Why 2021 should be the year of the ally

The Pride Matters committee, our LGBT+ network at Colt, recently commemorated LGBT+ History Month to celebrate those throughout history who have empowered the LGBT+ community.

To close out the month, Pride Matters hosted “LGBT+ History: Looking at the past and paving the way to an equality-based future” with a diverse panel of Colties and guests. The event focused on being an ally, not just to the LGBT+ community but to everyone. The panel also delved into intersectionality, and how everyone has their own unique experiences of discrimination and oppression – and how understanding this is a key part of allyship.

Allyship is more critical than ever. At the event, Olivette Cole Wilson, founder of Stonewall, discussed the need to change people’s views and opinions. Many in the community are still experiencing phobic behaviour every day, even with diverse role models.

A recent example of this was the announcement that the UK’s first LGBT Retirement Community is opening in London. This positive news was still met with LGBT-phobic comments. Danielle St. James, a co-founder of Not A Phase, shared that her organisation had been working with care homes across the UK. They’ve been educating people on inclusive language to build allyship and inclusivity into nursing and retirement homes.

Daniel Winterfeldt, founder and chair of the InterLaw Diversity Forum, talked about the importance of reading news from trusted sources. To really be an ally, we must avoid using social media as a news source and avoid “fake news”, he remarked.

Tom Carl, Senior Counsel at NBCUniversal, explored how people in powerful positions can cause phobia against the LGBT+ community. They can do this by ignoring them or making changes that negatively impact the community. LGBT+ people and allies need to take a gradual approach to regain the momentum started by those community members that came before.

To close out the event, the panel discussed the importance of sharing pronouns. For cis-gendered people – those who identify as their sex assigned at birth – the sharing of pronouns can help build a more inclusive environment and enable individuals to feel more comfortable to share theirs.

Unpacking this topic for LGBT+ History Month is particularly important right now. Around the world, we are seeing the rights for the LGBT+ community being rolled back, such as trans people not being able to serve in the military in the US, conversion therapy still being legal in the UK and “LGBT+ free zones” in Poland.

On the slightly positive side, more public conversations are being had about the use of pronouns. There appears to be more debate around critical issues for the community, such as safe spaces and proper education in schools around LGBT+ people and their struggles.

So, for me, the key message from the event and from the month more broadly is that strong, consistent allyship is more critical than ever. There are many ways we can all lend our voices to supporting each other. Whether it’s simply being there for a friend who needs support or adding your pronouns to your email signature. Being an ally is all about showing your support for one another. I hope it’s something we can all do more of in 2021.

Jake Potter [He/Him], Head of Social Media & Pride Matters Global Lead, Colt Technology Services

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