I haven’t written any new content in…months. The thing is, a LOT has happened during that time personally, professionally, and globally, and the anxiety has been both palpable and crippling at times. But, there are events going on right now that NEED to be addressed, and June represents a month of Pride and reflection for many.
In the last several weeks (years, really), we’ve born witness to moments ofgreat injustice against our black community, including the unjustified killing of George Floyd. Since then, communities and allies have come together to collectively and peacefully say “no more”. Today, I want to talk to you why it is vitally important to be an ally to discriminated communities.
When I came out as a gay man several years ago, it was an *extremely* gradual, uncomfortable experience. It is different for everyone, and for me, it was long overdue but also not quite the “ripping off the bandaid” moment I wished it had been. That said, I didn’t have that choice when it came to coming out at work.
After coming back from a quick vacation, I returned to work only to encounter what I could only describe as informal ostracization and hurried, hushed conversations behind my back. Honestly, my first thought was “ am I being fired” but the truth was somehow worse.
At a dinner celebration that evening for our team winning a sales competition, a friend (a *true* friend) pulled me aside and told me that the reason people had been acting odd was that while I was away, a co-worker found my profile on MySpace (that should give you a sense of time here), and printed out pages showing proof that I was gay. I was angry, sad and embarrassed all within this moment of time that I can only describe as a ringing in my ears so deafening and nauseating that any thoughts I had were lost.
I have to be honest, today I am still most upset about one part of that experience, and that is that I was embarrassed at the time of who I was, and perhaps for not speaking up for myself. But it was through a select group of friends and allies in the office that helped me not only find my own voice, but also be a voice when I didn’t have one. Voices that stood up for me and told others to do better.
I also recognize that, as terrible as that experience was to me personally, I know that my LGBT brothers and sisters of color have tremendously higher odds stacked against them, and are far more likely to suffer violent crimesfor being themselves. Just this year so far, the community has already lost 12 transgender individuals – crimes that often go unreported or misreported.The only reason we are even able to celebrate pride each year was because a trans woman of color was stepped up for everyone and said “no more”. At an absolute minimum, we owe the community that same determination and spirit to do better and be better.
I can NOT stress how important it is to speak up for others, and to let them know that you will speak up for them. I don’t mean posting something to your social media accounts that says you’re an ally to the gay or black community, which is helpful and unifying, yes. It means going further than you may be comfortable with, and using your actual voice to educate others, speak up for those that can’t, and listening to those that you are supporting. If you can’t march, donate. If you can’t donate, educate a friend or family member.
Allyship is crucial to making this world better. Discriminated communities cannot be expected to make changes on their own, nor should they be. Collectively we have all contributed in some way to the marginalization of others, whether we are aware of it or not. It is time to become more acutely aware of that and be better allies.
I am not here to shame nor stand on a soap box and act like I am more knowledgeable or have a better moral compass than anyone. Because I am not, and I don’t. I simply wish to convey how communities need your outward support.
You may be asking how you can be a better ally, but you need to ask yourself that question first. I know that personally, I still have opportunity to do better and be a better ally to both my community and others. In the meantime, I can certainly share some helpful resources which may help you with your own conversations and reflection:
–Want to Be an Ally to the Black Community? First: Put Down Your Phone
-An Ally’s Guide to Issues Facing the LGBT Community
-8 Benefits of Being a Straight Ally to the Gay Community
-Be an Ally to the Black Lives Matter Movement
This Pride is certainly less joyous than last year, when the world came together in celebration throughout the streets of New York. This year, we find our city’s streets filled once again. Though the tone may be more somber, the message is more important than ever.
Stay safe and stay open to helping others.