(SPOT.ph) When pop superstar Taylor Swift—a cisgender, heterosexual, white woman—dropped her music video for the song "You Need to Calm Down," in June of 2019, it drew divided reactions from members of the LGBTQIA+ community, raising a much-needed conversation on what it means to be a good "ally"—defined as someone that aligns with and supports a cause but is not a member of that community.
On the surface, the flamboyant imagery Swift's video depicted via glittered cake-fighting, colorful-outfit wearing, and the happy dancing with queer celebrities was seen by some as an important example of how a straight person with privilege could better support the community, citing how the video included a petition for the passage of the Equality Act.
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The measure sought protection against discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity for ALL Americans, which is similar to what the Philippines' SOGIE bill intends to do for all Filipinos except that aside from its specific provisions applicable to the U.S. context, the American version was successfully enacted in 2021, while the Philippine legislation is still yet to pass after 23 years of morphing through Congress.
Others, however, said that Miss Swift's attempt was actually misrepresenting the community, arguing that the "safe" and convenient messaging mirrored that of "rainbow capitalists" (i.e. brands that commodify Pride in pursuit of profit). Critics argued that the pop star, in the end, was the one who benefitted the most from this "gay anthem" she made that they said sanitized the actual experiences of LGBTQ people, which, to put shortly, isn't all rainbows and unicorns.
In 2020, when the SOGIE Bill was again debated in Congress, advocates pointed out how some self-proclaimed allies of the community who were present during a heated hearing did not do their part enough, having stayed on mute over Zoom while dissenters attacked the bill.
So what does a "good ally" look like?
We talked to some members of the LGBTQIA+ community to find out what being one means for them:
'Someone who does not talk over us'
For Zoe Black, a good ally is someone who let members of the community speak for themselves, and amplifies.
"An ideal ally is someone who does not talk over us, but rather uses their voice to amplify our calls. An ideal ally recognizes their privileges and uses it to help break the system that oppress minority groups."
Ross Vasallo, raises the same point, adding that allies should always try to be a safe space for the community.
"To be a better ally is to amplify the voices of those from the community. Minsan kasi may tendency mga allies to talk over sa mga taong supposedly pinaglalaban nila. Besides that, an ally should always be willing to learn about the advocacy. They should not be offended kapag may nag-call out sa kanila for problematic behavior specifically towards trans people. May mga tao kasing nagcclaim na allies sila pero they still deadname trans personalities like Jake Zyrus as a joke.
They should always try to be a safe space for members of the community. This can start from simple things like asking someone’s pronouns and not ask invasive questions like asking trans people about surgery or sa mga mlm (men loving man) or wlw (women loving woman) how they have sex. Basically, being a better ally is knowing 'yung boundaries ng other people and being respectful lang din.
Being an ally is not some trendy term someone can just identify with, it comes with responsibilities and letting their actions speak from themselves."
'Someone who doesn’t just show up every Pride'
For Anna Cubacub, the incumbent "Punong Babaylan" of UP Babaylan, allyship is year-round.
"For me, the ideal ally is someone who doesn’t just show up every Pride. They stand with the community in fighting against gender-based discrimination and violence and dismantle cissexism and heterosexism all year round. The ideal ally does not only use their space to voice the concerns of the community. They lend it to individuals of diverse SOGIESC so we can speak for ourselves. The ideal ally does not only claim to support our rights. They join us in our rallies and marches for equality. The ideal ally does not only claim to be a safe person to talk to. They constantly educate and encourage others to be allies too.
The ideal ally constantly chooses to fight, not FOR us, but WITH us."
'Someone who will continuously listen, learn, and stand with us'
For Alelee Alvarez, who identifies as bisexual, allyship is a way of life.
"For me, ang ideal "ally", inaaral yung complexities ng identities, nag-reresearch ng LGBTQ+ history, nagcoconsume ng art, narratives that highlight our experiences (not limited to struggles) made by the members of the community.
An ally is a straight man in an inuman who will call out his barkada after making homophobic remarks. An ally is a straight woman who legitimately sees a transwoman as her sister, at hindi magsasabing, 'mas maganda ka pa sakin'.
Basically, an ally is someone who will continuously listen, learn, and stand in the front lines with the members of the community, hindi lang tuwing Pride March."
Someone who continues to 'uphold and defend Human Rights'
For Perci Cendana, a veteran LGBTQ advocate and Akbayan Partylist's first nominee last elections, a "bongga ally" is someone who believes in equal rights and defends them through words and actions.
"A bongga ally of the LGBTIQ+ community shares our values of diversity and inclusivity. It is very important that they uphold and defend Human Rights. The bongga ally works with the community in ending SOGIESC-based stigma and discrimination by fostering an environment that is enabling, empowering and humane. Ultimately, the bongga ally is an agent of acceptance, equality and love."