CHENNAI: Come June, the media is inundated with vivid colours, and celebrations and discussions within/ about the LGBTQIA+ bloom. While several partake in the festivities, there are some — especially from the non-queer community — who watch from a distance, convinced that they have no part to play. However, this is far from true.
Your voice, as a majority, is essential in the fight for their rights. But how can one make a difference from the outside? In an online talk hosted by Emote - The Rise House of Healing and Happiness (a mental wellness initiative by The Rise Trust, @emote_mentalhealth) called ‘How to be a better ally’, digital creator Trishia Santhus and psychologist Sanjushree VH explain their journeys of unlearning old beliefs and supporting the LGBTQIA+.
“An ally is a person giving unconditional support and voicing the concerns of the LGBTQIA+. There is a lot that the community is going through systemically, an ally points that out and educates people around them,” explains Sanjushree, to which Trishia adds, “People think being an ally is something difficult but it can be as simple as being supportive of the LGBTQIA+. I think it is no longer a choice but the bare minimum expectation (of the non-queer community) since we all live in a community.”
And one can show their support in simple ways by perhaps, asking for pronouns, adding your own pronouns to, say, your online profiles or posting something, adds the moderator John Lavanya, a queer affirmative therapist. “Adding your pronouns to your profile makes it more comfortable for a queer person (to approach or trust you) since it is a sign it would be a safe space (with you),” Trishia recommends.
They may not be a part of the community but the presence of allies forms a safe space where a queer person can feel comfortable in accepting or even revealing their identity. Unfortunately, our country has a long way to go when it comes to creating this environment, it seems. “Someone I know moved to Canada and I could see how happy he was in a workspace with accepting colleagues and community. I had not seen them that happy in India. Imagine someone being happier moving away from friends and family to a strange country just because they are surrounded by allies. I genuinely hope and pray that where we’re living can be that safe place for everyone,” shares Trishia.
Making a difference
For this, change needs to begin at home. Sanjushree suggests normalising queer concepts from a young age so that children do not offend anyone unknowingly. “From childhood, we have our own crushes and ways of life so it is important to have an impact on children when they start having their own way of life. Use your pronouns and be a loud person as an ally. Make it normal to be an ally so people around you are inspired. Since Section 377 is decriminalised, now is the time you make noise and ask people to join you,” she says. As parents, who are taken seriously by school management, Trishia reminds, you can also ask the school curriculum to be more inclusive. A simple gesture with an impactful consequence.
The responsibility extends to the workplace. “There are some workplaces that spread awareness just for the sake of it — which is fine, at least they are doing so — but it is also important to monitor it and see how much of it is trickling through your organisation. Are people feeling safe in your organisation? You could have confidential hours where people can come and discuss it with you if something is not working out,” opines Trishia, adding that it is vital to ensure that queer people are given space to be in positions of power that others can look up to.
No judgement zone
As the world grows more inclusive — even if at a snail’s pace — expectations from allies increase as well, but the key to harmony is patience and sensitivity. Childhood conditioning is not easy to unlearn and even more so for the older generations, and aggression may cement a person’s opinion instead of changing it. “Undoing so many years of conditioning is difficult and takes a lot of work. It is also important to surround yourself with the right people.
In my friend’s circle, most people are allies. If someone is not, we have a conversation with them. It takes a lot because you don’t want to lose a friend. In these situations, I have seen people who start attacking and calling out the person for not being woke; the minute you react like this, the other person shuts down. If moving away from conditioning takes more patience and education from you (it’s okay). Trying to sound morally superior is certainly not great because you got there, but someday you were just as ignorant,” Trishia says.
As Sanjushree puts it, being an ally is about sensitivity. You are allowed to make mistakes. If your intentions are genuine, people will understand. So, this Pride month, let’s channel our best ally or grow towards it.