Born a woman and born black, I always thought the whole world was against me. I felt I was the target of the not so funny joke and the not so quiet whispers. I even thought I was “woke”- just by living the life of one of the have-nots, the targeted. But then the bubble I lived in was popped and my eyes were opened to a reality that I hadn’t thought much of before. This was simply due to meeting D-Rod.
Sydney (far right) and friends at Sacramento’s 2017 LGBTQ+ Pride
D-Rod. Black. Woman. Gay. A target from all sides. I met D-Rod at my college orientation two years ago. We are on the Women’s Soccer Team and we became close friends very quickly. Quick enough to learn that she was raised extremely religious (her parents have since become pastors), has a longtime girlfriend, and has never been able to enjoy the societal privileges of heterosexuality that most of us tend to take for granted. She cannot hold hands with her girlfriend, she cannot bring her home, she can’t even tell her parents for fear they will stop paying her tuition and disown her, a reality too many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questing, and queer (LGBTQ+) youth face. D-Rod lives in fear everyday of her own parents not loving her because of who she loves. I obviously can’t speak for all straight people, but I know that I may be black and I may be a woman, but I have never had to fear not being accepted because of the person I love. Learning about D-Rod and the often times homophobic world she lives in, I knew I needed to support her. I needed to learn how I could be an ally.
Sydney (right) and friend at Sacramento’s 2017 LGBTQ+ Pride.
When thinking about the struggles and discrimination D-Rod faces and the intersectionalities of who she is and who many of us are, I am reminded of my Diversity in the Workplace class where my professor taught us about these things called -isms. To be considered an ism, there must be two things. 1) A history of oppression and 2) A systemic and institutionalized implementation of said oppression. The lucky seven include racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, ageism, faithism, and able-ism. At some point in everyone’s life, they will experience being a target of at least one of the isms. Even straight, white, Christian, middle class, able-bodied men will get old and be the target of ageism. It is inevitable. What D-Rob has taught me is that there are other struggles – struggles that many straight people can’t even fathom. Imagine not being able to hold your wife or husbands hand, not being able to bring the person you love home for the holidays, or being scared of being kicked out your home. These are things I had never thought of before, but it is the harsh reality for many LGBTQ+ people. I get stares from security guards in nice stores to make sure I don’t steal anything and I get talked over by the louder male students in class, but I do not have to hide who I love or live in secret for fear of being judged, denied employment, housing, or being discriminated against in public spaces due to my sexual orientation, gender identify, or gender expression.
To me, an ally’s first step is understanding. You need to acknowledge the difficulties of being a target of that ism and empathize. In the case of Sacramento Pride (and the Prides all across the state), it’s understanding for the struggles of our LGBTQ + community. If you are privileged to not have to live with some of these struggles, you are not exempt from lending your heart with those who do. Yes, the world is still filled with hate and we can’t fix every problem overnight, but we can show love, compassion, listen, and ask respectful questions to get a better understanding of the world others experience. This is what being an ally is. In my experience as a woman of color, nothing is worse than begging for support in a fight I can’t win on my own and to watch the privileged walk by in silence. Nothing is better than hearing a white man say, “I could never imagine what it is like to be a black woman, but I want to do what I can to help.” We can do the same for our LGBTQ+ friends, family, colleagues, and youth.
Now please imagine your own struggles. You have at least one. What about yourself makes you a target- oppressed, and sometimes helpless? Now feel the gratitude and love you’d have for the one who did not let their own privilege stop them for grabbing your hand and walking side by side in your fight. Imagine knowing that someone out there understands. Someone who isn’t living through it but has heard your cries and wants to support you.
Now be that person to someone else. Show up to marches and rallies, raise your voice for change, and let us allies show that we are here for the LGBTQ+ community. Let’s let our LGBTQ+ neighbors, friends, and colleagues know that they are not in this alone! We see you and it is time we take their hands and join their fight! Let’s stay loud and continue to resist by showing up!