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How to be an Ally

Lately, it feels harder to drown out the voices of the bullies and the haters. Intolerance for anyone who doesn’t believe, look, love, and vote as they do is growing in ferocity, strengthened by the powers that be that not only support this intolerance but promote it. And those who have fought long and hard to be seen, heard and recognized, respected, accepted and included are back to fearing for their safety, losing their rights, and possibly their lives.

There has always been a segment of the population that has resisted progressive social change, fearing a threat to their way of life and a challenge to their beliefs. Those who enjoy privilege at the expense of others may do whatever it takes to turn back the tide to maintain their social status and financial benefits. And we are seeing plenty of evidence of this happening now. Down in the states, librarians are being asked to remove books from shelves; teachers are restricted in the information that they are allowed to share; health professionals are prevented from offering all the services they once provided.

Given that this is Pride month, I’d like to share a couple of issues that affect the 2SLGBTQ+ population here in Canada. A local school board recently voted down flying the Pride flag, citing that in doing so, it would be opposing their values. When students and allies walked out in protest, they were met by an angry crowd who “threw objects, destroyed signs, shouted slurs, berated students, and trampled a Pride flag.” Read the full article here.

In another province, a policy which once protected the privacy rights and promoted the safety of 2SLGBTQ+ students has been changed. One of the changes requires students under the age of 16 to ask their parent’s permission to change their name or pronouns. Many of these students do not feel safe to do so. If they refuse, then they are required to speak to a psychologist or social worker, most of whom feel that they would be abusing the student’s human rights by forcing them to speak. "Misgendering transgender and gender diverse people increases risk of self-harm, suicidal ideation, and other mental health concerns," the local association of psychologists said.

In speaking about anti-gay discrimination, one trans student from another school board was quoted as saying, “It's really sad to know that I can't be myself openly and have everyone be fine with it. I'm just trying to be me. I'm just trying to hang out and be a teenager. And there are people who hate me just for the fact that I’m me.”

Whether we have been personally targeted by discrimination, bigotry and hate or whether we are just saddened and discouraged by the angry rhetoric and the lack of acceptance of the ‘other,’ there are things we can do if we would like to drown out those intolerant voices.

  • When it’s safe to do so, we can speak up, speak out and challenge discrimination whenever and wherever we hear it or see it.

  • We can acknowledge that we all play a part in maintaining the status quo if we don’t.

  • We can begin to examine our own biases and acknowledge the privileges that we have enjoyed.

  • We can educate ourselves on historical issues that still impact current times.

  • We can learn to use appropriate terminology to describe different communities.

  • We can create safe spaces for people who do not feel safe.

  • We can become allies.

Happy Pride! Happy Indigenous People’s Day! Happy Juneteenth!

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