My issue with the term ‘Straight Allies’
Posted by |In LGBT+ |
This post was written by Liz Marlow, senior social media manager for Sodexo UK & Ireland, and Pride Network committee member
After our first company participation with Pride in London, it made me think about my involvement and role in the Pride Network.
As an ally, the festival wasn’t about me. I don’t have the experience of growing up in a world where the image of romantic love portrayed in all media isn’t something that fits with me. I’ve never felt uncomfortable, let alone fearful, about showing the person I love affection in public. I’ve never felt I had to be deliberately ambiguous about the gender of my partner, when a colleague asks a simple question like ‘what did you do at the weekend?,’ but being an ally is about saying I recognise that the world isn’t fair and hasn’t been kind to LGBT+ people, so I want to be part of this current culture shift that recognises that and normalises everyone being themselves, whatever that means to the individual.
I’ve always had an issue with the phrase ‘straight ally’ though. For a while I couldn’t articulate my problem with it so after a lot of thinking about it, here goes..
Being an ally is nothing to do with my sexuality. You can be an ally whatever your sexual orientation. But some may feel if you’re asking LGBT people to identify themselves then shouldn’t allies identify themselves and their sexual orientation too?
Being part of Sodexo Pride , I want to encourage anyone who identifies as LGBT, to feel comfortable about being themselves at work – not force them out of the closet! Our role models within the network show their colleagues that being LGBT is normal, healthy and embraced by the business. There is a point to them identifying themselves, whereas classifying an ally as straight is a bit pointless, unless it is to say to an LGBT person ‘I acknowledge that I haven’t had the personal experience that you have, and I still feel very strongly that love is love’ but if that’s the case, then can the word ‘Ally’ just be enough?
Taking this a bit further, and back to the point about you can be an LGBT ally whatever your orientation, a Lesbian can be an ally to a Trans person, a Gay person can be an ally to a Bi-sexual person. Just because you are gay and a member of the LGBT club doesn’t mean you naturally ‘get’ what life is like for someone who is trans. You need to at least think about it. So isn’t keeping ‘Ally’ generic in this case helping to keep things simple, because again the orientation of the ally is actually irrelevant.
I don’t know all the answers – what do you think? If you’re LGBT do you prefer people to identify themselves as straight if they are ally? If you’re not LGBT- do you think you think you need to identify your sexual orientation for another reason that I’ve not thought of?
If you’re an ally and/or you’re LGBT join the PRIDE UK & Ireland network – together can make inclusion better for everyone.