I have always considered myself to be a LGBT ally. I think my story starts with my mother. My mother is not always open about everything, but when I was a kid, she always had LGBT friends. I remember two of those friends most vividly: Pat (or Booboo) and Erica (or Steve).
Pat was a lesbian and was my mother's closest friend when I was a kid. She was always around, always bring over her girlfriends, always talking about women, and always fun! She was maybe my favorite person ever. I always knew that I could be myself around her, and I always felt loved by her. She might've gotten into a bit of trouble as the years went on--drugs and other things--but she was such a powerful force in my ally-ness.
Erica--well, Erica was a drag queen. I don't recall ever seeing Erica out of costume. I do recall seeing Erica perform several times during my youth. But, I don't remember much else.
And, of course, there's my mother. She's heterosexual, as far as I know. And, sometimes she's a little bit racists. And, frankly, sometimes she says things that I read as homophobic as well, but I don't think that she thinks those comments are homophobic. For instance, she'll refer to someone she sees as a "faggot." I don't particularly care for this word, but my mother is in her 50s, so it's a word that's embedded in her language. Even though she knows the negative connotation behind that word--oh, I've told her--she still says it.
I don't think that my mother ever officially said anything like, "love everybody" or "be an ally." Instead, I think she showed me that I should look for the good in people and that it's okay to be open to diversity.
So, what does being an ally mean to me? How can I be an ally?
Well, GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation--GLAD is different) says there are 10 ways to be an ally & a friend. Some of those are:
*be a listener
*be willing to talk
*be inclusive and invite LGBT friends to hang out with your friends and family.
*don't assume that all your friends and co-workers are straight.
*homophobic comments and jokes are harmful. let your friends, family and co-workers know that you find them offensive.
*confront your own prejudices and homophobia
*defend your LGBT friends against discrimination
*believe that all people, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation, should be treated with dignity and respect
Some of the other things that I think are important about being a straight ally are:
*to stay informed--read, listen to radio shows and podcasts, ask a member of the LGBT community
This one is hard to iterate...but I want to make sure I'm always being the best ally I can be and that I'm always being reflexive about my heterosexual privilege.