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Conservative Conference showed the public value of LGBT+ allies. Here’s why it meant so much to our community

Conservative Conference showed the public value of LGBT+ allies. Here’s why it meant so much to our community
3 min read

When Carrie Johnson spoke at the Conservative Party Conference this month, she told a packed fringe: “Whether you are LGBT+ or an ally like me, we are all committed to equality and acceptance for everyone, whoever you are and whomever you love.”

What is an ally? In simple terms, allyship is the practice of emphasising social justice, inclusion, and human rights by members of an in group, to advance the interests of an oppressed or marginalised out group. But to LGBT+ Conservatives, our members and me, it is so much more. Allyship is needed to help push causes over the line. Many campaigns over the years have been won by the outreach of allies, showing the importance to society as opposed to individuals. Few of the gains made by the LGBT+ community that Johnson mentioned in her speech would have happened without them.

Many question why people get so involved with campaigns that don’t directly affect their lives. Why would a cis heterosexual woman care about the need to ban conversion therapy, or stand up for trans rights? The answer is simple. Those who have faced discrimination themselves, regardless of the topic, know what it feels like to be excluded, judged, and have the odds stacked against you.

It’s okay to learn from experiences and change your previous viewpoint

By having allies join your campaign it not only helps with visibility, but it helps you reach people who may ask: “What does this have to do with me?”

Most allies are born from a personal connection – from having a loved one be part of a marginalised group, to a family member who comes out as gay, or even constituents coming to their MP with their own stories of discrimination.

LGBT+ Conservatives have found great strength in not only our parliamentary patrons, but also our parliamentary allies, of whom there are too many to list. From Ben Everitt MP “shaking it off” for our fundraiser lip sync, to Nicola Richards MP joining our policy event at Conference this year, we have so many brilliant supporters who are integral to our campaigns, both publicly and working hard behind the scenes.

Many people are cautious through fear of saying the wrong thing or being seen as jumping on a cause. We need to teach people it’s okay to ask if they’re not sure of the right terms to use. It’s okay to sometimes misstep and mess up. It’s okay to learn from experiences and change your previous viewpoint. What matters is not what you say, but the intent behind it. If the intent is to help and support, you can’t go far wrong.

A good ally is someone who adds to the campaign without taking the attention off those directly affected. They are someone who knows when to step back, and when to place the focus back on the people behind the campaign. They need to be fearless defenders. They need to be active: not just when the cameras are on, or on their Instagram feeds; but in the hotel bars, the halls of Parliament or their local pub. A good ally can be a buffer. They can take some of the heat of the debate away from those who are subjected to abuse, hatred and violence. They can show the wide reach of a campaign and why it should matter to each and every one of us wanting to improve the society in which we live. Finally, they can be a shoulder to cry on when it gets hard. Someone to turn to when the campaign gets nasty. And within the LGBT+ community, someone to say you’re loved, you’re accepted and you’re valued.

That is the art of being an ally.

 

Elena Bunbury is the chair of LGBT+ Conservatives

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