My Ally Week Pledge

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October 22, 2013
Beverly Tillery, Director of Community Education and Advocacy

As GLSEN's Ally Week (October 21-25) unfolds, I’m thinking about some of the straight allies who have stood up with and for me and other LGBT people over the years and I am determined to be a better ally in my personal and professional life.

Simply put, an ally is someone who advocates for and supports members of a community other than their own. Allies are people just like my former colleagues who encouraged me when I helped form our local union's lavender caucus and other union leaders who made sure the union members were as educated about homophobia as they were about racism and classism; or like the coworker who, after some gentle prodding, spoke up when others made anti-gay remarks so I didn't always have to; or like my partner's mother who always so fiercely supported her lesbian daughter and by extension me and our daughter. And allies are just like the countless other activists, leaders, politicians, athletes, artists, business people, faith leaders, family members, friends and neighbors who in their own ways have stood up for LGBT rights over the years.

In fact, so many of the victories and achievements of the LGBT movement have been won with the support of thousands upon thousands of straight allies. And while the definition of an ally is simple, the act of being one is not always so easy. What I've learned from watching allies is that it takes a combination of openness, vision and courage - openness to learn about another group's culture, struggles and strengths; vision to understand how our communities and issues are connected and imagine opportunities for collaboration; and courage to stand up for justice, even when it may not be popular.

While we in the LGBT community are quick to call for allies to stand with us, many of us and our organizations are more reluctant to stand for and with other groups striving to achieve equality and justice. As advocates of our own civil rights, we are too often slow to align ourselves with our sister movements and communities.

Recently, I’ve been heartened by the ways individuals and organizations in the LGBT community have been showing up as allies. Lambda Legal and other LGBT organizations condemned SB 1070, Arizona’s discriminatory anti-immigration bill, and we have endorsed Comprehensive Immigration Reform. We joined efforts to end the New York City Police Department’s Stop and Frisk program which illegally profiles people of color. But just as our fight for equality is not over with the dismantling of DOMA, there is so much more to do to achieve equality and justice for all people.

So this Ally Week, I hope you join me as I celebrate and honor all allies who support LGBT rights, and pledge to do a better job of following their example. We can all learn from other communities about how they are working to address discrimination and oppression, and then find ways to make connections and speak out. And we can challenge our organizations to do the same.

Click here to read our online guide for family and friends of LGBTQ teens and young adults.