How to be an Ally: A personal connection

I figured it would be quite apt for me to write this post, as Manchester Pride has just passed (May I just point out I wrote this post whilst I was in Dubai, about a month ago. Oops.) I should have wrote this before hand but never got the time, hey ho all that matters is that I am writing it. I think this post is important, important to show others acceptance and love.

Being so involved with the LGBTQ+ community, I often get questioned or judged. Questioned as to why I am so passionate about the rights and equality this community deserves but also judged by those who do identify with this community as I do not. I am not gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans. I identify as straight however I do have a personal connection to the community and feel as though I want my voice to be heard for those who cannot fight.

My brother identifies as a gay, trans man. For those who do not know, transgender is when an individual has transitioned from female to male or vice versa. In my brothers case, this is female to male or FTM for short. I could not be prouder of him. There are a lot of feelings around this, and I’m choosing to blog about it because I know I am not apart of the only family in the world to have experienced this. This will also help those who’s family members come out in the future.

Just before I tell my story, I need to point out that this is my opinions and my part of the story to tell. I cannot speak for my brother nor any other family members and I do have the permission from my brother to post.

I’m not sure of the exact date of when my brother came out to my mum but it was around 2005/6 when he was 14/15. I was only young, 8 or 9, and don’t remember much, I just remember my mum coming into my room and sitting down with me on my Barbie bed spread…(Yes I was nine and yes I was totally into Barbie. SO WHAT), she’d come to tell me that my then ‘sister’ was becoming my brother and that we would call him AJ. Short for his full name Adam Jack. At first, I cried. I cried for a long time and I’m not sure if this is because I was confused about the situation or because I was worried about my friends judging me. It was a mixture of both but I was a child. I never ever did not accept him or his decision, I love him and would never disagree with his decision on how to live his life. At the end of the day I would rather have a brother who is enjoying life than a ‘sister’ who is unhappy and depressed.

To begin with I struggled with pronouns as I’m sure everyone would. Going from ‘She’ to ‘He’ was a big thing in our family and we all struggled. However, we would always correct ourselves. A lot of people who experience this go through stages of grief, as if they have lost someone which to a certain extent they have. A Mother will have lost their daughter. For me, I don’t think of this as losing a sister, more of gaining a brother. I’d always wanted an older brother, maybe because my cousin who I’m closest to, Charlotte, had an older brother and I wanted to be just like her when I was young. Now I have a brother, a brother who is happier in himself and appreciates life more.

Let’s move onto the shock value. Within my family, there wasn’t any. This whole thing didn’t come out of the blue, it was more of a “okay, this is happening and we shall roll with it” and I’m grateful for that. Having a sister for me was not like your stereo typical ones who share clothes, gossip about boys, and shop together. Oh no, it was far from that. Adam liked football, wore mens clothing and preferred anything stereotypically boy-ish. We never had that close-ness that ‘sisters’ would. We argued like cat and dog, mainly because I was annoying and young. God damn Louise for not getting a move on and leaving a seven year age gap between the two of us!

The reaction was actually very good from our family and to my knowledge nobody had issues with calling said person now “AJ’ or “Adam”. Like I mentioned before pronouns were difficult to get used to but one day it just all clicks and you forget this even happened. It’s true, I don’t find myself thinking about it often only when it is brought up by others or my family.

I am unbelievably proud of Adam, he’s faced horrendous bullying and knock backs with anxiety but he still continues to shine. Yeah, pass me the sick bucket. When he reads this he’ll be like “Woah, Abbie can be nice. She does have a heart” LOL. I’m even more proud of my family for being so accepting. Families often get left out of the process when a huge change like this happens especially within the media. They focus on the person who is transitioning (Of course they will because this is the person going through the hardest process) but it does affect the family too. It causes confusion and worry, I know for sure my Mum worried about surgeries and just wanted him to be happy. I’m super happy to report that he did achieve this.

Adam has been on this journey for fourteen years, he is happier within himself and gives back to his commuity every day. He owns Rainbow & Co. which is a LGBTQ+ Apparel internet store, and he gives a portion of his profits to a charity which helps LGBTQ+ people. Throughout summer he has attended the majority of local pride events to build a better community and a bigger business for himself with the help of my mum. Whilst I’m on the subject of our mother, the good ol’ Louise Pemberton, I would just like to give her recognition. Since this life changing decision with Adam, my mum has joined ‘Manchester Parent’s Group’ which is a non-profit group that helps the parents and families of LGBTQ+ youth. This group has been a huge support to my mum and I’m truly grateful for it, and I’m even prouder of my mum for giving back to the community too and helping other parents in similar situations to her.

A lot of people will see this as a bad thing to happen, “you lost someone’ blah blah – it is not a bad thing. Having this happen in my life has opened me up to so many things. I’ve met people who I wouldn’t ‘normally’ have done, I’ve become more compassionate and it’s allowed me, to completely be myself even when I’m being a little bit extra LOL. Without this happening there would be no Rainbow & Co. , most likely no acknowledgment of the Manchester Parents Group and no charity work from us. So this has made an impact, for the greater good.

I’m now going to list some tips for being a good ally as I do believe I am one, not to to lick my own nip haha.

  • Listen. Do everything you can to listen. Someone who is going through transitioning or even just having a struggle will want to talk. Just be quiet and understanding. Many people in the LGBTQ+ family don’t have accepting families so this will mean the absolute world.
  • Challenge hate. Before you do this check your surroundings. If there is immediate danger to you and the person, do not challenge. But online, challenge it or if someone makes a passing comment, call them out. We will not get anywhere if people let this shit slide.
  • Ask questions. Rather than make mistakes and call someone the wrong name, or label them why don’t you simply ask them nicely. For example; if you’re unsure of someones pronouns ask them. This will mean a lot to them. If you’re struggling to understand, ask them. Please do bare in mind when you are being rude, do not ask about previous names, do not ask about surgeries. It’s rude. Let them tell you and if they don’t, then its none of your business.
  • Educate yourself. Know your LGBTQ+ history. Google Stonewall, Google iconic LGBTQ icons. Educate yourself on the struggle this community has had and is still having. Be the change and the difference!
  • Give back. Give back to the community. Attend prides, show your solidarity. Buy merchandise. Attend rallies. Do your bit to protect a community that shares so much diversity and individuality to the world. Without the LGBTQ+ community, the world would be a little less brighter.

Remember these things and always remember to be a decent human being. Love will always conquer my dears.

Visit rainbowandco.uk for your LGBTQ+ Merchandise. (Not an Ad, just a good sister.)

Best wishes,

Abs

XO

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