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  • Writer's pictureAditi Karanam

Dark Alleys with an Ally

He looked up, into the mirror. He wondered if he was flawed. He wondered if preferring to have his nails painted was a sin. He struggled to put himself in a box.

He stared into a form lying on the floor. It asked him his gender: male or female. His heart sank. The routine questionnaire which was treated as mundane by everyone posed the biggest question of his existence.

Man or Woman?

He was told that life and people are not black and white, so he wondered why he was forced to choose between pink and blue.

He was a woman and a man. He was not a man or a woman.

He made a new option and named it ‘Prefer not to say’.

He wrote down his pronouns, he/they.

They are not mere characters in a story. They are not patients with a rare ‘disease’. They are among us.

A lot of people get upset and uncomfortable when such a fact is presented before them.

My country celebrates diversity. Diversity of religions, diversity of languages, but not diversity of sexualities or genders.

Gender has to be either Male or Female they say.

If the above paragraph got you outraged, angry, empathetic and you identify yourself to be cisgendered, you can be an ally.

But understanding and accepting the community is not enough. To take an example, when a classmate gets harassed for coming out as non-binary, empathizing with them is primary, and that is not where the duties of an ally end. We need to stand by them, showing solidarity. We need to fight for them. Their fight is our fight.

Check your privilege

A large part of the community opts to not disclose their sexuality. We need to understand and respect their wishes. Often, society brands members of the community. If a member does not want to fight those odds, that is their choice. Again, as an ally our primary duty is understanding. This can be the toughest sometimes. Privilege often makes us oblivious.

Making a safe place

The fact that a large part of the community does not publicly disclose their sexuality is a result of societal norms and preconceived notions. Being an ally, we need to be a pillar of support. We must support them irrespective of their choice. We must be a person they can count on. We need to make a safe place for them: a place for them to be themselves.

Treat them the same

The fear of being treated differently lurks like a monster under your bed. You always believe it's there until one person firmly tells you that it isn’t. The only way we can support LQBTQ+ members is to reiterate the fact that their sexuality is just one part of them. The worst thing you could possibly do is give them the extra victim treatment.

What it means to be an ally

Being an ally does not put us on a pedestal. Being an ally is not exceptional, it’s a duty. As human beings, our job is perceiving fellow beings as equals. The concept of ‘allies’ only epitomises this fundamental duty. Not being an ally is blasphemous, not identifying as one is not a blasphemy. Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to do this. Unawareness and ignorance plagues our society, ignorance and unawareness is sadly a norm.

The process is anything but easy. On the bright side, we are allowed to make mistakes. We can trip on the way. As allies, we should not be afraid to ask. Ask for a person’s pronouns, ask questions about a person’s sexuality. Understand that asking is not demanding, and that information should be mutually exchanged. We need to put ourselves in their shoes. The onus is on us to ask and understand.

Society forbids asking these questions and these questions remain unasked and unanswered.

But, as allies we dare to travel those dark allies, throwing and receiving light.

Ask, speak up, and understand.

Listen and love.

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