Engaging in Active LGBTQIA+ Allyship

By Jonathan Pryor, Ph.D.

In higher education environments we are often provided opportunities to claim ourselves as allies for LGBTQIA+ communities. We certainly enjoy these experiences at UMKC, most notably through our Safe Space program, our Ally Photo, or any programming opportunity open to the broader community.

While these opportunities do assist us in deepening our knowledge of LGBTQIA+ topics, or provide a necessary visibility that demonstrates solidarity and support, I invite you to consider additional ways that you can remain active in your allyship for sexual and gender diverse communities at UMKC.

  1. Continue your education. If you’ve only attended one Safe Space program and it has been many years since you have participated in that experience, it is important to question what gaps you might have in your knowledge around LGBTQIA+ inclusion. Safe Space at UMKC is never intended to be a catch-all training for our awareness, knowledge, or engagement with LGBTQIA topics. So please continue to pursue additional educational opportunities, on campus, online, or through other community or public media sources. I also hope you will join us for our many events taking place during each semester.
  2. Maintain awareness of your discomfort. Much of the work we have to do in advocating for equity and inclusion is our own self-work. This requires us to recognize that we hold biases (many of which may be unconscious) that ultimately impact how we support our colleagues and students. Lean-in to moments that you wish to resist and interrogate what that feeling is—explore what might be the root of that feeling. There are plenty of opportunities to explore this further through community resources or on campus trainings provided by Diversity and Inclusion.
  3. Advocate through Action. Many of us possess some power or influence in the areas that we work, in the communities we live, or among our friends and loved ones. If you are instructing a course, you have the opportunity to create space for queer and trans students to share their chosen name and pronouns with you. You have the opportunity to create a classroom of respect and civility, or to ensure that your curriculum is reflective of the lived experiences of your students. Are you in a position to advocate for an expansion of accessible restrooms in your academic building? Or do you have influence to adjust in-take forms that can be adjusted to account for greater gender diversity? Or perhaps you can simply interrupt and challenge yourself, a peer, or loved one using an offensive slur or problematic language. Our advocacy can show up in many ways, but most of all, it’s important to show up.
  4. Familiarize yourself with resources. We all can do the work of ensuring our spaces are inclusive of gender and sexual diversity. It should not be on one person, office, or unit to ensure that our values of inclusive excellence are met. Yet, attending any training, watching educational videos, or participating in difficult dialogues will not make you an expert. Just knowing that there are resources can be valuable when supporting your LGBTQIA+ students. I hope you know UMKC LGBTQIA Programs & Services exists to serve as one of those resources, among many other dedicated resources on our campus.

These four points illustrate the call that our Safe Space program, and many other similar programs across the country, asks participants to engage with. Allyship is active, and it is not an identity or label we assign to ourselves, but a commitment that we continue to engage with and work toward. It requires us to continue our growth of knowledge related to the communities we support, engage our awareness and attitudes toward overcoming our privileges and biases, being active in our advocacy, and remaining aware of our resources.  I am grateful to work in a community that offers great support of our LGBTQIA+ students and colleagues; if I can be of any support please don’t hesitate to reach out. I invite you to join us for any of our future Safe Space programs (March 14th 1-4pm at Hospital Hill; April 9th 1-4pm in the Admin Center). For more information or to RSVP, contact me at lgbtqia@umkc.edu.