Our words and actions have it. And it’s easy to forget that when things line up the way we want them to. We realize most viscerally the differences between the weights of our words when we lack that weight, when our voices fall on deaf ears, and when others are heard over us.
This is what I want all you folks to have in mind when considering my post about Pride not being enough.
When I say that I want all you allies to whatever movement it is to work against oppression 365 days of the year, and that includes me too, so I’m there with you, I don’t want you all jumping up to champion a movement. You may be enthusiastic, you may want to do good, you may have the best of intentions, but this doesn’t mean we can go ignoring power dynamics here.
As a queer person, I want the LGBTQ movement to be led by LGBTQ people. I want the focus to be on us. So when allies to the movement get involved, it’s wonderful for the support, but we need to know that you’re not going to try and lead this movement.
I know you might feel guilty for the oppression of queer people that you see, but that doesn’t mean you can yell over my queer voice. Allies are important in supporting movements. They also need to realize that the same dynamics that created oppression also exist between allies and the people the movement is advocating for.
Straight allies still have privilege over queer people, even in conversations about LGBTQ topics. The same goes for abled people in conversations about disability, or white people in spaces for people of colour.
I highly recommend the video “I’m the Jerk” by Lindsay Jack, a K-W slam poet.
Her piece describes someone with privilege, unaware of the impacts he has on others, and not good impacts either. She then moves to talking about how “we’ve all been this guy”. Privilege isn’t exclusively male, there are many kinds of it intersecting many communities.
She concludes with a pledge to shut the fuck up. To shut up when no one is speaking to her, to shut up when in spaces where others are speaking their truth. She is making talking about being conscious of her privilege, to not using it to have her voice heard when it could drown out the voices of others.
And it’s not only in social justice circles that our voices drown out those of others, this is a crucial concept to be aware of in International Development. When I, a white, middle class, English speaking Canadian find myself in Nepal for 8 months, how will I use the weight of my voice to make myself heard? Will I use that weight for good, to lift others up, or will I use it for bad, to focus on my own ideas and perspective and take away from focus on others who may be more knowledgeable or be more impacted by the situation?
So, friends, let us go forward in our attempts to make the world a better place with awareness of when our voices carry weight. And let us make sure that as allies to others, we aren’t stealing thunder or spotlight or focus or voice.