With society being so diverse, it is important to not only acknowledge our differences, but to also embrace them. One form of doing so is by allyship. With the recent hate crimes against Asians, Trans rights being at risk at the legislature level, and Black people advocating for the importance of the Black Lives Movement everyday, it is important now more than ever to be an ally to marginalized communities. Everyone is able to be an ally, because privilege is intersectional. Being an ally is a continual commitment, as you need to be investing the time and energy to find out how you can not only support marginalized communities, but to also hold people (including yourself) accountable and putting in the work when necessary to enact change.
There are multiple ways to practice allyship and here are some of them.
Inclusive language is essential to allyship. This includes asking for someone’s pronouns if you are meeting them for the first time. Asking for someone’s pronouns helps to destigmatize trans and other gender non-conforming identities in the environment you are in, creating a sense of acceptance. Another way to ensure you are using inclusive language is to stay away from gendered terms and use language that addresses everyone instead. Examples of this would include using the word “partner” instead of “boyfriend/girlfriend” and avoiding the use of the word “tone deaf” as it uses a disability as a negative descriptor, making you come across as an ableist. Language is our main form of communication and it is therefore important to start our allyship with the language we use so that more people are aware of the importance of cultivating a diverse environment to live, work, and play in.
Secondly, you can be an ally by calling out inappropriate behavior when you see it. Bullying is never okay, and that also applies to when racism and sexism are involved. Marginalized people might be afraid to speak out for themselves when being discriminated against for fear of being accused of “playing the race or gender card”. It is therefore important for allies, especially those who are privileged, to step up and shut down discriminatory behavior when they happen. Doing so will not only make the person being discriminated feel supported, but will also send a message to everyone else in the environment that discriminatory behaviors rooted in isms such as racism, sexism, and ageism are not welcome. This will then create the culture of anti-discrimination within the environment itself.
Lastly, being an ally means accepting your privilege and using it to elevate and amplify underrepresented voices. For example, despite being a BIPOC woman, which are both marginalized groups, I understand the privilege I have as a cis woman and have used my voice to amplify LGBTQ+ voices whenever possible. It can be uncomfortable sitting down with yourself and unpacking the unconscious biases you might already have, but it is important to do so in order to understand the systemic and social injustices that are happening. By doing so, you will be able to understand how to use your privilege better to advocate for marginalized communities.
Being an ally and practicing allyship essentially means putting in the work daily to educate yourself and others around you. It can be daunting knowing that you will have to unlearn unconscious biases and reframe your thinking, but the work is necessary if we want to be able to achieve equality for all.