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The Importance of Allies
The 2011 GLSEN National School Climate Survey reveals that 90 percent of students in Tennessee reported hearing homophobic remarks and experience verbal harassment because of their sexual identity or gender expression. Additionally, only 3% of Tennessee students surveyed reported attending a school with a comprehensive anti-bullying policy that included sexual identity and gender expression. In reality, students who identify as LGBT are twice as likely to experience bullying than their straight counterparts.
Ally Week, taking place this year on October 13-17, 2014, is a whole week where we can engage in a national dialogue about how everyone in and out of school can work to become better allies to LGBT youth. Whether you're an adult working to make schools safer for today's youth, or a gay student organizing to create safe spaces for your trans friends, everyone has an opportunity this week to recognize their allyship and take action to become better at it.
But why are allies important? Check out GLSEN Middle Tennessee Jump-Start team member Zoe's reflection on allies:
" We all need allies. From moral support to a hug when times are hard, allies are there to help us through the rough patches and give us strength. They’re especially important for LGBT youth. Because we identify as LGBT, many of us are bullied in school and some of us have difficult home lives, both of which are hard to face. However, allies give us hope and the support we need to keep being ourselves in a world where being ourselves, a seemingly simple idea, is more difficult to accomplish than it sounds.
In an unsupportive environment, allies can make all the difference. We notice even just one ally, the one acquaintance who says hi in the hallway or compliments us on our outfit. The stranger with a rainbow on his or her shirt. The friend who gives us a hug on a bad day or stands up to bullies for us when we can’t stand up for ourselves. The teachers who make their rooms Safe Spaces for us to have a place to talk. The parents who send us into the world with a hug and a smile, making sure we know that we are perfect just as we are. Kindness goes a long way, and even when it’s not a gigantic effort for an ally, its effect on us is larger than you could imagine. It’s easy for teens to feel like no one cares about them, but even one sole ally can show us that there is someone who is invested in us and our happiness.
Allies are the changing face of LGBT rights, and the more allies there are, the faster the number of allies increases. When people see that it's important to be an ally and to support LGBT youth, they're then more encouraged to open their minds and accept us. Each ally, simply by existing, is thereby encouraging others to become allies, too. Starting with one sole ally, more soon appear, and then there is a whole group who supports us. Allies multiply in number, rather than add, which is fantastic for LGBT teens.
Finally, LGBT youth need allies. It’s that simple. We need people on whom we can depend and people who we are certain accept us for who we are. Teens are inherently afraid of being who they are—LGBT teens, especially—and allies make us feel more comfortable with ourselves. By supporting us and letting us show our true colors without judgement and by responding with acceptance and love, you make us feel freer to be who we were born to be.
To show our support for students like Zoe and countless others, GLSEN Middle Tennessee is excited to launch its third year of the #NashvilleAllies campaign to highlight everyday allies to LGBT youth across Middle Tennessee. How can you participate?
EASY! Start by downloading our Ally Sign, fill it out, and snap a selfie. Then share the picture on social media using the hashtags #NashvilleAllies and #AllyWeek! Show your Ally pride between October 13th and October 19th and we'll feature your face on our facebook or twitter. You may also email your photo to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We also invite community members to join us to get their glam shot on at any of these upcoming events featuring GLSEN Middle Tennessee and highlighting Ally Week. Click the links for event details:
October 11th: GLSEN & PFLAG Tabling at Franklin Old Navy
October 15th: Ally Week Social in Cookeville, TN
October 19th: Nashville LGBT Chamber Presents: TASTE
Zoe Bauer is a junior at University School of Nashville. she is her school’s Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) Vice-President. An interesting fact is that she spoke only French for an entire month. In addition, Zoe is a good badminton player. She was motivated to join Jump-Start to help create safe spaces for students who need them. As Media Coordinator, she hopes to present the Jump-Start team in its best light and spread awareness for its causes.