ALLIES GUIDE

TABLE OF CONTENTS

ALLIES

What does it mean to be an Ally?

What does it mean to display the ALLIES decal?

What do ALLIES members stand for?

History of the rainbow flag and/or symbol

DEFINITIONS

YOUR BOUNDARIES AS AN ALLY

Coming out

What if someone comes out to you?

HOMOPHOBIA

Prevalence of homophobia

Are some heterosexuals more likely to be homophobic than others?

HOMOPHOBIA DEBUNKED

HOW EDUCATORS CAN HELP

PROBLEM SOLVING AND REFERRALS

ALLIES

What does it mean to be an ALLY?

Allies are people who chose to support faculty, staff and students who are gay, lesbian bisexual or transgendered (GLBT).  Upon joining this group, ALLIES are given a rainbow triangle shaped decal or emblem to let others know that they support GLBT people.  The decals or emblems will ONLY be issued to individuals, not departments or offices, so that GLBT people can feel assured that they will receive support from the individuals displaying the rainbow triangle.

What does it mean to display the ALLIES Decal?

ALLIES are:

  • Faculty, staff and students who support gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people (GLBT).  Some of our members are heterosexual, while others are homosexual or bisexual.  It is never necessary to disclose your sexual orientation.
  • “safe” people to talk with if you are dealing with sexual orientation – either your own or that of a friend, roommate or family member.
  • Campus community members who provide support, recommend resources, and maintain confidentiality.
  • People who seek to educate the campus community, counter negative attitudes, and promote equal respect and treatment for everyone.
  • People who try to make campus activities more inclusive and comfortable for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members of our community.

What Do ALLIES Members Stand For?

  • I am an advocate for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
  • I want to improve the campus community by developing skills of listening, mentoring, and supporting all individuals.
  • I am not afraid to stand up for what I believe in.
  • I am glad to be a “safe person” for someone who is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender to speak with.  I am glad to be a “safe person” for those who know others who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.  I will respect and maintain confidentiality.  I will provide information and reference support when needed.
  • I will work to confront negative attitudes on campus, and improve the climate for diversity throughout our community.

History of the Rainbow Flag and/or Symbol

Gilbert Baker is credited as being the creator of the original Rainbow Flag in 1978 in response for a request for a symbol that could be used year round.  The first rainbow design had eight colors:  hot pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sun, green for serenity with nature, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony and violet for spirit.  Not all of the colors were readily available, so some were dropped and others were changed leaving the current six stripe version of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet.  The use of the triangle comes from WWII when prisoners of the Nazis were made to wear them to designate what group they belonged to.

DEFINITIONS

ALLIES—People who are advocates for the GLBT community, providing “safe” people and safe places for interaction and assistance.

BISEXUAL—A person who has romantic, emotional, physical, and sexual attractions and connections to both men and women.  This does not mean that they act on these feelings.  A bisexual may have sexual relationships with only one gender while remaining attracted to both.

COMING OUT—The process of becoming aware of, accepting, and openly expressing one’s sexual identity to one or more persons.  “Coming out” to one’s self is a first and most important step in this process before coming out to others.  This means not only knowing about one’s homosexuality, but being comfortable with being homosexual (overcoming homophobia), and being sure of who one is as a person.

DYKE—A term applied to lesbian women and used to stereotype them as masculine.  Note:  this term is being reclaimed by lesbian women and used to mean a strong, independent woman.

FAGGOT—A term applied to gay men.  Note:  Some gay men are reclaiming the word and use it affectionately with one another.

GAY MAN/LESBIAN WOMAN—People whose primary emotional, romantic, physical, and sexual attractions and connections are with someone of the same sex.

GLBT—Abbreviation for gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered.

HETEROSEXISM—The assumption that being heterosexual is the only “normal” or correct type of lifestyle and is superior to other lifestyles.

HETEROSEXUAL—A person whose romantic, emotional, physical, and sexual attractions and connections are with someone of the opposite sex.

