On Being an Ally

Allies are a necessary ingredient in our gaining full inclusion in the world's societies. One can be one by simply being a friend, of course...an arm of support or a shoulder to lean against when times are hard are surely vital. But one can also be an ally by what one does or says publicly on our behalf.

I've got a couple of stories of the latter nature to share with you this evening.

The first one concerns an essay written by a science fiction writer and the second concerns a mini-documentary prepared by a Maryland college student.

Science Fiction author John Scalzi recently wrote an essay proclaiming himself to be one of out allies: On Transfolk.

Scalzi recently participated in a fundraiser for Alcardi Syndrome after being challenged by author Jim Hines.

This is a condition which affects 1 in 105,000 girls born in the U.S. It causes brain malformation, visual problems, seizures, developmental delays, and other medical complications. Most research puts the life expectancy for people with Aicardi between 8 and 16 years.

--fantasy author Jim C. Hines

In order to raise money, Hines posed in the ridiculous poses required of fantasy heroines on book covers.









Scalzi collected some thoughts on the pose-off.









3. It’s fair to ask why I chose to do my picture in a dress and with a wig on; the answer is the woman in the picture is wearing a dress and has long hair, and I thought it was worth it to get as close to the original picture environment as possible. This also explains the crossbow, the bracelet and the heels.

4. Mind you, I was also aware of the humor possibilities inherent in me also having all those things and also being unshaven, which was another reason I chose to look as I did. Juxtapositions are fun!

5. That said, one of the side effects of that is some people wondering whether I was intentionally making a negative statement on transfolk. The answer: No. I am generally trans-positive because I believe people should be who they are, and they deserve love and support in becoming and then being that. I wouldn’t go out of my way to intentionally mock transfolk, because, among many other reasons, why be an asshole like that? We give transfolk enough burdens on a daily basis without me adding to their load. So if you’re a trans person (or love someone who is) and were wondering about intent, sorry if I made you wonder about that.

One of his readers asked him to expand on that. So he did.

Everyone is in the process of becoming who they are; we all start as rough drafts and through the act of living and choices we make, refine who are, hopefully getting closer to who we imagine we could be as we go. None of that is easy. Some people have further to go with that process than others, because of their own set of circumstances. I think if you’re a good person or are at least trying to be, when you see someone on that sort of journey, you encourage them when you can. And if they have come to a place where they are happy (or even just happier) with who they are, then you celebrate that with them.

People who are trans seem to me to have a particularly hard journey: The eventual recognition of the disconnect between the gender their bodies have and the gender they sense themselves as being, the years of dealing with that disconnect, the hard choice to rebuild their lives and all the repercussions of that choice, and having to do all of that with much of the rest of the world looking on and judging. That’s a hell of a road to walk.

So the first question to ask is simply: Why make it harder for them? I can’t think of any good reason for it;  for me that solves that. The second question is: What would I want if that were my road to walk? If nothing else, I would want people to accept that even if my road is rough, where I’m going is somewhere I think is worthwhile and will help me be the person I want to be, for myself and for everyone else. That being the case, by the principle of the Golden Rule, that’s what I should do for transfolk, if nothing else.

--John Scalzi

Scalzi denies being deserving of a cookie for making that statement.

You don’t get extra credit for trying to be a decent human being. That should be your default setting.

All the above is general and pretty high-minded, so on a personal level: I know transsexual people, like most of the transfolk that I have met and consider at least a couple to be good friends.  I don’t have a single moral, ethical, religious or philosophical objection to transfolk in any way, and have no idea why I should. I support their rights, including the right not to be discriminated against, in the workplace and out of it, due to their trans-ness.  I additionally judge people who I think are transphobic, usually punting them into the category of “asshole.”

This past summer Montgomery College (a community college in Maryland) created an exhibit called Portraits of Life: LGBT Stories of Being.









One of the Montgomery College students was motivated to create the following video.

My 1st mini documentary. THE TRANS EXPERIENCE is testing the social acceptance of gender expression in various places. This experiment took place inside the well respected institution of Montgomery College - Takoma Park. The results of my social experiment were very interesting filled with a lot of live hidden cam footage & interviews.


The Trans Experience [Montgomery College]:









For those of you on Facebook, you can find stories like this by following Wipe Out Transphobia.

The folks at WOT added:

We have discussed with the video creator about the difference between Gender Identity and Sexuality, but regardless, this is a great example of exposing the discrimination that can still be prevalent in institutions who pride themselves on equality and diversity.




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I certainly have no intention of denigrating...

Robyn's picture

...the importance of being the "friend" type of ally. I have many times had only the few friends I could gather together for support and might not have been able to carry on without them.

But I also think public acts deserve praise.

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