The GSRC Presents: How To Be an LGBTQ Ally

Hanna Da’Mes, Staff Writer |

On April 5, SUNY Oneonta’s Gender and Sexuality Resource Center (GSRC) hosted a discussion on how to be a good ally for those in the LGBTQ community. Along with the center’s Assistant Director of Student Life and Leadership, Emily Phelps, the discussion was led by Student Coordinators Rosana DeJesus, Dariel Santana, and Rowan Fitzgibbons. The event was subtitled with the phrase “If you see something, say something,” which emphasizes the importance of speaking up about harassment against LGBTQ  youth.

They started the discussion with a definition of the word “ally,” which they described as siding with or supporting any marginalized group one is not a part of. To supplement this definition, DeJesus and Santana showed the YouTube video “Got Your Back,” which displayed high school students explaining what they think it means to be an ally. Some of the qualities attributed to an ideal ally were open-mindedness, compassion, a willingness to learn, and “knowing when not to speak over those who don’t always have the opportunity to speak.” DeJesus expressed the importance of people who are not in the LGBTQ community to realize that they have a responsibility as allies to “use [their] privilege as protection.” Straight, cis-gendered people do not face the same prejudice as LGBTQ individuals, so they have more power in social, political, and even economic situations. Through allyship, they are encouraged to use this power to give a voice to those with less privilege.

The next video, “I’ll Rise,” provided statistics about LGBTQ high school students being harassed, as well as suicide rates for LGBTQ youth. At the end of the video, Assistant Director Emily Phelps added that although the video was fairly old, the numbers were still more or less accurate. Unfortunately, there has not been much change in regards to the harassment and suicide rates of LGBTQ youth.

DeJesus and Santana then went into how to be a helpful and effective ally. They advised allies to do research in order to be educated on the struggles of people in the community and communicate with LGBTQ people about their identity related issues. Allies should talk to others about their questions and concerns, and are encouraged to ask if what they are doing or saying is offensive, harmful, or detrimental to the situation.

Sometimes people will get called out for saying ignorant things, but allies are advised not to get too defensive about it, but rather learn from their mistakes. “It’s a learning process,” as DeJesus pointed out. She also stressed the phrase “speak up, not over.” Allies should speak from their own experiences, not for others’. If someone is not a part of the specific community, they should not try to speak from that community’s point of view, as they have no way of knowing the real struggles they are going through.

One of the ending points of the discussion was that the word “ally” is not a noun, it is a verb. This means that allies need to be active in their allyship. Someone cannot  claim to be             an LGBTQ ally and then do nothing to further help people in the community. The hosting team also explained how good allyship is determined by the group that one is an ally to; an ally cannot call themselves a “good ally” because they are not on the side of the oppressed and therefore do not fully comprehend their experiences.

The group closed with a summary of all the points in the discussion, including the many ways people can continue to improve their allyship. The GSRC has many events coming up in the following weeks of the semester. For more information, follow the Facebook page @SUNY Oneonta GSRC.

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