One of my college student friends reminded me yesterday that this week is GLSEN’s Ally Week. Gloria said this is a very special week for her because she remains an active member of the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network group here in town. Gloria is a straight advocate of LGBTQ students and adults. She also happens to be one of my own allies.
For members of GLSEN, this week is all about expressing gratitude for allies and raising public consciousness about the importance of allies for LGBTQ people. Being a school student is awkward, often difficult for kids, being LGBTQ adds another complication to their lives.
In many instances, being an LGBTQ student means feeling isolated and alone amongst peers. There is often the added cruelty of being the target of moralists, and bullies. There is the common reluctance of others to get involved with marginalized kids. This emotional abuse and neglect often results in mental health problems and sometimes suicide.
Everyone needs a friend and ally who will stand by us through thick and thin through happy times and harsh times. LGBTQ people are keenly aware of this need. Too often this basic need goes unmet. This is especially true if the student comes from a family that is hostile towards the LGBTQ community. When a kid cannot feel safe being authentically her or himself in their own home, daily life is a quagmire of misery and anxiety. This is when allies are especially important and greatly appreciated.
Allies are often fellow members of the LGBTQ community. Those of us who know non-binary identifying people need to be allies of genderfluid or transgender individuals, because they are easy targets of our adversaries. They take the brunt of misunderstanding, fear, hatred and violence from society.
LGBTQ students, themselves, tell us they need us to be advocates who speak with them not for them. They need people who are eager to learn and understand more. The students want their existence and experience validated. Regardless of race, they crave inclusivity in society. They need people who are simply willing to listen to them and be their true-blue friends. LGBTQ kids need safe spaces to be themselves.
If you are an ally of the LGBTQ community, you deserve a big “thank you”. Your friendship is greatly appreciated.