The word ally is rather like the word feminist. Anyone can use it, and not everyone who uses it fully understands it. There are plenty of problematic feminists out there, as well as problematic allies. You can’t necessarily trust a feminist to subscribe to every feminist view you do, and you can’t necessarily trust an ally to be an ally for your specific identity. Unfortunately, this renders the word ally (especially when used as an identity) more or less meaningless.
This has been made even more obvious to me as an asexual spectrum person. During my last year of college, I participated in the school’s “Safe Zone” training. At the end of the workshop, you get a pin and a laminated card you can put on your door. The program is, of course, well intentioned. The purpose is to show your support of LGBT folk. One of my professors wore his pin on the first day of class, which I thought was a kind gesture. The workshops are even led by actual LGBT people.
Unfortunately, my beef with the workshop (which I did tell them in my feedback) was not only that it was extremely simplistic (it reminded me of a HR presentation put on for a company), but also that it focused on the L, G, B, and T identities and not much else. There was a brief mention of genderqueer, but nothing to contextualize it, so it seemed out of place. Someone else in the class mentioned that they were biromantic, and I perked up, because only aces use that word. As expected, this person did mention asexual identities, but they had to do all the explaining.
Combined with the phenomenon of the LGBT community being reluctant to accept asexual identities (especially demisexuality and gray asexuality), this left me somewhat disheartened. I mean, I wasn’t really expecting much of the workshop, but I was hoping that they’d emphasize the message that there are more identities than what they discussed. They touched on the idea, but overall, they really made it seem as if the L, G, B, and T are all that exist. I do understand that there is still a wide swath of people struggling to accept homosexuality, but it was disappointing nevertheless.
So can I trust someone who comes out of the Safe Zone training? Knowing my school, probably yes. But on the whole, the hate that aces get from the some of the LGBT community makes me not consider someone an ally unless they say something which makes me think they’d accept aces, aros, nonbinary genders, and other lesser-known identities. You can say you’re a feminist, but are you going to judge me for being intoxicated when I was assaulted?
The word ally doesn’t really mean much to me, as a result. If you’re an ally, good for you. But I’m still going to be wary of you, just like I’m wary of men until I decide they’re most likely not rapists, and white people until I decide that they’re most likely not racists. Anyone can call themselves whatever they want, but it’s not going to mean much unless they embody in their word and actions what being an ally is really about, and that’s acceptance of all MOGII identities.
This post was written for the September Carnival of Aces.