There’s no denying it — the acronym for the queer community has gotten long. This has become a source of confusion for some people, especially those who aren’t part of the queer community. However, I find myself increasingly obligated to let people know that the “A” in LGBTQIA+ does not stand for “ally,” but “asexual.”
I don’t know why it’s so confusing that allies are not part of the LGBTQIA+ community. I’ve discussed this with friends over social media platforms and in person, and I am somewhat astounded by the responses I’ve received for stating this.
While it is nice to have support, as in any situation, spaces that are built for the LGBTQIA+ community are not spaces that are necessarily inclusive to allies. Sure, there are spaces where allies are welcome to join. It only becomes a problem when allies infringe upon spaces in which they are not invited.
For example, my high school’s Queer Straight Alliance openly welcomed allies. They advertised that anyone was welcome and encouraged to join. This is a situation where I don’t have a problem with allies joining. But this doesn’t make them a part of the queer community; the queer community is for people who identify as LGBTQIA+.
While talking about this on Facebook, somebody brought up a noteworthy concept — some people who are not out of the closet may want to assimilate themselves into the community as straight allies first. Although this is a valid point, and I am all for the protection of LGBTQIA+ people, out or not, this creates a difficult dynamic in spaces that are meant for LGBTQIA+ people, and them alone. Obviously, in a space where they are not welcome as straight allies, queer people in the closet would definitely feel uncomfortable. In a situation like this, it would be best for people who are not ready to come out of the closet to stick to situations in which they are welcome as straight allies. When they are ready to identify openly as queer in some way, the spaces meant for only the queer community become available to them.
Ultimately, though allies are appreciated in any community, they are not a part of said community. They are not part of the marginalized group and do not experience the same oppressions. Not to say that they aren’t oppressed in other ways — for example, a straight woman and a gay man both face oppression in different ways. However, the gay man will never be part of the women’s community, and the straight woman will never be a part of the queer community.
There are some ways that you can improve your allyship towards the queer community. By gaining a full understanding of what an ally is and does, your support will gain more significance.
Allies definitely play an important role in LGBTQIA+ people’s lives. The primary situation where this comes up is when a queer person is coming out. They may be confused and scared of people’s reactions. It’s an ally’s job to support them through this however possible, whether it is being someone they can trust to help them come out to others or simply being there for them during this time.
After that, being an ally is about supporting LGBTQIA+ people in any way you can. This can take many forms — attending LGTBQIA+ meetings open to allies, fighting for LGBTQIA+ rights or even using your privilege to help them. Just make sure that in being an ally, you are not masking the voices of LGBTQIA+ people in the process. Be certain that you are never overstepping your boundaries as an ally, and always listen to queer people if they tell you you are.
Essentially, the LGBTQIA+ community members are the superheroes, and allies are their right-hand men. They assist them with whatever they may need help with at the time, but they aren’t the stars of the show when it comes to LGBTQIA+ matters.
By being a good ally who is respectful of LGBTQIA+ only spaces, you are supporting the movement and helping to progress the acceptance of queer people everywhere. The LGBTQIA+ community could not be where it is today without the assistance of allies, and they will continue to be necessary in our fight moving forward. We are grateful and appreciative of your help, and your allyship means a lot. Thank you.