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GRACE ALLIES & SUPPORTERS

ALLIES OF API QUEER PERSONS

An ally is an individual, church or clergy person who is not API or lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) and who is supportive and accepts the API LGBT person or who personally advocates for LGBT equal rights and fair treatment in church and society.

Allies to racial, religious and ethnic minorities have been remarkable effective in promoting positive change in the dominant culture. Straight allies are some of the most effective and powerful advocates for the LGBT movement. A mother or father, sister or brother or dear friend can often be heard in ways when LGBT persons are dismissed. Allies have proven invaluable by personally witnessing to their faith and God’s action in the lives of LGBT persons.

Allies often share powerful experiences with LGBT friends and family. Because of these relationships, allies can share their commitment to full inclusion in ways more difficult to ignore. Allies work to develop an understanding of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities by reading, listening and being open to full hospitality. Allies grow at their own speed from first awareness, through education and learning skills, to taking steps for justice for LGBT persons in their own lives and communities. Allies then choose to walk with alongside LGBT persons committing themselves to be fully part of God’s inclusive church.

Becoming a stronger ally may depend on becoming aware of the benefits given on the basis of majority sexual orientation or “heterosexual privilege”. In time allies learn to recognize racism and heterosexism in a variety of forms and to name this discrimination as it occurs while at the same time modeling acceptance in ways so that others can become allies as well.

Some examples of heterosexual privilege include institutional support (employment, adoption, military service, ordination); societal acceptance (healthy role models, positive media images, unconditional welcome at church, living openly without fear, dating as an adolescent); and marriage equality (recognition of grief with loss of partner, over 1000 automatic rights, access to partner in case of emergency). LGBT families face challenges daily to affirm God’s love in the face of the prevailing heterosexism of our culture and church. Some allies further seek to actively divest themselves of privilege by, as one example, naturally using “partner” instead of “husband” or “wife” when referring to their husband or wife.

If you have been trusted by an API LGBT person sharing their life by coming out to you, you have the opportunity to support, learn, and advocate in a unique way. Give yourself time to explore the emotions that come with this new information and also to educate yourself on what life and love is like for LGBT persons.

Open and honest communication which encourages people to state their own values while being open to challenge and inquiry allows for the most effective ally work.

Homophobia/Heterosexim locks all people into rigid gender-based roles that inhibit creativity and self-expression. Homophobic conditioning compromises the integrity of heterosexual people by pressuring them to treat others badly, actions contrary to their basic humanity. Homophobia inhibits one’s ability to form close relationships with members of one’s own sex. Societal homophobia prevents some GLBT people from developing an authentic self-identity and adds to the pressure to marry, which in turn places undue stress and oftentimes trauma on themselves and their heterosexual spouses and children. Homophobia is one cause of premature sexual involvement, which increases the chances of teen pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Young people, of all sexual identities, are often pressured to become heterosexually active to prove to themselves and others that they are “normal.” Homophobia can be used to stigmatize, silence, and on occasion, target people who are perceived or defined by others as gay, lesbian, or bisexual but who are in actuality heterosexual.

An excellent resource for allies has been created by the Human Rights Campaign in collaboration with Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays: “A Straight Guide To LGBT Americans”. This resource was written to include all the basics, so that if you are brand-new to GLBT issues it will answer many of your questions. Or, if you have known GLBT people for years and are simply looking to find new ways to show your support, you can skim and take the pieces that are relevant to you. Also visit their site, www.hrc.org, for more information.

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