This past week, NJCASA and its Social Media Ambassadors acknowledged and supported the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network’s (GLSEN) Ally Week. GLSEN’s goal of Ally Week is to highlight and discuss allyship, particularly to the LGBTQ+ youth, and how allies can better themselves in supporting marginalized communities.
Being a good ally is multifaceted; it is important we:
Recognize our privilege.
Allies do not live the same experiences as a person who faces systemic inequity and discrimination. We enjoy privileges to which we are not required to give much thought. Being aware of and recognizing these privileges can help us understand and support the lived experiences of others.
Amplify voices of marginalized communities.
Historically, those in positions of power have silenced marginalized communities. Allies in positions of power can strive to amplify and support voices of those in oppressed communities, as opposed to speaking for or over them.
Ensure representation in our work.
In addition to elevating often silenced or invisible voices, allies can work toward being inclusive in all we do. When it comes to sexual violence, we must be sensitive, understanding, and unassuming when advocating for a survivor. Unintentionally harmful language or personal biases may create barriers to healing.
As mentioned, any privilege we hold allows us to remain unaware of struggles or experiences of others. It is imperative that we actively listen and believe those with different experiences. By listening, we can learn, and learning ultimately leads to improved advocacy for marginalized individuals.
Educate and speak up.
Lastly, but certainly not least, we can educate those around us. We may not be directly contributing to oppression with our words or our actions, but staying silent in the face of persecution upholds a culture that allows marginalization to thrive. Bystander intervention strategies encourage participants to intervene in potentially harmful situations. Allies can use bystander intervention tools to do the same when they see or hear language or actions that perpetuate oppression, even if a member of that community isn’t present.
Allyship and advocacy go hand in hand. In order to effectively advocate for survivors and work toward ending all forms of sexual violence, we must appreciate how sexual violence looks different to and within communities throughout the state and country. We must also challenge ourselves to take action; as an advocate, we accept the responsibility to actively challenge and confront oppression in its many forms.