actively stand up and speak out against injustices. As many say, “Ally is a verb, not a noun.”
About the Author
Faaizah Arshad is an undergraduate student at University of California - Los Angeles.