How can we better allies? How can we show up for people we care about? How can we show people that what they feel is not okay because it hurts others?
These questions have been circling more recently due to Trump banning transgender people from the military in the United States, and honestly it has been interesting to see what people think being an ally is. And how they think we can be better ones. Don’t get me wrong. I love that people want to protect and show up for the people they love. That is powerful. That is beautiful. But some of us don’t know where to start. Especially if we’ve lived our lives peacefully up until this point.
If we’ve lived our lives without fear of being called the wrong gender. If we’ve lived our lives without fear of people cat calling us while walking down the street. If we’ve lived our lives without fear of people burning down our mosques and holy places. If we’ve lived our lives where we haven’t had to struggle just because of who we are. How do we show up for people who are going through these things if we haven’t experienced these things ourselves?
This is difficult. How can you know what it feels like to be transgender? How can you know what it feels like to be called a terrorist? How can you know what it feels like to not be able to walk down the street holding hands with the person you love? How can you know what it feels like to see your friends dying in the streets? You can’t. And you shouldn’t try to. Yes, it is important to be an empath, but it is also important to know that you can’t possibly understand how any individual is feeling. You can guess, you can assume, but you can’t know.
But the question still remains, how can we show support for people who are going through these things? The best piece of advice I can give you is to listen. Listen to their stories. Feel their pain. Give them a shoulder to cry on when they need it. Hear them. See them.
Being an ally doesn’t always have to be about donating money to a cause or grabbing your poster and running to the next rally you can find. It doesn’t just mean posting something heartfelt on Facebook. It doesn’t mean calling yourself an ally just for the gratification and praise it might bring you. It means listening. And actually listening, not just pretending to listen while you’re texting someone or checking Instagram. In order to really hear people and understand people, you have to give them your attention and you have to listen.
It isn’t easy being people these days. We all know this. In order to show up and support each other, we have to listen. We have to realize that some people don’t know how they are going to make it through the day when it starts. We have to realize that there are people out there who need us. Who need our support. Need our ears. Need our hearts.
Next time something terrible happens, which it will, remember to listen. Remember that you don’t have to do something grand and auspicious to be there for someone who needs it. Or a community who needs it. Post your heartfelt words and images. But also listen.