And by “yourself,” I mean all the other letters in the acronym…
By Luis Augusto Nobre
Allyship is something that I’ve been thinking about for a while, and I was considering the best format to express it. We might be overwhelmed with the current communication formats: emails, social media posts, SMS, TikTok dances.… So I decided to be a little bit old-fashioned and write a letter to you. I believe that we can connect on this subject and, together, explore how we can become better allies to all members of the LGBTQ2+ communities. I will touch on what I have learned so far in my journey, and I’m willing to learn with and from you about what we can do.
It is pretty common to expect allyship from people who aren’t members of the LGBTQ2+ communities. I’ve been in many meetings and events where straight people say they are allies who support us. However, in many of those social interactions, I feel they are saying that without a strong commitment – it’s meaningless, like a statement that they aren’t including themselves in that discussion, that they will be more listeners, observers rather than social actors. Maybe you have experienced something similar or have the same feeling related to a relative, a friend or a co-worker.
I could mention the difference between being a real ally and simply being someone who passively supports the changes to promote LGBTQ2+ inclusion. But this letter isn’t for them. This letter is addressed to you. I want to connect with you and see if you, who see yourself in the spectrum of the LGBTQ2+ acronym, are a true ally to those who are fighting the battles to win rights and spaces for all of us. This message is addressed to you who don’t think that trans inclusion is important because trans folks don’t represent you. These words are for you who feel superior because of your gender identity, gender expression and sexual behaviour, and don’t see that you are reproducing misogyny and biases against our own communities.
Yes, I am addressing this letter to you because we need you if we want to change the world. You are indispensable to live the changes that we want to make and create a better society for all of us, with a strong sense of belonging, equity and justice. It’s really important to have you and your understanding that we won’t live in a better world if some people from our LGBTQ2+ communities still face challenges and inequalities. You might consider yourself protected, but you have to remember that the rights and freedoms you enjoy today came about because many other folks have long been fighting for our rights and liberty. So, protection must include them, and it must include those who don’t know how to fight but nonetheless have the right to exist and be respected.
Before advancing my ideas and giving some context, I thought about many topics to write about here and to share with you…but if I did all that, I would end up with a book, not a letter. That’s why I’m telling you I won’t explore all the letters in the acronym LGBTQ2+. I am choosing only three to start this conversation. The other letters can come in a future message, or you might explore them by yourself (and I hope for that). Take this letter as your starting point if you haven’t yet thought about being a better ally to our fellows. And please consider their intersectionalities as this is the beginning of your journey.
T is the first letter I will call your attention to. Trans folks are the ones who face the most inequalities, challenges and violence, and many of them don’t have support within LGBTQ2+ communities. I consider myself an empathic cis-queer person, and I do my best to acknowledge that many of my rights came from trans people, such as Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, two important names in the Stonewall Riots. Unlike some acquaintances who don’t recognize that their rights come from trans activists and people, I’m aware that I owe a lot to them. So I don’t waste any opportunities to talk about trans inclusion when I hear an inappropriate comment. I know that you can do more for our trans fellows, so please continue learning, celebrating trans content and artists, celebrating new trans inclusion policies, and hiring trans folks.
B is the second letter I’ll discuss. Bisexual folks are vulnerable, and many of them face biases from both straight and queer people. Those biases are even reflected in the workplace, affecting their professional careers and salaries. I’ve heard many times that bisexuals are hiding themselves in the closet or just aren’t brave enough to be gay or lesbian, for example. Because we still reproduce heteronormativity models, people have a hard time accepting that there are in fact infinite numbers between 0 and 1. Fun fact: all of us understand the infinite numbers in mathematics, but we continue keeping the binarity for human relations and judging those who are multiple.
I wasn’t sure which other letter from the acronym I should include in this message to you – there are so many important options. I ended up choosing the plus symbol. It includes a lot, but I call your (and my) attention to the letter A in particular. A for Asexual. (The other A, for Ally, is the theme of this whole communication.) Asexual people have been among us in a big silence and pressure. Many of the day-to-day conversations we have could create discomfort for them, and we might not pay attention to details that they are silently sharing with us. I know that I have created some embarrassing situations for asexual folks because I keep reproducing exclusionary models without noticing. That’s why it is important to me to write about it, because I’m also saying to myself that I must become a better ally to asexual people (and to those who consider themselves in the asexuality spectrum).
Learning more about trans, bi and asexual inclusion not only helps me to continue my work in diversity and inclusion, but it opens my eyes to new realities that aren’t mine and calls me to continue honouring the queer legacy. It applies to the whole acronym and to the different identities in each letter. This is a journey of self-knowledge, and I’m discovering my unique identity, modelling my own queerness, and building my empathy with topics that normally I wouldn’t probably care about because I wouldn’t consider them to be my immediate reality. However, they are my immediate reality. They are your immediate reality as well. Together, we have the strength and power to make the changes necessary for more inclusive societies.
So can I have you on board in this allyship journey?
LUIS AUGUSTO NOBRE is the marketing and communications coordinator of Pride at Work Canada/Fierté au travail Canada, a leading national non-profit organization that promotes workplace inclusion on the grounds of gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation. For more information, visit prideatwork.ca.
And by “yourself,” I mean all the other letters in the acronym…