Recently, someone asked me to answer their LGBTQ 101 questions. After a few, I suggested links they could read. They dropped the subject. And I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
Yes, I was setting a boundary because answering these questions over and over does get tiring. Sometimes I am just not up for it. Sometimes, I don’t know the answer. Sometimes, I am frustrated that I’ve written nearly 4.5k blog posts over 12 years, tweeted 55k times over 9 years, and shared xillions of posts on Facebook over 10 years, but people rarely go back and read that content before asking me to summarize for them.
But most of the time, I know that active learning and listening is the best possible way to ally yourself to other people. If you want to be an ally, you want to learn – you want to invest the time. You are curious, you want reputable sources, and you don’t want to be a jagoff. Those things together add up to one outcome – you have to do the work. There are no summaries or cheat sheets or information from one person (even me!) that substitutes for the hard work of educating yourself.
Some people believe that asking members of an oppressed group to provide emotional labor to educate others without compensation is not reasonable. Some people believe that we must educate at any cost if we hope to change hearts and minds. I think both are true because emotional labor is about far more than money and education is a shared responsibility that does not rest equally on every shoulder.
If you ask someone to educate you, it is important to acknowledge that you are asking them to do actual work with you for your direct benefit. They can say no without explanation and that’s lesson one. Getting mad at someone who doesn’t respond to your request for synthesized information that is accessible to you is not fair, reasonable, or how an ally conducts themself.
If someone asks for compensation to educate you, you have a choice. You can offer to pay them or you can politely decline. Just like you can in any situation where there is a financial cost assigned to a task. Maybe you can barter? Getting angry and pointing out all of the things you do for that person, throwing your support in their face, is never appropriate.
If they offer you resources, you have another set of choices. You can dive into the resources and continue your journey of allyship through self-education. You can ask someone else. You can give up and walk away.
We want things to be simpler and digestible, for sure. But I can tell you this – its a lot of information to process. To say identity is complicated is almost reductive. If you are looking for someone to explain the outliers, the nuances, and the intimate details of LGBTQ identity, you aren’t likely to find that person.
When I ask you if you’ve read my blog, it is not self-aggrandizement. I’ve published 240+ Q&A’s from Western PA LGBTQ folks, all of whom talk about identity in their own terms. If you aren’t sure what it means to be pansexual, or the difference between umbrella terms like gay & queer, or what LGBTQIA stands for – there’s a really good chance that your neighbors have addressed it. And you don’t have to read 240 Q&A’s. You can use the search box next to the blog logo to narrow down the posts to these terms. That’s one reason this archive exists and why I’ve spent hundreds of hours on it. I’m not being coy with you.
So here are a few resources I would suggest as a starting point.
GLAAD Media Guide – yes, this is for the media, but it has some fundamental information that might be useful. It isn’t very long so you can read the entire thing in one sitting, bookmark the site, and refer back when you have specific questions.
UCLA LGBT Resource Center – a compilation of resources worth exploring. Do the deep dive on each link.
Queerness of Color – a presentation on how LGBT 101 centers white gay men and lesbians
Bisexual Conversations 101 – a 101 list with definitions
Websites and Articles on Queer Issues – from a Pittsburgh organization
Blogs I suggest you read regularly (including archives) and follow on social media
- BGD: amplifying the voices of queer and trans people of color (Archives)
- Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters
- Maybe It’s Just Me
- Williams Institute Blog
And there are many LGBTQ media sites you can consult.
Articles about allyship you might appreciate. These are not LGBT specific.
Is Your Allyship Proactive? – Everyday Feminism
Ally Etiquette 101: Never Feel Entitled to Anything – The Body is Not an Apology
How to Be An Ally 101 – The Feminism Project
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