By Caitlin Donovan – Staff Writer – firstname.lastname@example.org
In order to gain more allies in the straight community, “Ally Week” in the LGBTQ community needs to be reframed and perhaps even renamed.
Ally Week dedicates itself to valuing straight people’s contributions in the queer movement rather than the struggles and triumphs of queer people.
Ally Week, which is traditionally from October 15-19, though some schools hold it during March, is dedicated to gaining more straight allies and raising awareness for anti-LGBT harassment. This idea is a good one; it is when the week is framed as one that celebrates allies that the week becomes a problem for people in the LGBT community.
The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network frames Ally Week specifically as a week for celebrating allies in their 2012 organizing manual. Some of the Ally Week events outlined in the manual initiate conversations about anti-LGBT harassment, but some of them also involve throwing thank you parties and making thank you cards for allies.
Many members of the LGBTQ community are frustrated with the idea they have to focus attention away from the many issues queer people struggle with to celebrate and write thank you cards to straight people who extend support for their human rights.
They also feel Ally Week is perhaps encouraging people to only extend their support to LGBTQ people one week out of the year when it should be extended at all times.
It is because of this frustration about Ally Week within the queer community that the hashtag #allyweekfestivities has recently trended on Twitter. The hashtag is a dumping ground for frustrations LGBTQ people have concerning Ally Week.
People tagging their tweets urge straight people to support queer people in real ways and do so every week, not just one week of the year.
There is also a lot of satire in the tag, saying the real festivities of ally week are these so-called straight allies dismissing casual bigotry, worshipping their favorite straight white actors for not being homophobic, liking George Takei on Facebook and calling social justice and forgetting transgender people exist.
The point of the satire is clear: signing a pledge to not harass LGBTQ students and sharing ally stories on Facebook may raise awareness to some degree, but it does not accomplish a great deal.
Getting gay speakers for Ally Week and allowing LGBTQ people to share their stories is a more valuable and pertinent Ally Week activity. Allowing LGBTQ people to speak and supporting their right to do so is what being a true ally is about.
“I don’t think allies deserve as much recognition as people in the actual LGBT community,” said Stacymay Denny, a member of the UNCA Alliance Club. “They aren’t as important. On the other hand, the LGBT community does need people outside themselves to support them if anything is going to get accomplished. Allies do make an impact, and that shouldn’t be ignored.
However, I’m not sure if allies should have like an entire week devoted to them. I think everyone should be an ally. Being an ally should just second nature to people who are straight.”
It is frustrating how allies are sometimes overemphasized in the movement, particularly when meeting a person who thinks the “A” in the acronym LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer, Transgender, Intersex, Asexual) stands for ally rather than asexual.
I am a biromantic asexual, which means I do not really get sexually attracted to anybody, but I do get romantically attracted to both men and women. My identity is largely unknown and erased in mainstream discussion, so it is certainly frustrating to see it further erased by straight allies.
A good solution to the problem of Ally Week might be to rename it “LGBTQ Awareness Week” or something similar. Rather than a focus of sharing ally stories and throwing thank you parties, it might be more productive to focus on inviting allies to hear LGBTQ people speak at events and getting allies involved in promoting these voices.
Rather than ignore, allies should make sure the voice of LGBTQ people is heard.