5 Ways to Activate Your Allyship

by | Jun 7, 2022 | Hummingbird Blog

“Allyship: the status or role of a person who advocates and actively works for the inclusion of a marginalized or politicized group in all areas of society, not as a member of that group but in solidarity with its struggle and point of view and under its leadership.”  (source: dictionary.com)

Each of us has the opportunity to be an ally for others regardless of our marginalized or mainstream identities. Some of us hold identities that offer us tremendous privilege – and I believe in using that power for good. 

As a gay man with a disability, I have experienced being marginalized and felt like an outsider or othered. I try to use these experiences to connect with or empathize with other people’s experiences in marginalized communities. As a cisgender white man, I have also experienced a significant amount of privilege, which requires me to think of how I can use my privilege to be an ally to others.

Being an ally takes time and intention. It means working to understand the lived experience of others. It also requires empathizing with another person’s feelings, listening to their perspective, and respecting their story. 

Learning about the lived experience of others isn’t a “once and done” activity. We can never fully understand the lived experience of another person or another community. Learning, understanding, and empathizing are ongoing commitments. The work of allyship requires consistent and constant action.

As you take steps to understand the experience of others, the next step is to take your expanded knowledge, evolve your perspective, and activate your allyship!

Recently, I had two opportunities to activate my allyship:

Last month, I posted on LinkedIn about my support for protecting a woman’s right to choose. I believe this is a human-rights issue and recognize that the U.S. is the only developed country where we haven’t firmly protected this right. I received a fair amount of anger and hatred in response to my post. Sometimes, this type of response is part of being an ally, and, for me, it serves as a reminder of why I must use my privilege to advocate for others. 

In conversations with the Hummingbird team about my ‘right to choose’ post, I was reminded that reproductive rights isn’t just a women’s issue. There are trans and non-binary people who need access to reproductive care as well and deserve the right to choose. I’m grateful for the opportunity that I have to continue learning – and to be a better ally.

Also, in May, I used our Hummingbird Hour platform to amplify the voices of the transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming community for a special edition of the monthly series. Unfortunately, this community is under attack in the U.S., with legislation proposed to limit their rights. Their fight deserves attention, and I stand with the trans, NB, and GNC community. Watch the replay of the event.

If you are wondering how you can activate your allyship and be part of the change, here are 5 ways that you can show up for others:

  • Be a sponsor or mentor (or both). I have benefited from leaders who have championed me when I’m not in the room. I learned from those who blazed the trail before me and shared their time and wisdom. I try to pass it on and do the same for others. It is even more essential to sponsor or mentor someone who has a different lived experience than you.
  • Speak up when you witness something derogatory, disrespectful, or discriminatory. You can often use the ‘calling in’ approach to offer an alternate perspective or better language. The ‘calling in’ method allows you to open a conversation that will enable learning and growth. I believe the most powerful path to change requires conversation, communication, and respectful dialogue. Backing someone into a corner, which is what happens when we ‘call out’ another person, ignites the fight, flight, or freeze response – and we aren’t learning when we feel attacked.
  • Open the door for others. The more I learn about systemic oppression – racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia – the more I understand the privilege I’ve experienced as doors have been opened for me (while closed for others). While I can’t change the past, I can use this awareness and privilege to open the door for others, give opportunities, and amplify voices. This is a core commitment of mine and our mission at Hummingbird: amplifying the voices of the unheard.
  • Invite other voices to the conversation. I’ve sat around many tables and witnessed some voices dominate the discussion over the years. As my career has progressed, it has created the opportunity for me to invite other voices to the conversation, ensure those voices are heard and create space for alternative perspectives. This doesn’t mean that we always agree. Instead, the goal is to listen to each other and allow for greater understanding and awareness.

I hope this message has sparked reflection and, perhaps, offered ideas for you.  Remember, everyone can be an ally for someone else. Yes, that means you too!

I’ll leave you with this question: How will YOU activate your allyship?

Until next time, stay safe and be well. 

Brian McComak

Brian McComak

CEO / Founder

he / him / LGBTQ+

Brian McComak is a consultant, speaker, author, and facilitator with over 25 years of experience in DEI, HR, culture, change management, internal communications, and employee experience. He is an openly gay man and a person with a disability who shares his lived experiences in service of fostering workplaces where humans thrive.

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