Please note that this is an Archived article and may contain content that is out of date. The use of she/her/hers pronouns in some articles is not intended to be exclusionary. Eating disorders can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes, and weights.
By Quinn, Nystrom, MS
I will start by saying this: I’m a cis, heterosexual female who grew up in a small, rural town in central Minnesota. When deciding what I wanted to write for June, a conversation with someone very close to me sparked the thought of writing it about being an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community. Why? Not just for other people like me but also for those close to me who are a part of that community.
Did you know that one in six Gen Z adults (born after 1997) consider themselves part of the LGBTQIA+ community in the United States? Growing up in a small town, no one came out until after we left for college. There was a lot I needed to learn and wasn’t familiar with. Over the years, I’ve made it a point to educate myself and listen to my friends who consider themselves a part of that community. I don’t always get it right, but I strive to live in an inclusive world where all people are equal.
Here are some things I can continue to do to be a strong ally:
1. Be inclusive – In your words and actions. This past year I decided to become a substitute teacher at the local school where our kids attend. I remember how difficult junior high was for me, so in every new class I taught in, I would say, “I’m grateful to be in this classroom today to help you all learn and be the very best version of yourself. I’m a fairly laid-back teacher, but I have a zero-tolerance policy for comments that marginalize another classmate.” I would go on to explain what I meant by that regarding homophobia, racism, fat phobia, etc. I can’t tell you how many students would come up to me after class or find me in the hallways and thank me for helping to create a safe classroom environment.
2. Advocate daily – I had recently moved and was taking my family to a new church. My perception was that the church was open and inclusive. Until I heard a story about the youth pastor not allowing trans youth to be in the gendered breakout group they identified with. I had a choice: I could’ve done nothing, kept my mouth shut, and pretended I hadn’t heard the story. Instead, I set up a meeting with the Senior Pastor and Youth Pastor to 1) be clear on what took place and 2), if I had heard it correctly, to be an ally, voice my strong opposition, and leave that church. Where I frequent, where I spend money, that all matters as an ally. I never stepped foot in that church again.
3. Be a good listener – When I was running for Congress a couple of years ago, I remember a woman who was a frequent volunteer of our campaign. One day I sat down and wanted to learn more about her and why she volunteered. She told me her story of growing up in a small town (the same one as me) and knowing she was transgender from a very young age. She talked about the bullying and harassment she endured over the years, being marginalized, and misunderstood. She said, “I don’t have much money to give, but I have my time, and I have a voice to stand up for candidates who will stand up for me.” I’ll never forget her and the stories she told me that morning.
4. Be willing to converse outside your comfort zone and apologize/admit when you are wrong – Sometimes, I fear having conversations with people who are different than me because I’m afraid I may say something unintentionally that comes off as judgmental or just plain incorrect. I remember conversing with a dear friend who is a trans man, and he was talking to me about the importance of pronouns, names, and misgendering. I said, “I now understand why I don’t use your kill name.” I meant to say dead name, but it came out wrong. I instantly said, “I’m sorry I said that wrong. I meant to say I now understand why I never use your dead name.” He thanked me for correcting myself and said,
“That’s all I can ask from an ally. Not that you’ll be an expert on everything, but you’re willing to learn and promptly admit if you are wrong.” It was a valuable lesson for me.
I love this quote by Harvey Milk: “It takes no compromise to give people their rights…it takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no political deal to give people freedom. It takes no survey to remove repression.”
This month, and every day of the year, let’s strive to be more inclusive, to be better listeners, and to advocate for others.