What Does It Mean to Amplify?

The word amplify has been rolling around my brain for months now. I’ve been following two distinct, but interconnected threads on social media about the need for allies to amplify the voices of people of color and transgender people – in lieu of speaking for them. And let me be very clear here – these are not mutually exclusive voices, simply adjacent conversations I’ve personally noted.

I gave this even more thought as we approached the Transgender Day of Remembrance in November. I’ve tried hard to share the stories of the trans community through my blog, but I’m acutely aware that blogging about the 10 trans women of color murdered this past year is not amplifying their voices. They are dead. I can’t speak for them. I can only speak about them and I don’t know any of them.

Blogging about my trans sisters, brothers and neighbors is essential for me, but it is not the same thing as amplifying their voices. Calling out transphobic messages in media is essential for me as a consumer of media, but it is not the same thing as amplifying their voices. Standing in solidarity with the transgender community on matters of legislation, politics, and policy is the ethical and moral imperative duty of all queer people, but it is not the same thing as amplifying their voices.

The responses to the decision not to indict Darren Wilson in the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri is another illustration of the important of amplification. I can condemn the grand jury verdict, but that’s not amplifying the voices of people of color. I can stand in solidarity at a rally, I can make a sign, I can speak out over and over that #BlackLivesMatter but none of that is amplifying their voices.

I could also, in both cases, ask for guidance. Or I can pay attention to what is being said and find a way to amplify it. I’m a bright girl and now is not the time to demand a 101 course in undoing racism or challenging transphobia. Now is the time to do the work to educate myself using the vast quantity of resources on these topics that are already created by these communities to educate me. I shouldn’t require that they spoon feed me. They have work to do. Giving me a crash course isn’t at the top of the list.

Getting out of the way is an important first step. Being willing to stop this #NotAllWhitePeople or #NotAllCisFolks nonsense is important and necessary if you want to actually hear what people are saying. Literally, you need to stop talking/typing and listen/read. Don’t occupy the space with caveats, footnotes and exceptions.

Sharing your resources is an important first step. I have a blog and a sizeable social media following for a lesbian in Pittsburgh. Rather than pontificate on what I think about Ferguson, I have been focused on listening to what my friends of color have to say and resharing, retweeting, and reporting their original content (with attribution) for my connections to absorb. I’m not conceited enough to say “Hey write a guest post on my blog” but I am actively reading original content and will likely ask to republish the materials that resonate with me. I did the same for the TDoR – rather than write a post recapping everything I’ve been saying each time I reported on the violent murder of a trans woman, I spent the day sharing the content created by transpeople.

Sharing resources also means donating your money and time to resources focused on amplifying these voices. Find your local NAACP or collective organization. Find the trans groups in your area. Use Google. Read your local media to find whose voice resonates and then give that person or their organization some of your resources.

I’ve read at least a half dozen posts today with titles like “How To Be a White Ally Today” many of which have some solid suggestions. This post isn’t about being an ally though – it is about a specific tactic of amplifying voices. I’m not trying to unpack my reactions here or explore what I need from people whose voices I want to amplify.

I’m writing this because a cis-gender someone said “Why didn’t you write a post about TDoR?” (I did) and I felt defensive and realized that I need to up the amplification, not explain myself. Because asking me why I didn’t publish trans voices for TDoR was a vastly more appropriate question. Just like asking me why I publish so few pieces from queer and trans people of color is a good question.

My most immediate response is that I’m working on it. I’m conscious of the lack of amplification. I hope my plans for Amplify LGBTQ will have an impact, but that’s just one step. I”m conscious that I need to keep doing the work and figure it out and asking for guidance that’s already accessible to me.

Black Lives Matter. Trans Lives Matter. So do their voices. I’m not going to stop saying this and doing my part to make it so.

How To Be An Ally