HOMOPHOBIA—Unreasonable and irrational fear or dislike for homosexuals or “homosexual behavior” or activity.  This term has also been used to describe the negative feelings homosexuals have about themselves.

HOMOSEXISM—The assumption that being homosexual is the only “normal” or correct type of lifestyle where gay men may “dislike” women and exclude heterosexual (straight) men, and lesbian women may “dislike” men and exclude heterosexual (straight) women.  It may also be seen as bigotry or sexual and gender based exclusion in the homosexual culture or community.

PINK TRIANGLE—A symbol used by the Nazi to identify homosexuals or those thought to be homosexual.  It is currently worn to show pride or support for GLBT persons.  The trend now is to have or display the triangle with colors of the rainbow which symbolize and celebrate the uniqueness and diversity within the GLBT community and often includes their ALLIES.

STRAIGHT—Slang for a heterosexual person.

TRANSGENDERED—A person whose gender identity (what gender they feel most comfortable with) differs from their biological gender.  This is a broad term which includes those who “cross-dress” (transvestites), those who live their lives as a gender other than the one they were born with (transgendered), and those who have undergone a biological sex change operation (transsexual).

YOUR BOUNDARIES AS AN ALLY

Your professional boundaries are the limits you set in relationships with people with whom you work.  It is important to set appropriate boundaries for closeness and disclosure and to keep these boundaries when you contact the same people outside of your formal work setting.  When you become an ALLY, you are expected to maintain the same professional, ethical boundaries you do with any other student.  Do not take advantage of an ALLY relationship by imposing on any “sex” out of homosexuality.  Sexual thoughts and feelings are only part of being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered.  Your task is to help those you ally yourself with increase their self-reliance, not take care of them.  If someone has a serious problem, know when your competence reaches its limits.  Don’t hesitate to refer those students  to qualified helping professionals.

Coming Out

The term “coming out”(of the closet) refers to the life-long process of developing a positive gay identity and talking about this with the people in your life.  Coming out can be a long and difficult struggle for GLBT people who have either grown up with negative stereotypes and feelings of homophobia, or who have to confront homophobia and discrimination in their adult lives.

What if someone comes out to you?  You should feel honored if someone comes out to you because it probably means that person feels close to you and trusts you.  The way a GLBT person chooses to come out to others often reflects the way he/she feels about being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.  When someone comes out to you it is important that you listen to both what the person is saying and not saying.

  • If the statement has a very negative tone, then this person might need some help finding a more positive approach to coming out.
  • Your response can make a difference.  Positive responses help people feel more comfortable with the process of coming out.
  • Do not assume you know why the student has chosen to come out to you.  GLBT people come out for a number of reasons such as:
    • To be able to feel “whole” when interacting with others
    • To stop wasting energy by hiding
    • To make a statement that being “gay” is OK
    • To feel closer with significant people in their lives
    • Don’t rush anyone to come out.  Do not assume you know what is best for anyone.  Regardless of your own sexual orientation you do not know what it means to him/her to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
    • Some people never come out.  The risk of being hurt is too great for them.  They may fear gossip, rejection, harassment, loss of a job, or even physical violence.  You must respect the choice to keep sexual orientation private.  However, they may notice your ALLIES decal and feel supported by your presence on the campus.

HOMOPHOBIA

Homophobia generally refers to an unreasonable fear or dislike of homosexuals.  The term has also been used to describe the negative feelings homosexuals have about themselves.

The term homophobia was coined by George Weinberg in 1972 in Society and the Healthy Homosexual.  Weinberg used the term to describe heterosexuals’ dread of being in close quarters with gay men and lesbian women.  Since first coined by Weinberg, the term has become widely used and is used in a variety of context.

Even though the term is commonly used, it is a problematic term.  In the strictest sense, homophobia would be defined as a “fear of the same” – not fear of the same sex.  Fear of the same sex would be termed “homosexphobia.”  This term has been used by some researchers, but homophobia is by more common and frequently used.

