By Alexandra Johnson
Seven DCCC faculty, administrative staff, and counselors met on March 25 for an LGBTQ+ seminar titled “Straight, but not Narrow: What Makes a Good LGBTQ+ Ally?”
This particular seminar, which is part of an ongoing series titled “Creating Brave and Safe Spaces” at the college, included topics that are traditionally tricky for allies of the LGBTQ+ community to navigate.
The issues covered included “performative” versus genuine allyship, how to avoid making comments that come off as hurtful and insensitive, and creating truly safe spaces for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Currently, 106 faculty and staff at the college have received the Safe Space LGBTQ+ Ally certification, according to the DCCC Career and Counseling Center. This certification requires a participant to attend three training or information seminars provided by the college.
Once participants complete their training, they receive a sticker to place outside of their office door to indicate that room is a safe space for members of the LGBTQ+ community to be open and “out.”
During the seminar, participants had the chance to share their experiences with the LGBTQ+ community, and the interactions that they had either witnessed or been directly involved with.
DCCC counselor Emily Fahy weighed in on what she wanted to get out of the seminar. “I want to learn how to interact with people in this community in a way that is respectful and appropriate,” Fahy said.
During the seminar, led by DCCC counselor Ryan Jeral, the meaning of allyship was discussed. Jeral described what it truly means to be an ally to this community in a way that is “productive, active, and genuine.”
Often people that consider themselves allies to the LGBTQ+ community forget that this role is often that of a listener, and may require the individual to move out of the way when members of the community are speaking, according to Jeral.
“Performative allyship is putting the focus on yourself and how ‘woke’ you are,” Jeral said. “This is at the expense of the people and communities actually doing the hard work to move oppressed groups forward.”
Next, Jeral offered examples of productive strategies and techniques for showing one’s support without shifting the focus of the narrative away from the oppressed party.
She explained that words of support are not enough on their own, and must be paired with actual action. “Social media can be a tool to enact real change, but it cannot be the sole action taken by a true ally,” Jeral said.
The seminar also included a process of how to move forward once attendees realize that they have made a comment that is insensitive or hurtful in some way. Steps included keeping the focus on the person impacted, listening, apologizing, and responding with respect.
“I like to use a boots and sandals analogy,” Jeral said. “Privilege is like walking around with big cushioned boots on, and others who might not have as much privilege as you are wearing sandals. If you accidentally stepped on someone’s exposed toes with your boots, you would probably immediately apologize. It works the same way with words.”
Kerry Drake closed the seminar with a thoughtful statement about how she wants to respond to an unsavory comment when her children are present.
“When Uncle John or whoever makes a comment that I don’t like, I need to step up and challenge it appropriately,” said.
Contact Alexandra Johnson at Communitarian@mail.dccc.edu