What is an ally?

The people that I prioritize in my personal & professional lives are QTIPOC (Queer/Trans/Intersexed People of Color) & their allies. I state explicitly that The Enstatic Body™ services are for “QTIPOC & allied folk”.  So just who are “allied folk”? When I think of “ally” I’m primarily thinking of straight POC and White QTI, but white cishet¹ folx can also be allies to QTIPOC.

The concept of “ally” as it relates to being involved in the political struggle of folx who are marginalized in arenas where you are privileged is a controversial one. I’ve been in the social justice arena in one way or another for over 30 years & the definitions & responsibilities have changed multiple times. In some of the QTIPOC circles that I currently travel in, there are discussions about eliminating the label entirely, or using an alternate label like “aspiring ally”, or insisting that ally is a label that can only be given by another & can never be chosen by oneself.

The driving force behind some of these discussions is that often people assign themselves the label of “ally” without doing any of the work that goes along with it. Or they consider “ally” a destination rather than an ongoing process. Or they center themselves & their needs/feelings in the work. Or they use their identity of “ally” to stop listening or taking direction from the very marginalized people that they claim to be supporting.

For my purposes, you are an ally if you can truthfully answer “yes” to all of the following questions:

  • Do you believe in the full & equal humanity of Queer/Trans/Intersexed People of Color?
  • Do you actively take part in dismantling the systemic “isms” that keep them from being seen as full, equal participants in our society & keep them from accessing institutions & resources that others have full access to? Even/especially if it causes you personal discomfort or puts you at risk?

That last one is key. While actively dismantling “isms” can be done in a variety of ways (no one is saying that allies are only those who take to the streets), if you only speak up/go to protests/write stern letters to the editor when it won’t cost you anything (your personal safety, your reputation, your professional standing, your comfort, your friendship circle, etc); if you are unwilling to be made uncomfortable about the fact that you have privilege & that it comes at the expense of others, then your allyship is not worth much & you should go collect your cookie for reaching the low bar of being a decent human being. Marginalized people bear a disproportionate amount of risk in the fight for social justice, so if you really want to have our backs, if you really wanna be part of the solution, you need to take on some of that risk. If you can’t/won’t/don’t, then IMNSHO you are not actually “allied folk”.

Bonus points if you also understand that marginalized folx have a more accurate view of how power is transferred/given/denied in our patriarchal, heteronormative, white supremacist world. And that their resilience in the face of oppression has given them tools to survive & thrive that this world needs before we consume & destroy it (this statement is not in any way a “pass” for cultural appropriation; learning from is very different from stealing).


¹cishet = “cisgender heterosexual”: a straight person who currently agrees with the gender assignment they were given at birth.

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4 thoughts on “What is an ally?

  1. Femme top dyke? Girl bye! Sounds like you along with others in the queer community have internalized patriarchal ideology instead of fight against it! how can one claim liberation by accepting and practicing restrictive and oppressive gender roles? This is why feminism is fucked!

  2. Thank god I have a “real feminist male” to tell me how to live my life. [edit: the above idiot’s email handle includes the words “real feminist male”]

    Since clearly:
    1. You don’t know me
    2. We’ve never had a conversation about gender
    3. You’ve never read anything by a feminist femme
    I’m not obliged to take your opinion seriously.

    There is nothing “restrictive and oppressive” about being Femme. Nothing.

    Feminism is fucked because pissants like you be #AllUpInYourPrivilege & think you have the right to dictate to women how they should think & identify.

    Thanx for exhibiting how NOT to be an ally.

  3. Thank you for this great article M’Kali Hashiki! May I share in a new Facebook group for White Queer and Trans Parents dismantling Racism/showing up for Racial Justice (we haven’t decided on the name yet)

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