Can you handle one more month of political stuff, Poppets? I knew you could. Recently, a friend of mine had to call out a woman who claimed to be an ally of the LGBT community. It didn’t go well. The ally got defensive, started deflecting, and ended up losing all credibility as supporter of the community.
It got me thinking, though – what is the difference between an actual ally and someone who has taken a diversity training or has a lesbian co-worker? Is it that they never screw up? God help us if that’s the case. No, I think it’s more about how a person responds when they do screw up. So, without further ado, I present you Bridget’s Guide to Screwing Up With Style:
* There is no such thing as a perfect ally. This is a tough one for those of us who really do care to learn. It is, however, true. You will screw up. Accept it. Learn it. Live it.
* People in the LGBT community will be understanding of the (very) occasional screw up. Where the trouble will come is if you try to justify the screw up. When you try to make the screw up about them. When you get defensive over being called out for the screw up. Odds are good that you didn’t set out to be offensive, duh. Explaining that fact doesn’t win you too many points, because, well, duh. Getting defensive when your intention doesn’t give you a pass on your impact loses you points. Fast.
* If someone calls you out on being offensive, it means you were offensive. This isn’t rocket science. You have screwed up. Apologize. Shut up. Listen. Learn. And remember, listening isn’t the same as staying quiet, waiting until the other person stops talking.
* Your one gay friend or your lesbian college roommate doesn’t speak for everyone. Just because he doesn’t mind if you use that phrase or she found it funny when you did that impersonation, doesn’t mean you aren’t currently being offensive. Don’t use them to defend your current situation.
* Online icons, club memberships, Pride attendance, etc. only go so far. These don’t make you bullet-proof. Hell, even reading (or writing for) The Betty Pages doesn’t make you immune to screwing up. Don’t hold any of these up as ways to deflect from the fact that you have just made a mistake.
And there you go. Mostly, it boils down to own your shit, rather than trying to pass it off. Remember, if someone is calling you out, you have hurt their feelings or made them angry. If you meant to do so or not, this should matter to you. Other people’s feelings should matter to you – especially if you are holding yourself up as someone who cares about their feelings.
There’s more than just these five, of course, but start here. Keep listening. Keep learning. And until next month, Poppets, take care of you.