One could fill volumes with issues and interests of the LGBTQ community. This week Scene has picked a handful of topics to discuss… ranging from trans life at USF to how to be an ally.
When talking about the queer community, some tend to throw the word “ally” around without stopping to examine what exactly is meant by the term. Many skim right over the concept of alliance to what’s “important,” the bigger political issues and decoding that alphabet soup of the LGBTQ acronym. Especially of the lack of dialogue, alliance is one of the most basica, important, and least understood tenets of the queer community.
An ally can be many things: a friend, an advocate, a sympathizer, a partner—it’s this powerful combination of elements that make being an ally so crucial and misunderstood. Alliance is much more complex than any one of these things, but also not as big a commitment to be considered daunting.
Being an ally means valuing someone not only because of their sexuality or gender identity, but including and/or in addition to it. If you find yourself saying, “I can say that, I totally have a gay uncle and a transgender friend of a friend!” or “Of course I’m an ally. I love the gays!” you’re doing it wrong. Alliance means recognizing people’s intrinsic worth as complete individuals and not as beings defined solely by their gender, sexuality, or any other isolated component of who they are. Not all gay men want to go shopping with you.
You don’t have to like every single gay, trans*, and bi person to be an ally. We’re all human. That’s the point. But sometimes you’ll hear people wanting to discount an entire community, or feel yourself wanting to accept some factions of the LGBTQ communities and not some others that may be harder to relate to. You don’t necessarily have to understand every kind of gender and sexual identity to be an ally. But you do have to be open-minded and compassionate, even for those that you don’t fully grasp.
Furthermore, being an ally means refusing to be a bystander. All great intentions and personal beliefs can only go so far if you’re unwilling to stand up for them. I’m not saying that you need to go march in a pride parade, start a Queer Alliance in your neighborhood, or write to your senator (although those are all great things to do). I’m saying that it’s more important not to stay silent within your own communities, particularly when prejudicial situations arise.
It’s not just saying, “that’s lame” instead of “that’s so gay.” It’s asking others to do the same. It’s explaining why. It’s saying, “actually, the phrase ‘no homo’ is offensive and homophobic.” Being an ally is not always an easy job, but someone has to do it. In fact, we all gotta do it.
Alliance takes effort. It’s an active process that requires a constant monitoring of your own behavior and prejudices as well as the strength to ask others to monitor theirs. Having gay friends is one thing, but being an ally is something one can really be proud of.
In San Francisco, it doesn’t have to be pride weekend for you to connect with the queer community, and you don’t have to drop half your paycheck in the Castro to have fun.
Queer Alliance is an entirely student run club that meets every Wednesday from 8-9 p.m. in the Intercultural Center (UC 411). Members discuss issues that face the community and plan on-campus events
TransMasculine (Female-to-Male) Group at Trans Thrive. Tuesdays 6:00 p.m. –7:30 p.m. 730 Polk St.
Blur: Transgender and Gender Variant Support Group at Dimensions Clinic. Thursdays 6:30 p.m. Ages 18– 25 only. 3850 17th St
Lesbians of Color Discussion Group at Pacific Center (East Bay). Thursdays 7:00 a.m. 2712 Telegraph Ave.
Bay Area Young Positives: Mondays 7:00 p.m. For young HIV-positive people. 701 Oak St.
Modern Times Bookstore is home to all things queer, radical, vegan, and counter culture. Moderntimesbookstore.com, 2919 24th St.
The Pacific Center in Berkeley is home to support groups and social events that include a spectrum of gender identities and sexual orientations. Pacificcenter.org (2712 Telegraph Ave.)
SF LGBT Community Center is home to a variety of queer resources including meal nights, job fairs, legal support, and art galleries. Sfcenter.org 1800 Market St.