Allyship: Recentering (Mars' Hill Article)
September 23, 2020
As human beings, we tend to focus inwards and try to keep ourselves comfortable. The same sort of thing can happen when trying to be a good ally. As a queer person, there are behaviours I have observed that I would categorize as poor LGBTQ+ allyship.
Many people hold to the idea that queer folks are easily offended and thus avoid asking important questions, like whether their language makes someone uncomfortable or is hurtful. Questions like these are important to bring up in any relationship, whether it be professional or between friends. However, there are also questions that can easily be Googled; why ask your transgender friend what “FTM” means when you can just look it up? There is a balance, and part of being a good ally is knowing when and when not to ask questions––everyone’s boundaries are different.
Another part of being a good ally means being a good ally consistently, not just in front of folks you know are queer. Look around you––how can you tell if someone is a part of the LGBTQ+ community? You can’t––everybody expresses themselves in different ways. Not all gay men are flamboyant, not all bisexual folks cuff their pants, and not all transgender women are into makeup. The LGBTQ+ community is not a secret society that is somewhere out there. They are your friends, family, colleagues, coworkers, bosses, and that random guy who walks his cat on a harness every morning. Be visible, bold, and stable in your allyship.
Christians, you cannot be an ally if your theology excludes your queer friends, family, or acquaintances. This means, you cannot be a safe person for them if you believe in the “I love you, but…” approach, which hurts people and pushes them away. This is not allyship, it is holding someone at arms’ length and telling them that you cannot love them for who they truly are. In addition to this, we need to stop offering celibacy and heterosexual relationship as the only option. Stories like Jackie Hill-Perry’s and Rosaria Butterfield’s belong to nobody else but them – recognize these individuals’ journeys, but do not let them be the only models of queer Christians.
Allyship is a lot of work and what it requires can seem daunting. However, if you can be somebody with a loving heart who also makes space without making it all about yourself, that is priceless to those who need it. Just remember that it is not about you. It is ultimately about getting educated, listening with an open heart, and doing the work queer folks ask you to do.