Allies powering through the pressure

Allies--there's a lot of national discussion of this topic in LGBT and progressive circles.  If you search the, in my opinion, odd word "allyship," there are all kinds of critiques and so on.  Overall, I think the LGBT community does a pretty good job of celebrating allies.  We can always do better, of course.

To celebrate the work of allies in no way diminishes the work of LGBT people.  It doesn't say that what they go through equals the discrimination our community faces.  But in some cases, people become allies because they have faced their own struggles with classism, sexism, racism, etc. that may go well beyond some of the struggles that more privileged members of the LGBT community face.

Regardless, allies face pressures and it's easy to forget.  Here's an example.  The Nashville Scene today has a wonderful profile of Metro Councilman Lonnell Matthews who represents the first district and is running for an at-large seat on the Council this year.  But the piece is looking beyond this election to the future and rightly sees Councilman Matthews as a rising star.  I was struck by this section:

Matthews was also a vocal supporter of the legislation last year that allowed same-sex partners of Metro employees to receive benefits. At a recent fundraiser, asked for an example of his willingness to lead, he says that "several" supportive colleagues who wanted him to run for an at-large seat discouraged him from signing onto the bill as a sponsor. After he went ahead anyway, one even asked him to remove his name.

But he says that conversation was exactly why he had to do it. When it came to a vote, he stood on the council floor and delivered a forceful response to an effort to derail the bill.

Sometimes when I'm working on a local ordinance, I hear about the pressure allies are facing, sometimes I don't.  But it's important to remember that even in our larger cities, allies sometimes face pressure not to support us on policy matters.  I'm glad that Councilman Matthews and other allies powered through and supported the partner benefits ordinance.  I hope and actually believe that they'll find it's not a liability.  But since I'm not the one running for office, it's harder for me to assess that.  People will say things to a candidate in private that they won't say to me.

So our community's government relations approach must not take allies for granted.  It is our job to help create conditions that make it easier for them to work through the objections and support equality.  And let's continue to celebrate the ones who fight alongside us!

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