A few years back, I inadvertently and unintentionally made a comment that hurt an LGBTQ friend of mine. When I realized it, my stomach dropped. I felt sick and horrified that I had done something hurtful, that I had failed to be a good ally. But neither my intent, nor my feelings, mattered much in that moment. What mattered was how I responded. I apologized, profusely. I committed to not making that mistake again. And I became a better ally.
It was a very humbling experience, and humbling experiences rarely feel good. In fact, they feel kinda awful. Even now, all these years later, writing about this incident stirs up feelings of regret and shame and disappointment in myself. But, here’s the thing about all those feelings – they can either turn to defensiveness and stubbornness and cause more harm, or we can either harness them and let them teach us how to be a better ally.
And I’m committed to being a better ally.
So I swallow those feelings, take responsibility, and dive deeper into the ongoing process of learning and unlearning that we all must do.
I’m also committed to teaching my kids how to be good allies – so that they don’t cause this pain and so that they don’t feel this regret, as well. I’m sure that many other parents want to do the same.
“Raising LGBTQ Allies” by Chris Tompkins, released on May 14th, is another tool in our toolkit to help us on our journey.
Part-memoir, part-guide, “Raising LGBTQ Allies” gives parents, teachers, caregivers, and pretty much everyone a better understanding of how to be a good ally. Tompkins discusses several common mistakes, offers suggestions and advice for avoiding missteps, and shares his own journey with honesty and acceptance.
The first step in being a good ally, I think, is to tap into your reserves of humility so that you can keep an open mind and take in all of the lessons folks like Tompkins have to offer. Let me tell you, this is a lesson that I have learned the hard way. But it is essential. And the more humility we have, the more we learn and grow. We become better allies. And we raise better allies.
Here’s the thing: to be good allies, to raise good allies, we need to be willing to learn – and we need humility when we mess up. Because we will mess up. Trust me. And messing up feels terrible. Trust me.
But we can normalize humility. We can normalize educating ourselves. We can normalize growing and learning and evolving so that we can be better allies. So we can be better humans, really.
“Raising LGBTQ Allies” opens up the conversation about the possibility – or maybe even the likelihood – of having an LGBTQ child or family member. It challenges us to dismantle heteronormativity. It helps us explore our own subconscious biases so we don’t unintentionally pass them on. It offers tips, exercises, and advice for taking on all of this.
I want my kids to know how to be good allies, and I’m guessing you do too. To do that we need help. Thank goodness there are friends who forgive us, teachers who will guide us, and books like this one so we can educate ourselves.