When you’re an ally and you know it
When a group of students from Manipal took the rainbow flag out on a stroll through the streets in the first ever Ally March held in the town, it left large sections of the student community and local population bemused. While India has played host to around 20 pride parades since the practice began in 2008, this was the first ever Ally March, according to LGBTQ+ activist Romal Laisram.
But what really is an ally march and how is it different from a Pride parade?
a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of one’s close associates
LGBT Pride or gay pride (often confused with ‘pride parade’) is the pillar that supports LGBT+ movements. On the surface, it seems like the notion of being proud of a sexual orientation or gender identity. However, it is much more than that. It is taking a positive stance and disallowing anyone to shame, ridicule or discriminate a person based on their orientation. It is to uphold solidarity, empower oneself and display immense strength.
The LGBT community is more often than not, subject to harassment for being, well, themselves. (Alarming statistics show that a staggering 28% of people who identify as LGBTQ+ drop out of schools due to bullying) This mistreatment can come from their families, peer groups, work environment, or even, online bullies.
So, we take a stand. As we all know, love trumps hate and it is the way to combat hate and homophobia. It is about not letting anyone decide what you’re worth because of a sexual/gender orientation.
How is it different from a Pride Parade?
Events celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) culture and pride that might serve as demonstrations for legal rights such as same-sex marriage
A pride parade or a gay pride parade is a display of solidarity of the community and a celebration of different sexualities and gender identities. The history of Pride is rooted in politics and protests. On June 28, 1969, members of the LGBT community protested against a police raid on Stonewall Inn, a gay club in New York City, marking the first ever pride parade.
Parades often have floats, posters, dancers and peppy music creating an air of pomp and festivity. Religious institutions, like the Westboro Baptist Church, are notorious for propagating the homophobic sentiment. However, certain pro-LGBT+ institutions, such as the United Church of Christ, have also participated in these marches.
In India, the first Pride Parades happened on June, 2008 across the cities of Mumbai, Pondicherry, Kolkata and Bangalore. Participation in marches has increased in recent times as form of protest, especially due to the archaic and regressive Section 377 that criminalises unnatural sex.
LGBTQ+ rights are a work in progress. The unbridled, cheerful nature of a Parade often shows courage and resilience in the face of atrocities such as marriage inequality. Until there is absolute equality and zero discrimination, Pride Parades will continue to happen. They are a mark of resilience and being a part of one, is a being a part of change. For the better.
So, let’s get the elephant out of the room.
Why isn’t there a straight pride parade?
Because that happens to be every other day of the year. Pride Parades are about a celebration of a community that is continuously marginalised and discriminated against. This is about them. Let’s not take that away.
So, what can we do?
a person or organisation that cooperates with or helps another in a particular activity
According to the Human Rights Campaign, “An ‘ally’ is a term used to describe someone who is supportive of LGBT people. It encompasses non-LGBT allies as well as those within the LGBT community who support each other.”
In casual usage, we use the term ‘ally’ to describe a heterosexual, cis-gendered individual who supports various LGBT movements and strongly advocates against homophobia, transphobia, and the like. It is important to be supportive and accepting, even if you do not identify as LGBTQ+. (This plays a huge role in creating ‘safe spaces’ for LGBTQ+ people, but that’s another article, for another time)
Being heterosexual and cis-gendered is a position of (unfair) advantage in our heteronormative society. The system isn’t rigged against us and therefore, it is imperative to use this opportunity to be inclusive of, and defend the LGBTQ+ community. Being an ally begins with listening to our peers in the community and approaching diversity with an open-mind. A big part of this comes from tackling our own prejudice. Due to reasons ranging from our education to the internet, we all have some inherent bias and stereotypes towards people of different sexual orientations and gender identities. To help, we have to learn. And to learn, we are going to have to un-learn.
An ally isn’t just a person who wields protest signs and marches in rallies. Your support can be shown even through small things such as calling out homophobic ‘jokes’ and slurs and standing up for the LGBTQ+ community within your own peer group. If you are silent, you might not be guilty, but you are responsible. The crux of the situation is to recognise that dignity and respect is a right of every individual, not just the straight ones.
Pride Parades usually consist of LGBTQ+ participants. As previously mentioned, allies are usually heterosexual, cis-gendered or otherwise undisclosed supporters of the LGBTQ+ community. Such allies can be active advocates while letting the LGBTQ+ community be in the forefront.
In a society where heterosexuality is, sadly, the norm, there are more ways than one to showcase your support. This movement requires supporters, and allies can be just that.
Read our full story from Manipal’s first ever Ally March held on Sunday. We piece together this explainer so that the next time there is an ally march happening nearby, you can make an informed choice if you want to go support it.
Photographs Courtesy: Tamanna Wadehra
Edited by Prajwal Bhat