#PrideMonth: Being an Ally Can Change the World

Updated on June 12, 2018
Christina St-Jean profile image

I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more daily than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, & LGBT advocacy.

Pride Matters

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Being An Ally: It Doesn't Take Much

I just read an article in The Mary Sue about what we could learn about allyship from Marilyn Monroe. The title alone intrigued me. After all, Marilyn Monroe, though an icon, has been gone for decades; how is she informing allyship after all this time?

The story goes that in the 1950s, there was a club called the Mocambo, and Frank Sinatra had made his debut there. Several A-listers also frequented the place, including Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart. However, back then segregation was still in effect, so any African American entertainers, if they had been permitted to perform at a place, were to enter through the back door so as not to upset the white clientele.

Anyhow, Ella Fitzgerald was not allowed to play there because she was African American. Imagine - one of the most definitive voices of that era was effectively barred from performing at a particular place due to the color of her skin. Marilyn Monroe, who was a huge fan of Ella's, called the Mocambo's owner and said that if Ella was booked, Marilyn herself would show up every night and take a front table.

Marilyn knew that if she was to take a front table at Ella's performances, the press would eat it up like candy, and the Mocambo's owners jumped on the opportunity. Ella didn't have to play a small club ever again after that.

While what Ella Fitzgerald went through and those who are LGBTQ+ continue to go through today are both similar and different at the same time (both share the elements of discrimination and prejudice, for instance), what we can learn from Marilyn's actions is that it really doesn't take much for someone to be an ally.

Would Marilyn Monroe have been put out by going to the Mocambo to watch Ella's performances? Absolutely not - she was an unabashed fan, having been given Ella's records to learn how to sing from. Did she understand the power of her own privilege by telling the Mocambo she'd show up every night they had Ella on stage? Absolutely. She knew that if the press saw her, one of the biggest stars of the 1950s, watching an African American performer on stage during segregation, it would have made an incredible statement.

There are still those who support the LGBTQ+ population, but don't know really how to be an ally. Again, it doesn't take much; support is great, as everyone needs someone to turn to, but there's other things you can do.

When someone says something distasteful, like "that's so gay," which is somehow making a resurgence, call them on it. Don't go spoiling for a fight, but ask them if they would ever substitute the word "gay" for a nationality, for instance; most of the time, the person having said the expression will look either completely baffled or completely shocked by what they've said. Ask what they're really trying to express. For some reason, people still think it's OK to use the word "gay" as a pejorative, and it most definitely is not.

Support those who express their gender fluidity or gender expression.

If you see someone getting bullied for being part of the LGBTQ+ community, or someone getting bullied because they are an ally, step up and support them. We are stronger together than we are in isolation, so stop bullying behaviors in their tracks by standing with someone who is being bullied.

Being an ally is in many ways about being a decent human being, in my view. There is little enough happiness in many corners of the world, so why let prejudice, bullying and hatred win the day? This year marks the 49th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, whose legacy sparked the creation of LGBTQ+ advocacy groups, as well as the determination of the LGBTQ+ population that they were no longer going to continue to endure the daily prejudices they faced from the law and the legal system as a whole.

During Pride 2018 - and every day - we need to remember to keep supporting the LGBTQ+ population and each other, as that's the only way the prejudice that still exists will eventually be stopped.

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