Pride month can be an exciting time. But some members of the LGTBQ+ community observe that it’s harder to find visible allies once the Pride Parades in June and July end. But what is an ally? While people within the LGTBQ+ community may have differing views, it’s largely accepted that allies are people outside of a minority who take responsibility for changing societal patterns that result in injustice against that minority.
To get suggestions for people interested in becoming active allies, we talked to Sam Morin. As a three-year Muddy, Sam spends a lot of time helping dog and cat owners find the right solutions for their animals. And as an active member of the LGTBQ community, we thought he might be able to offer a few ideas to people interested in taking their first steps toward allyship.
MB: Pride can ignite lots of people’s excitement in being an LGBTQ ally. For someone who wants to be an ally to the community, what would you tell them?
SH: I think if you’re genuinely saying in your heart, “yes, I want to be an ally to this minority” the first thing I’d say is: Thank you. We appreciate it. We appreciate every voice we can get who’s going to stand up for us in any different scenario or any location and is going to say, “This isn’t okay, and here’s why.”
The second thing I’m going to say is: It’s not easy. I think when you truly commit yourself to genuinely being an ally and start to learn more about people’s experiences, it becomes complicated. Being a part of the LGBTQ community is beautiful, but it can be difficult to realize what people have gone through. Each and every one of us has different experiences, and most have faced consistent hardships or discrimination. And once you start talking to people, learning what life is actually like for them, and begin to open your eyes to different aspects of the world, you begin to have a broader point of view of the forces that are ingrained into our society that work against the LGBTQ community. Just like everything else, it is a very chaotic and beautiful thing. But it can be difficult. And with that, I’d say take time to recharge yourself and spend time with good people. Take this lifetime commitment slow and steady. Pace yourself because the road to change is long.
MB: For people who want to know more about the LGTBQ community, what would you recommend?
SH: Initially, I want to say, “Hey, use the internet.” But that’s not a super great place to start if you have other options in your area.
I think the best thing to do is to start talking to people (if they are open to it). To share details of one’s life requires consent. Each and every person in the LGBTQ community has a different history. We are not all the same and should not have generalizations placed upon us.
I encourage those who elect to be allies to first start looking at resources (articles, groups, etc.) that are primarily meant for allies–PFLAG is the main one I would recommend (they have groups in every state). A lot of these resources exist in your local community and are easily accessible. In addition, there are myriad online resources offered by LGBTQ youth centers and the HRC.
For people who live in the Seattle area, I highly recommend the Ingersoll Gender Center. They are super rad and are a great source of information for anyone who wants to learn. Ingersoll offers a ton of resources for allies and LGTBQ folks. I think that if someone wants to commit themselves to be a lifelong ally to the LGTBQ community, it’s time to look at all the resources that we LGTBQ folks get. Start to investigate that material to gain insight. Start talking to people and try to get to a place where you can both sympathize and empathize. From there you will have a better idea of how you can best protect them and stand up for them on a day-to-day basis.
If you notice a lot of discrimination or you notice a lot of discrepancies in your community, think about starting a conversation about the issues you see. Honestly, people evolve. So, even if you’re not able to launch an extended dialogue with people, you can still plant those seeds in someone else’s brain.
MB: What are some helpful things that allies can do to offer support?
SH: Truthfully it can be exhausting being a member of the LGBTQ community. We are systematically oppressed in law and culture. Our rights, as a community, are still stripped from us through discrimination in 31 states. Not to mention that transgender folks, such as myself, in roughly 40 states are barred from having safe places to live, maintain employment by way of laws that protect us from at work discrimination or being fired, are able to adopt children without fear of being turned away, or gain simple access to the name changes/gender identification changes/medical procedures we need. These are just a few of the challenges that I, as a white transgender man, face. The challenges faced by my fellow community members that are people of color are even higher in number and deeper in oppression.
Things that allies can do to offer support are the ideas that I shared earlier; becoming informed by seeking out knowledge, finding other allies that want to make change and act on those ideas, sticking up for your LGBTQ friends/family/acquaintances/ strangers when things get heavy. Last but certainly not least, contact your local government. The more cisgender and heterosexual folks we can get to rally for legal betterment of the laws that affect the LGBTQ community, the more impact our voices and actions will make.
Being a good ally is about recognizing the forces in our society. Being aware that we live in a patriarchal, white privileged society is vital to greater understanding and betterment of the LGBTQ community. I believe that allies who recognize the privileges they have in this world and use them to fuel the fire for good, to make our society a better place, is what will ultimately carry the most weight in the ongoing fight for change.***
Avid animal nerd Sam Morin has worked at Mud Bay for three years. When not at the shop he enjoys creating box forts with his wife for their two cats, Ted and Marley, reading, cooking, being a wolf outdoors with his dog, Rosie, and soaking up as much sun as he can at the beach with his wife and friends.