“I see you, allies!”: Five Common Types of Allies

Allies come in all shapes and sizes, and to some of us, at least at some point in our life, it may have felt like they don’t exist.  However, here are some common agendas that have become apparent to me.

  1. They show up to pride every year. They’re really HAPPY about GAY people! Yay!  They’re so happy about us that they like to think they’re as good as gay and often get confused for it.  Do any of you know straight desi girls who are more into gay bars and drag queens than their fellow queer desis?  They may be kinda obnoxious or hard to have a deep conversation with, but the good thing about them is that they’re often so vocal that you know they are allies from a mile away. You couldn’t confuse them for a homophobe even if you grew up thinking everyone was a homophobe.
  2. The loving but generally non-accepting friends. Many of us wouldn’t consider this friend an ally. They love you for you… despite your gayness. Perhaps their religious beliefs or their perception of how a good desi should live are challenged by queerness.  They’d rather you didn’t talk about it, or they just generally don’t acknowledge it – big grey elephant in the room.  However, for many of us that don’t know any true allies, a friend that will love us anyway may seem like all we need.  The feeling that they know we’re queer, and despite their disapproval of queerness they still love us, can feel very hopeful and comforting.
  3. The silent and immobile friends. They’ll stand by your side but they won’t walk.  If you start marching in the streets with signs demanding rights or somehow indicating that you’re queer, they’ll be right there on the sidewalk.  After all, they’re dealing with the same desi and non-desi homophobia that we are (and have).  It can be frustrating when these friends consider themselves allies and yet, don’t seem to do anything; however, they often intend to do as much as they can given the environment they are in.
  4. The intellectual/activist ally. They’ve read the books, and they have not just one gay friend, but sooooo many that they must really know their stuff!  It’s commendable how much time they put into learning about a population that they are somewhat separated from. Perhaps it stemmed from their interest in a gay cousin, or perhaps something else. The problem is they often talk too much and are a little overconfident in their knowledge.  Since, you know, they’re not actually queer, a lot of what they relay to others about us is off.  A lot of them, however, use their knowledge to gauge when to advocate for us, and when to let us speak.
  5. Allies from other struggling, surviving and thriving communities. They know how to be an ally because they know what they themselves have wanted in an ally.  These allies have the experience of being the recipient of discrimination so, in their own way, they know how we sometimes feel and what we might need of them. Obviously, not all minority communities manage to smoothly understand and communicate with each other, but at the end of the day, they need us and we need them.
  6. And… Who did I miss? I don’t expect to summarize human beings in a list of 5, so what are some qualities of allies you have noticed? – Treasured, annoying, or both.  And what did I miss?  I’m sure y’all didn’t agree with everything I said!  Let’s let allies know we see them!  …And not necessarily just their downfalls, coz they’re not completely tragic. Sometimes they’re amusing, and sometimes they’re just plain fabulous.
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Anurag is a queer, feminist, social worker-to-be. Currently residing in the cornfields of Illinois.  Fierce, emotional and reclaiming the brown-ness. 

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