SOCIETY :: How To Be A Better Ally

By on June 28, 2016


SOCIETY :: How To Be A Better Ally  In the wake of the shootings at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, the LGBTQ community has been shaken to it’s core. I attended a couple of memorials earlier this summer, one at the 519 Community Centre in Barbara Hall Park, and the other at Nathan Phillips Square. Crowds were immense! There were individuals, like myself, as well as families, friends, little kids, and even pets. A memorial of remembrance erected on the steps of The 519 Community Centre remains up weeks after the shooting, and expands every day. People stop to observe, read cards, place flowers and mementos such as stuffed animals or pride flags, and frames contain the names of the all 49 souls lost to the shooting.

My heart bleeds for the LGBT community, having chosen Toronto’s Church-Wellesley neighbourhood as home for my own safety and security, in a city of over eight million people. I’m a straight single female, and one harasses me, no one taunts or ridicules, it’s a friendly ‘hood full of people either visiting the city, or meeting neighbours for a night out of music, out for drinks, or just to hang out. I find it the safest area of the city but also the most convenient for work, a doctor’s visit, or groceries. Everything is within a five minute walk from home.

But I’m also mindful that my city’s LGBT village is simply that, the LGBT village. I am a guest, and very much aware of that whenever I’m out.

During my city’s Pride, the Village is a super hub of activity and the streets are closed to traffic for people to wander, explore, or take part in the various events along Church Street. Watching a drag show, listening to musicians along the way, or dancing to the latest DJ in the clubs, it’s always a place of vibrant activity.

Taking part in the various activities where I live in my community,is the best way I can be an ally to the LGBTQ community keeping in mind that I am a guest, and always being respectful.

  • Be conscious of pronouns when addressing a person, ask first.
  • Be aware of the LGBTQ history before jumping in wanting to help. Knowing and understanding history before getting to know “who” the community is, is so important.
  • Put your personal beliefs, prejudices, and ideas on the back shelf for now. This isn’t about you it’s about the people you are advocating for.
  • Get involved in educating the un-educated. Explore resources in the city that promote inclusive space, and reach out to those who may be coming out for the first time, and may feel inhibited by that space.

Since Orlando there has been an increase in gay bashings. If you witness one:

  • Be with the person who was targeted or gay-bashed, make sure they are safe and out of harm’s way from further potential attacks.
  • Attend or support any medical issues if necessary, this includes filing a police report. Provide the officer with your contact information if needed.
  • Support the person you are with, with food, clothing, or other necessities if needed. A person in shock will often forget about their own basic needs, like eating or sleeping, so ensuring those needs are met is crucial.
  • Your role is to support, not necessarily care-take. So taking direction and listening carefully to the other person’s needs at the time is so important when you are in the role of a witness ally.

Allies are not there to take up space or control, they are there to support the community, especially when things get to the point of harassment of the community or an individual. We are often seen in the role of observers at large events like Pride, a visible sign to the LGBT community that they have allies who will always have their back.

– Nicole Borthwick is a GGN contributor, an advocate and friend of the LGBTQ Community.  

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