5 FAQs On Being A Straight Ally—Answered

Pooja Maheshwary , 19 Aug 2020
Toronto Pride Parade by Shawn Goldberg | www.shutterstock.com
Toronto Pride Parade by Shawn Goldberg | www.shutterstock.com
Malini’s Girl Tribe has always been a safe space for everyone to share their stories, triumphs, and struggles. To ensure it continues to be so for everyone across genders and sexual orientation, we invited LGBTQ Activist and Filmmaker Sonal Giani, to host a #GirlTribeAMA session for the Tribe.
Sonal answered questions such as how to be a better Pride ally, how to come out to one’s friends and family, how to ease someone’s coming out, tips on what to say or what not to say, the common myths and misconceptions surrounding the queer community, the support groups we can connect with, and more. Read on to know all that she shared!

Q. How can I respond to homophobic or transphobic jokes, comments and attitudes?

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/real/ Tw: transmisogynistic slurs . "Raat ka kitna legi re chhakki?" – "How much for a night with you, tranny?" I avoid my DMs and emails like the plague, but I've got to say that the occasional message is so singularly profound, I have to pause and reflect. In this one message, one sentence long, you find four inalienable truths. One, a loathing of trans bodies. Two, a desire for trans bodies. Three, a loathing of such desire, and if you look closely, four, overcompensation for said self-loathing. Trans bodies are all too familiar with this sort of thing – the juxtaposition of desire with a dearth of love, of desire with mind-numbing hate. The hate keeps you glued to the peripheries of this realm, but desire, sure as day, will still put food on your plate. Such is the lived reality of millions of trans and queer people. And this reality is no less real than that of a rich cis white woman past her literary prime that now relies on cherry picked slippery-slope strawman arguments for scraps of attention. At least as real, if not more. Be it with the dude in my DMs unable to stand how I control the direction of his blood flow, or with a glorified problematic English aunty, the wilful ignorance of our lived realities can never erase us. Your sex is real, as is our experience of gender. To delude yourself into thinking we're any less real is only to strengthen an army of hyper-resilient people that with their every breath, shake the foundations of human civilization as we know it. If my emasculation and playing provocateur can emasculate thousands of insecure cis-men, one has to wonder how strong those foundations are to begin with. A trans person wields great power in being able to reclaim all that was intended to insult, to bend the rules, to push society's boundaries of empathy and understanding. I must, therefore, leave you with this – "Of course it is in your head, Harry, but why on Earth should that mean that it is not real?"

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If you are in a position to call out the homophobia directly, then you should. Make your stand known and speak up about your views on accepting others regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. When faced with awkward questions/comments, respectfully turn them around; it helps the person see how absurd the line of conversation is. For example, respond to “When did you realise you are gay?” with “When did you realise you are straight?”

Q. How can I deal with homophobia at the workplace?

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Working as a Pink professional: One of the things I never thought about, or discussed with my peers at uni, was how to deal with homophobia in a professional setting when confronted with it. Or clients with outdated idea’s about LGBT. As a pink social worker I had the luck that in my internships it never really was a topic beyond ‘do you have a boyfriend’ or the ‘are you gay?’ questions. Clients who are homophobic were fairly new for me. Why is this a thing for here? Well, I am who I am. As with many of us, there are clear ‘signs’ that I am gay. My clients aren’t blind. Which- especially male clients -to who struggle to cope with the high energy, gender roles and expectations of modern society as a ‘man’, has often lead to very vocal homophobic outbursts. As well as attempts at ridicule, mock or undermine me during my work. So far I haven’t found a ‘golden solution’, but keeping my boundaries clear ánd having the visible support from the team that I work in seem to form a good base to operate from. Looking back on it, I would have liked to had this during my time at uni. In my mind it is not only important for future Pink social workers (or nurses, therapists, care-assistants, etc) to get the tools for this, it should be a class that ALL students of such course should follow. How do you deal with homophobia at your work? What would you say are key aspects into handeling such client contact? Or should the theme be broader; ‘how to deal with discrimination?’ #gaymentalhealth #thepinksocialworker #endhomophobia #discrimination #lgbtmentalhealth #lgbt #lhbtnederland #discriminationatwork #homophobiaatwork #lgbtinclusiveeducation #bylgbtforlgbt #rozehulpverlening

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Avoid losing your calm. Remember this is about them, not you. A lot of the phobia is rooted in social conditioning. If you aren’t in a position to call out the person making homophobic comments, then leave the space. This is an easy way to let them know that you don’t partake in such conversations. Bring it to the attention of your HR Manager. You can also look at the possibility of arranging a sensitisation session. Also, regularly update your communication material to reflect gender and sexual diversity.

Q. Is there a right way to ask questions when you don’t know something and want to learn, yet not come off as offensive?

Avoid shifting the labour of educating yourself, onto the individual. Nowadays, resources are easily available. But, if you find yourself unable to access specific resources despite putting in the labour for it, be honest and respectfully request for direction. Another yardstick to use before asking questions is to turn it around and see if it comes off as invasive. For example, before asking if a trans-person has had surgery, consider this: if you were asked in public about a surgical procedure you undertook, would you be comfortable with it? 

Q. What might a person who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender go through when coming out?

People may experience emotions ranging from mild anxiety to deep paranoia. They may fear losing friends, family and support structures. Coming out to people who do not want to engage supportively can be extremely challenging and can induce a feeling of helplessness. It’s advisable to have a strong support system before coming out. With self-acceptance, this can also be a very powerful self-affirming experience.

Q. How can I respond to people who object to LGBTQIA+ people for religious reasons?

I would advise against engaging in any religious debate on homosexuality and LGBTQ+ rights unless you are very well-read on the subject. Instead, it’s better to bring the focus to human rights violations faced by the community. Such experiences are based in reality, and it is very difficult to challenge them. However, if you are someone who is interested in Theology, you could get in touch with members of the National Ecumenical Forum on Gender and Sexual Diversity.

Join Malini’s Girl Tribe on Facebook to be a part of more such conversations!

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