BEING A STRAIGHT ALLY TO THE LGBT COMMUNITY
Peter Ji / University of Illinois at Chicago
second lesson was truly realizing that issues of persecution are pertinent
for everybody. The third staff member I talked to sheared stories about
how a straight family member was mistaken for being gay and subsequently
accosted. At that point, this staff member realized that prejudice and
hate was not about specifically discriminating LGBT individuals. Anybody
and everybody is a target for hate because there will always be someone
who feels justified in hating another person. At that point, as a straight
ally, you are not speaking out about the rights of a particular group,
you are speaking about he rights of everyone to be treated with respect
and free from misguided perceptions of others.
this point, I was energized. I felt I had a starting point. I became comfortable
with being a beginner. During my journey towards developing my straight
ally identity, I wanted to hear stories of hate and prejudice. I became
confident that I was not starting from “nothing”. I was staring
from my own experience. Yes, I was still in the beginning stages of my
development, but no longer was I timid about being a “beginner”.
Rather, I was starting to feel comfortable at being an “expert”
about the early process of becoming a straight ally.
YI / PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS
Psychological Association: Member, Div 44 (Lesbian, Gay, Transgender,
Society for Prevention Research: Member
Society for Community Research and Action: Member
– Co-Chair: Society for Community Research and Action –
Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Bisexual Interest Group
– Certified Safe Zone Facilitator (Gay, Lesbian, Transgender,
Bisexual Diversity Training) / Office of LGBT Concerns, University
of Illinois at Chicago
– Present - Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians (PFLAG)
– Hinsdale, IL. (Treasurer, Speaker’s Bureau Chair, Publicity
Manager), Chicago, IL. (President) and Northern Illinois Council (Vice-President)
Ethnic and Diversity Training Committee, University of Missouri.
now I “started” to explore. I have always wanted to be a part
of a group that addresses these issues and my first logical place was
with the national organization, Parents and Friends for Lesbians and Gays
(PFLAG). I attended my first meeting and immediately met an old friend
and found out that after all these years he was gay. We have maintained
our friendship ever since. The PFLAG meeting was illuminating. Many family
members were happy to see me as a straight person at PFLAG simply because
I wanted to be there. It also altered my assumption that everyone at PFLAG
was comfortable as a parent or friend of a gay or lesbian individual.
There are those who have fully accepted his or her gay or lesbian relatives
or friends and there are some who still struggle with acceptance. However,
PFLAG provided a space to feel comfortable and talk openly about acceptance
by sharing stories about the difficulties and joys of being a friend or
relative of a LGBT individual.
those who are comfortable with their LGBT relatives face additional struggles.
For example, one mother came to PFLAG and talked about how her daughter
was not sure if she could confide in her other family members. So only
the mother shared her daughter’s secret. The mother had to conceal
from the remaining family members that the mother was going to PFLAG.
A father described how difficult it was for him to hear his fellow co-workers
joke about homosexuals. He could not risk telling his co-workers that
he was offended because he was afraid of the potential backlash from disclosing
that he has a gay son. Listening to these stories, I realized that the
end goal is not simply accepting LGVT individuals. Parents and heterosexual
people need to straight allies too; they may face discrimination for being
a straight ally. We need others who understand how hard it is to live
in a homophobic society. Straight allies can set the tone that it is not
enough to simply accept; only active advocacy and open support can truly
assert that discrimination of LGBT individuals, as well as the parents
and friends of LGBT individuals is wrong.
LGBT deals with people who use the Bible as
“evidence” that being gay is fundamentally wrong.
How would I respond if someone proclaimed me
as fundamentally flawed based on religious text?
experiences were invaluable to me. I began to see my purpose and identity
as a straight ally. Based on my experiences with PFLAG and other groups,
I began to construct the outline for my outreach event, “Being a
Straight Ally to the LGBT Community”. I presented this event at
a Midwestern university campus as part of their LGBT Pride week. I came
up with fifteen reasons why it is important to be a straight ally to the
LGBT community. The event consisted of passing this list to the participants
and I would lead a discussion regarding their reactions to the list. The
list is as follows:
is important to be a straight ally?..”
...so other heterosexuals can learn how to stop any form of persecuting
2. ...so we can dispel the myths and misconceptions of the LGBT
community that are held by majority society.
...because straight allies need to support other straight individuals
who are coping with their own biases and discomfort with LGBT individuals.
...because the feeling of being marginalized from mainstream society
can be intense for a LGBT individual. Straight allies help LGBT
individuals feel free to be a part of all society, as opposed to
having LGBT individuals feel that only the LGBT community can accept
...because LGBT individuals can comfortably and securely claim their
identity when they know that straight individuals also accept the
LGBT individual’s identity.
...because a LGBT person may not feel supported or accepted by his
or her own LGBT community and need to rely on straight allies for
safety and support. LGBT individuals may have their own biases about
the LGBT community or the LGBT community may have communicated some
bias against the LGBT individual. Such biases make it difficult
for a LGBT individual to “fit in” within the LGBT community
and may look to straight allies for acceptance.
...so LGBT individuals can look to straight allies as role models
for how they hope the “coming out” process will be like
when they are ready to “come out” to their families
...because a LGBT person may need a positive emotional experience
from straight allies if the LGBT individual’s own families
or friend will not support him or her.
...because LGBT individuals in the process of “coming out”
may feel the straight community is labeling their feelings as deviant,
inappropriate, or transitional. Straight allies can provide a supportive
emotional experience by appreciating and valuing the LGBT individual’s
struggle with the “coming out” process.
...because straight friends or family members who know of an individual’s
LGBT identity may need to keep the LGBT individual’s secret
from others. Straight allies can help these straight members cope
with this uncomfortable experience.
...because straight individuals may be threatened or slandered if
they express any affection for the same sex individuals. Prejudice
against the LGBT community restricts how straight individuals can
express affection for one another.
...because straight allies need other straight allies to “come
out” so they too can be supported as being an advocate for
the LGBT community.
...because even if a LGBT individual, or a family member or friend
of a LGBT individual, has “come out” within their family
home or their circle of friends, LGBT individuals and straight allies
still have to decide if it is safe to “come out” within
other settings, such as his or her workplace, school, social club,
etc. Straight allies can help make every setting or environment
a safe place for LGBT individuals.
...so they can change environments or settings (e.g. schools, workplaces,
institutions) that are not taking a clear stance regarding LGBT
individuals. If we do not clearly support and encourage LGBT individuals
within our own environments or settings, we are in effect leaving
them at the mercy of passive sexual stereotypes inherent within
these environments and settings.