I’ll admit it, I’m don’t care for the term ally and, to a certain degree, allies themselves. Perhaps it is all the history books I like to read speaking about needing allies during wartime. When I hear the word “ally” I am reminded of the battles we have faced and the many more coming our way. I also understand that most allies (whether in war time or in social justice movements) want something in return. From recognition to positions on boards, allies do not come free.
I want an accomplice. A person willing to be so invested, willing to take the “fall” like the rest of us. Accomplices attack the theories and very structure that keeps us relegated to “other” status. Accomplices are not “saving” us by simply participating in parades with banners. Nope, accomplices are willing to put in the time to understand our position and ideas and gain our consent and trust. Accomplices know they are not saving us, but rather, they are creating a better place for all to live.
I also want to be an accomplice. It is no secret that the LGB community hasn’t been a good ally to trans* communities, let alone being accomplices. How can we become better accomplices of all the others out there? I used to tell people to educate themselves about other people’s lives, to try to understand what it feels like to be marginalized, but I think that is the wrong approach. For one thing, it is difficult for the marginalized to have to continually recount their traumas. The biggest reason I’ve given up this approach is it doesn’t seem to be working. Instead, I think we should remember that we all bleed red.
Each person carries the same emotional spectrum, thought processes, hurt, pleasure, etc. It is vital to recognize the humanity in one another, without having to understand or employ empathy. This small act of recognizing our humanity in others is the start to becoming an accomplice.
The best accomplice I’ve ever known is Bob Henline. If you had the pleasure of reading his articles or knowing him personally, you are a lucky person indeed. Bob would never admit it, but he risked a lot to be an accomplice, and I suppose that is the point. If you are an ally, what are you willing to risk? If that risk is great, stop calling yourself an ally and embrace the term accomplice — we could use more of you.