Allyship is many things. It's a call to action, it's a means of serving one's peers, and it is bettering one's community. It can prove therapeutic and exceptionally informative, but it is not a title. It is not a badge, nor an award, nor some pithy selection of community service hours to toss on your resume. It is an action, it is action itself, and its focus should be on others, not on yourself. One can be an ally in many capacities, can help spread awareness and support those of different ethnicities, genders, and other modalities of life. However, in supporting others, one cannot and should not attempt to center themselves amidst conflicts they have not experienced. Again, in essence, allyship is about supporting others, not raising ourselves.
I remember, some weeks ago, I was talking to a companion of mine, and they had asked me to define what LGBTQIAA stood for. Always eager to assist and educate, I went through each letter in the acronym. My acquaintance's face would contort from time to time, and for some parts of the acronym, I had to pause and explain in greater detail what exactly it entailed. When I reached ally, they perked up, got rather excited, and then proceeded to exclaim, "Oh, I like that one, they ought to put that one closer to the front!" I don't recall off the top of my head what I said in response, or if I even offered one. I do know that internally, their words, however light-hearted, did indeed sting. That said, I am at least thankful to that exchange for inspiring me to write this piece.
It is a common and polluted notion to treat being an ally as a form of identity, despite how pure the intention may be. Yes, being an ally is a choice, yet it is not simply a matter of declaring oneself a friend and supporter of others. Being "in support" of something doesn't necessarily mean you are actively working to support it. Shouting out to the heavens that you support equal rights for all people and decrying racism doesn't cause racism to up and poof away in a cloud of smoke. Claiming to support the homeless without every donating a penny certainly doesn't feed any mouths. Further, the less involved a person or willfully ignorant colleague is, the easier it can be to slide into this mentality, which for the sake of brevity I will label as armchair allyship.
Thankfully, as simple as it can be to fall into this lofty and ineffective framework, the solution is just as transparent. Attend meetings of different cultural groups. Flier for events. Host talks. Introduce new concepts to your friends and loved ones, and bring them with you to meetings and other demonstrations. Stay informed, volunteer your time, and offer your support with humility. We can achieve so much together, but it must be as a unit, united by a cause, and driven by sympathy in situations where we cannot personally emphasize or claim to have experienced the struggles of others. I myself have every intention to continue marching, attending, discussing, and being present for each and every opportunity available in support of those around me-- not for payment, nor for recognition, but because it is the right thing to do. Allyship is commitment, and it is something we must continually renew every minute of every day. It is an active action, and one that ceases to be when met with inertia and stagnation. To all those that perform allyship, I offer neither praise nor thanks, but three small words: keep at it.