Why I don’t like the term ally and why I like being called one anyway.

Posted: November 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

For those of you that know, the term ALLY is used to refer to people who stand up for people fighting against various social ills despite not being part of the group that is being oppressed or otherwise discriminated against.

This is a term that is generally used as a compliment, bestowed by someone FROM the oppressed group upon the person doing the supporting. (Though sometimes it is used by someone to refer to themselves… that is kind of weird, in my opinion. It is like referring to yourself as enlightened or insightful. That is the kind of label that should only be applied by others.)

I am male. If I stand up against misogyny, I am called an ally.
I am white. If I stand up against racism, I am called an ally.
I am heterosexual. If I stand up against homophobia, I am called an ally.
I am cis-gendered. If I stand up against transphobia, I am called an ally.

The reason I am not completely at ease with this term is that it implies that these things ‘aren’t my fight’. It implies I am somehow being altruistic or something.

Let me make it very clear that I DO recognize that there is a BIG difference between being the object of oppression and being witness to it. I am not claiming AT ALL that the experience is the same. If I wanted to turn my back and pretend it wasn’t happening, I could do that. (That is, if my conscience would let me.)

Having said THAT, I don’t agree that it is ‘not my fight’. I am a human being. When I see misogyny, racism, homophobia, transphobia etc. I SEE it. I FEEL it. It makes me feel worse about the world and worse about the human race.

It is my fight because I care about it.

But still… I don’t feel those daggers except through empathy. Not the same. I GET that.
So, why do I still like it when I am called that?
Because when it happens, that person may be calling me a supporter in THEIR fight. They may be calling me someone who has their back. They may be saying that they appreciate the effort. They may be saying they felt alone and unsupported until that moment.
But mostly what I hear is them saying ‘Thank You’.

So if someone calls you an ally, don’t worry about the etymology of the word. Just be glad that your efforts are appreciated.
If nobody calls you an ally, that’s fine too. Just keep doing what is right. (But don’t label yourself, that is just weird.)

Mostly, let’s just try to make things better, one day at a time.

Day One.

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