By Jeremy Austin Contributing Writer
In the spirit of forging strong, beneficial relationships between members of the LGBT community and its allies, senior Matthew Wyman will be hosting a workshop titled, “How Do You Ally?”
Wyman, a gay and transgender member of the community, spoke of why he chose to host an event like this. Wyman said, “I find a lot of people who really want to help and want to be good allies, and they’re like, ‘I have absolutely no idea of how to do that.’” He continued by saying that he finds the problem most often is not that people do not want to help – they simply do not know how, and/or are scared to ask.
As the secretary of the Rainbow League and an advocate at the Health Center, Wyman was inspired to put on an event like this based off of a workshop a fellow Rainbow League board member attended in Washington, D.C., which had an allyship component also titled “How Do You Ally?” Wyman then wondered what they were teaching folks, and decided to host an event of his own on campus.
One of the most common misconceptions, according to Wyman, is that many consider being an ally an identity, when it’s a role best expressed with actions. Wyman mentioned that this can actually cause harm, as “allyship is rooted in action – it’s something you do, it’s not something you are, because if it’s something you are, then the problem is there’s this thought that it can’t get better.”
Wyman went on to say that one cannot critique someone for who they are, and if allyship is considered an identity then constructive criticism may be deflected. “I want people to be really good allies,” said Wyman. “I’ve seen good people fall into the pitfalls of allyship, and that can get really sticky.”
Another topic Wyman wants to cover in the workshop is what do when someone messes up. The topic of misgendering came up, and Wyman commented, “When you’re in a play and you mess up a line, you don’t stop the whole show. You don’t want to disrupt what you’re doing.”
Wyman also said he wanted to take the fear out of being an ally, and explained that, “a lot of people are paralyzed by the fear of being a [bad] ally. It’s OK if you mess up in not doing – It’s just good to be helpful.”
Wyman spoke of “ally theater” or “performative allyship,” which Wyman said was more about the “attention, and the honor, and the ‘A stands for Ally!’ kind of people. But when push comes to shove, you see the badge, but you don’t see them doing anything else.”
Wyman described the event as a “Frankenstein”, as he piled together resources from both the Health Center and The Rainbow League. “I hope a bunch of people show up,” said Wyman, “because I’ve been working on this for weeks and I’m very excited.”
The workshop, which will involve a slideshow, presentation and interactive elements, will be held on March 26th and 29th in The Landing from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.