Stronger together: Becoming a better ally within our communityBottom Highlights, Latest Issue, Queerly Forward Thursday, August 17th, 2017
Commentary: Queerly Forward
“You’re such a great ally.” After I advocated for an elderly patient and her partner by reminding staff to be sensitive to the unique needs of LGBTQ older adults, my coworker spoke these words to me with genuine appreciation. My reaction surprised me. I was thrown, not knowing how to respond. Did I thank her? Those words got stuck on my tongue. I almost reacted in defense: “I’m not an ally, I’m queer!” – but stopped myself when I looked around to the room full of people I am still learning to trust.
I am not intentionally closeting myself at my new job. However, respect for my husband’s wishes – to keep the fact that he is transgender separate from our professional lives – paired with the topic of sexuality being the furthest from work appropriate means that my queerness is not obvious to the people I spend the better part of each week with. They’ve made assumptions, which can only be corrected by my coming out, something I have not found a place for.
Having been out and proud at every job prior, this is new territory for me. The newest twist: being labeled an ally. I am used to being “the gay one,” part of the “in” crowd, providing education through experience. I am used to pushing the envelope, coming out in a fury during moments I’ve labeled as learning opportunities, challenging preconceived notions about sexuality and gender and asking those around me to think a bit harder about the assumptions they impose.
This compliment really got me thinking about the meaning of being an ally. Am I an ally within my own community? My initial reaction was to say no, stemming from years of attaching this term solely to our straight and cis counterparts. But the longer this topic swirled around in my mind, the more my feelings changed.
I am not only an ally, I am dynamically so. I have marched in protests carrying signs that scream about how black and trans lives matter. I have stood up when witnessing queer coworkers struggling with discrimination, shutting down words of hate. I have fought and won in changing the health insurance policies of a massive organization to include transgender health coverage. I have worked to translate the stories and struggles of others into opportunities for personal growth, striving to develop the strength necessary to stand up in future moments when an ally is vital.
I am proud to blend this word into my ever-developing queer existence. I hope to continue to recognize the areas of privilege I possess, particularly within the context of our already minority community, and live up to the expectation of advocacy this label carries. We are stronger together, strongest as a united voice, practicing what we preach to the rest of the world in the ways we first treat one another.
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