HOW TO BE AN ALLY: Thoughts from the Chicago Theater Community
Good allies. We all need them. We don't all know how to be them. But now is the time to learn. We asked a few eloquent Chicago artists who graciously offered their definition and thoughts. These words come from people who are angry, terrified, sad, frustrated and who want change. Please consider these words with an open heart - our community will benefit tremendously from it.
These are my thoughts as a Latinx/Genderqueer/Gender Non-Conforming/Non-Binary Trans actor/artist/human... Immediately, this is what comes to mind for me and in my experience, but a good/helpful ally fits the following criteria:
1) If you know me personally & if you know what my pronouns are, you will be sure to use my correct pronouns when referring to me, especially when I'm not around or present. An ally will also correct others if they hear someone misgendering me.
Person B: Avi was so great in that show! She moves so well!
Person A (Ally): Avi was definitely great in that show and I believe Avi uses they pronouns.
Person B: Oh? I didn't know that, what do you mean?
Person A (Ally): Yeah, Avi is Gender Non-Conforming and uses they/them/theirs pronouns. But Avi is just such a cool person and I hope to work with them one day!
2) An ally to me is someone who will be my buddy, supporting me when I go the restroom, especially if they are labeled "Men" and "Women." Since neither one of those restrooms feels right to me, somedays I feel bold and go into the Men's and will have someone wait for me outside the door or come inside with me if it's multiple stalls, and if they read as a cisgender male. The same thing applies to the Women's, so if I'm with a cisgender female I'll ask if she could come inside to wait if it's multiple stalls. But this is only if I feel unsafe in the space and am worried about someone questioning me or stopping me. 3) An ally will make sure to start implementing non-gendered language or non-binary language to refer to groups of people, in rehearsals, in meetings, events, pre-show announcements, etc.
When addressing an audience....Instead of: "Good Evening & Welcome Ladies and Gentlemen" Try: Good Evening & Welcome Everyone" or simply, "Good Evening & Welcome"
When addressing a group of actors/artists...Instead of "Alright guys n' gals we're back in 5" Try: "Alright Company/Actors/Friends etc. we're back in 5"
[Also, "guys" is not gender neutral or inclusive because it still assumes a gender, assumes the binary, and gives fuel to the fire of the patriarchy.]
4) An ally will start normalizing stating their name and pronouns in introductions and will apply all of this regardless of whether or not a Trans/Gender Non-Conforming/Non-Binary person is present.
"Hi, I'm Frida and my pronouns are she/her/hers" or "I'm Diego - he/him/his"
[Also, if you would like to ask someone their pronouns, be sure not to ask: what are your preferred pronouns? That is a transphobic phrase. People's pronouns are not preferences nor is a name really. Your pronouns are YOUR pronouns and your name is YOUR name.]
5) Allies will begin to write in Genderqueer/Gender-Non Conforming/Non-Binary characters into their scripts/stories without needing to heavily comment on their identity. I can't wait to play a character where my identity and the color of my skin do not have to be stated or discussed. I can just exist.
[So, with that, an ally will educate themselves and do what they need to do to tell someone else's story. For example: do outreach and see who can be a helpful resource. If you're writing Trans narratives, then invite a Trans person who lives and breathes being Trans everyday into the process. Then, of course, cast a Trans person...and a Trans person of color would be great. Intersectionality is real, truuust me, I know.]
[And also with that, it is important to look beyond one idea of what Trans looks like or is. Some Trans or Non-Binary folks go through hormone replacement therapy and have surgeries. Others may not. But it's great to start being open to including a Trans person in a play or on screen that doesn't have to be 100% "transitioned." It seems that many people think that a Trans person is only Transgender if they undergo a 180 degree Male to Female transition. However, people come in all variations under the Trans umbrella because GENDER IS A SPECTRUM.]
6) Lastly, allies might make mistakes and that is okay. It's a process, but the effort to make these changes are appreciated and so, so helpful. Therefore, if someone offers a correction, take the correction, make the correction, and move on. And above all, allyship is active and always changing. Allies are always listening. Allyship is always shifting, and it's about asking what someone wants or needs.
Avi Roque adores the arts, is passionate about the arts and they do what they do, not for themselves, but to inspire others, to give someone else the opportunity to simply feel, and enter worlds unknown. Through any piece of art there is always a story to tell, and Avi sees the world, as well as their experiences, as inspiration to create. Avi is a proud Latinx/Gender Non-Conforming/Genderqueer/Trans artist and uses the Pronouns They/Them/Theirs. Avi is also a company member at FIRST FLOOR THEATER, THE COMEDY DANCE COLLECTIVE, & COLLABORACTION.