Research does not indicate that heterosexuals’ antigay attitudes can reasonably be considered a “phobia” in the clinical sense.  Many heterosexuals who express hostility toward gay men and lesbian women do not manifest any psychological reactions to homosexuality that commonly would be associated with a ‘phobia’.  Phobias are usually associated with dysfunction and most individuals with antigay prejudice are generally highly functional.  Another problem with the term “homophobia” is the implication that antigay prejudice is an individual, clinical entity rather than a social phenomenon.  Dislike of homosexuality and avoidance of association with homosexuals is rooted in cultural ideologies and intergroup relations.

PREVALENCE OF HOMOPHOBIA

While antigay prejudice remains widespread in the United States, attitudes toward gay men and lesbian women have become more accepting in recent years.  Antigay prejudice remains widespread in the United States.  However, most adult Americans continue to regard homosexual behavior as immoral, but the trend appears to be in the direction of less condemnation.

Are Some Heterosexuals More Likely to be Homophobic Than Others?

Empirical research shows that heterosexuals’ attitudes toward gay men and lesbians are consistently correlated with various psychological, social, and demographic variables.  In contrast to heterosexuals with favorable attitudes toward gay people, those with negative attitudes are:

  1. Less likely to have had personal contact with lesbian women and gay men
  2. Less likely to report having engaged in homosexual activities or to identify themselves as gay or lesbian
  3. More likely to perceive their peers as manifesting a negative attitude
  4. More likely to have resided in areas where negative attitudes are the norm (Midwest and southern U.S.; in rural areas or small towns; in the Canadian prairies)
  5. Likely to be older and less well-educated
  6. More likely to be religious, to attend church regularly, and to subscribe to a conservative religious ideology
  7. More likely to express traditional, restrictive attitudes about sex role
  8. Less permissive sexually or manifest more guilt or negativity about sexuality
  9. More likely to manifest high levels of authoritarianism (dogmatism, rigidity, intolerance or ambiguity)

Heterosexuals tend to have:

  • more negative attitudes towards gays/lesbians of their own gender
  • Greater negative attitudes among males rather than females

Source:  Gregory M. Herek, Beyond Homophobia:  A Social Psychological Perspective on Attitudes Toward Lesbians and Gay Men.  In (1985) Bashers, Baiters, and Bigots: Homophobia in American Society.  New York:  Harrington Press.

HOMOPHOBIA DEBUNKED

Homophobia is generally an unreasonable loathing of homosexuals, but it is frequently supported by inaccurate statements about homosexuals.

Homosexuality is a behavior

Homosexuality is a matter of identity.  People do not choose to be attracted to one gender or another, it just happens.  Homosexuals are homosexual whether or not they act on their attraction for members of the same gender.

Homosexuality is a choice, homosexuals recruit

Many homosexuals would choose to be straight to avoid discrimination.  The vast majority of homosexuals claim to have had no choice and only begin to accept their own homosexuality after a difficult process known as coming out.  There is no evidence that people have ever been able to successfully change their sexual orientation under any circumstances.

Homosexuals are promiscuous and do not value relationships

Homosexuals have the same needs for companionship that heterosexuals have.  To the extent that there are significant differences between homosexual and heterosexual pairings they are likely caused by commonplace discrimination against gay people.  Polygamy is a separate issue from target gender.

Homosexuals are not good parents

Studies show that children raised by homosexuals are themselves homosexual just as often as children raised by heterosexuals and are less likely to indulge in bigotry and intolerance.

Homosexuals are perverts (anal sex, pedophilia, beastiality)

Studies show that anal sex is much more common among heterosexuals than homosexuals.  Criminal records show that pedophilia is dominated almost entirely by straight men.  Beastiality is generally uncommon among both homosexuals and heterosexuals.

Homosexuals are disease ridden

Homosexuals are more likely to know about and be motivated to use safe sex practices.  Globally AIDS is predominantly a disease of heterosexuals.

Homosexuality is unnatural

Homosexuality is common in nature, particularly in humans.

