On October 1, I attended Straight Facts about LGBTQI Life hosted by the BCC and the Office of LGBTQI Life. This discussion was truly an eye-opening experience where attendees were educated on LGBTQI life as well as how to be an active ally to the LGBTQI community. Both Roberta Nelson and Jay Bohanon, staff from the Office of LGBTQI Life, facilitated the discussion and answered anonymously-asked questions. They both also openly discussed their own experiences and information about their own identities. Here are a few key points that I took away from the meeting:
*Just because you want to know, doesn’t mean you’re allowed to ask.
Certain aspects of a person’s identity should be kept private, if that is their wish. It is completely inappropriate to ask anyone a question about their gender or sexuality that you would not be comfortable answering yourself. However, there is a difference between being inappropriate and genuinely wanting to learn. For example, asking someone their pronouns or their name is a valid question.
*Mirror other people’s language/use reflective language.
When joining a new conversation, if you do not personally know every individual, then approach with caution. If you are unsure what language to use in reference to someone’s identity, observe the situation. Use the language that you hear other people within the conversation using, as long as it is appropriate and respectful. Then you can have a smaller 1-on-1 conversation after the group conversation has ended.
*It takes more than just saying “I am an ally.”
Although it is great for someone to say that they are an ally to the LGBTQI community, statements and actions are two different things entirely. Actually being an ally comes with responsibilities. An ally must be willing to discuss difficult subject matter relating to the LGBTQIA community in order to educate ignorant individuals. In addition, an ally supports and encourages individuals within the community in order to help them build confidence and a support group of friends. Lastly, being an ally requires that you complete all the research available so that you can then inform others and properly interact with members of the community. Sitting back and not saying or doing anything at all is not allyship.
If you would like more information or want to become more involved in the Office of LGBTQI Life, Jay has office hours in the BCC every Wednesday from 1 PM to 3 PM. He would be more than happy to speak with anyone interested.