Each month, the company I currently work for makes an announcement that they have cupcakes available in the break room in celebration of all the employees who have a birthday that month. While this practice has become routine, I’ve started to notice that each month the cupcakes which are being delivered have a “theme.” Cupcakes served in July are red, white and blue, while cupcakes served in November are picturesque of Fall. However, for the past few years, I noticed that the cupcakes served in October, arrive on October 11, decorated with rainbows.
You may recall that National Coming Out Day is an annual LGBT awareness day observed on October 11. Founded in the United States in 1988, the initial idea was grounded in the feminist and gay liberation spirit of personal being political, and the emphasis on the most basic form of activism: of coming out to family, friends and colleagues, and living life as an openly lesbian or gay person. The fundamental belief is that homophobia thrives in an atmosphere of silence and ignorance, and that once people know that they have loved ones who are lesbian or gay, they are far less likely to maintain homophobic or oppressive views.
An ally in my work office is doing some overtime to ensure that everyone feels welcomed. As I continued to ponder on this attention to detail, I wondered how many other “kindnesses” can be attributed to our LGBT allies. Allies are some of the most effective and powerful voices of the LGBT movement. Not only do allies help people in the coming-out process, they also help others understand the importance of equality, fairness, acceptance and mutual respect. What is required of the role of the straight LGBT ally? Is an ally simply a person who is “OK” with LGBT people? Is an ally a person who shares stories of LGBT plight on social media, and says the right things? Is an ally someone who joins LGBT campaigners on the frontline? Does it take something more? Less? Why does it matter?
The group AthleteAlly uses the following definition of an ally: “An ally recognizes that toxic masculinity, white supremacy, and their manifestations — including racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia — hurt all of us. To live in allyship is a constant, lifelong process of having often uncomfortable and difficult conversations… about the impact (not intent) of words and actions, and how seemingly harmless biases and beliefs can cause lasting harm to the people around us.”
LGBT people are our mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins. This is a fact and it isn’t going away. This month we have the opportunity to celebrate those individuals who have chosen to be an ally and a friend at home, school, church and work. Often a straight ally can merely be supportive and accepts the LGBT person, or a straight ally can be someone who personally advocates for equal rights and fair treatment. In my life, I am grateful for the ally who has chosen to show their support with cupcakes and I look forward to seeing the rainbow cupcakes in October.