Homosexuality endangers the species

Homosexuals can’t breed and raise children.  As with heterosexual couples who cannot themselves have children they may use surrogate parents, artificial insemination, or adopt.  Even if homosexuals choose not to be directly responsible for the raising of their own children they can help others raise children or perform tasks that those who are responsible for the raising of families find it difficult to make time for.

Homosexuality is promoted by the media

Most images of homosexuality in the media are negative.  Since homosexuality is not a choice, the idea of promotion of homosexuality is meaningless.

Homosexuality is against God

Since homosexuality is a matter of identity rather than choice, God must have created homosexuals as well as heterosexuals.  By this logic, homophobia is against God

Homosexuals want my body

Unwanted come-ons are a general problem.  Come-ons from homosexuals are loathed by some heterosexuals because these heterosexuals loathe homosexuals.  If “No, thanks” doesn’t work, then try “You are bothering me.”  Responding to come-ons from homosexuals with homophobia is ineffective because it gives the aggressor a weapon to use and a reason to use it.

Homosexuals flaunt their sexuality

Humans are sexual beings.  It is absurd to ask homosexuals to hide their sexuality because it bothers homophobes.  Even the most prudish heterosexuals will show affection for each other in some manner.

Homosexuals complicate same-sex bonding

People should be able to bond with each other without sexualization.

Homosexuals should not have special pride events

Events such as pride parades happen specifically because widespread homophobia has made the daily life of homosexuals a struggle.

Lhttp://www/bibble.org/gay/phobia/debunked.html

HOW EDUCATORS CAN HELP

Let others know that derogatory gestures and jokes are not amusing-they cause pain and embarrassment.  Challenge your colleagues and students who tell jokes at the expense of a sexual, racial or ethnic minority.  As with racial or sexist slurs, challenge students who use names, such as “fag” or “queer,” in a derogatory manner in your presence.

Use campus incidents of hate speech or violence to develop a “teachable moment.”

Be aware that the gay student is often uncomfortable, invisible, isolated and needs acceptance from you.

A gay student may not admit to being gay due to denial, the pressure to conform, or need for self-protection.  Don’t confront a student who is reluctant.

If a student tells you that he or she is gay, thank the student for trusting you and keep it to yourself.  Listen carefully; don’t assume you know in advance what it means to this person to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual.  Keep the door open for further conversation.  If the student needs help, the Counseling Center is available.

Seek opportunities in the classroom to introduce the contributions of gay, lesbian or bisexual people or other minorities.  If a key person in the field is gay, lesbian, or bisexual or a member of any other minority, say so.

Use inclusive language in the classroom.

Support colleagues and students in the process of coming out.

Encourage unbiased scholarship in the study of the gay experience.  Support and recognize your NMU colleagues who take the risk of integrating gay studies into their research or teaching.

Integrate material about homosexuality into standard courses where appropriate.

Look for new information on intersections between gay experience and your field.  The last few years have witnessed a blossoming of scholarship on gay and lesbian issues in many disciplines.  Encourage students to write on such topics.

Look for a gay caucus in your professional association.  These organizations often provide assistance and compile useful information.

Advocate for domestic partner benefits for same-sex partners of employees and their children to make it feasible for gay and lesbian faculty, administrators, and staff to accept positions at NMU and help them to stay.

Silence encourages and helps perpetuate homophobia.  Break the silence.

PROBLEM SOLVING AND REFERRAL

The University has created a variety of procedures for students to register complaints and seek resolution.  These are outlined in the Preface to the NMU Student Handbook on page v.  Student-to-student complaints as well as questions about the process to resolve a student complaint may be directed to the Dean of Students.

When someone comes to you for help and you don’t know where to turn, these offices can provide friendly support and knowledgeable advice:

X1554  Multicultural Education and Resource Center

X2981  Counseling Center

X1700  Dean of Students Office

“Northern Michigan University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, gender, age, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or disability in employment or the provision of services.”

NMU Affirmative Action Policy, Administrative Policies 4.1.17.1 issued 11/16/94

Let us work together as ALLIES to bring these words to life.

ALLIES can be reached via e-mail at ALLIES@nmu.edu