So says Krusty the Clown’s father Rabbi Hymen Krustofsky (did you read that to yourself in his accent?) in the classic early “Simpsons” episode “Like Father, Like Clown.” Seriously, it’s a really important question when dealing with issues faced by discriminated-against groups in society and how to be an ally.
The AFLW is a good case in point. While the gist of the initiative is well and good and is getting (cisgender) women playing at a higher level than before, the idea has been and is being framed from a men’s perspective. The AFLW faces (unjustified) criticism because it’s “not the same” as the men’s style of playing. Male coaches now dominate womens’ teams. The male dominated AFL can’t look at their own unconscious bias as per the inadequacy of trans woman Hannah Mouncey’s treatment. It’s what happens when you don’t put the people in question in charge of their own destiny.
Interestingly, the late Trevor Grant, made similar comments on 3 CR on his show “What’s the Score, Sport?” re indigenous inclusion a few years ago. It’s all very well to have indigenous players; where are the indigenous coaches, administrators and board members?
I recently heard of an organisation that ran a panel discussion to promote trans and gender diverse issues. The cisgender facilitator apparently framed questions from her own point of reference meaning the trans people had to work harder to make their points. In positive contrast, (declaring any interest), as a trans person I had the joy of facilitating a panel of 3 trans and gender diverse people on a panel discussion earlier this year. Trans and gender diverse voices spoke about what we wanted and needed to say, rather than being reactive to tired old fictitious cisgender concerns. In plain language, the panel rocked it.
Similarly, who plays trans people in films, TV etc – and of course, trans people are best at playing trans people. We know there are scores of good TGD actors clamouring for work. Problem is, if the casting director and the script writer doesn’t look beyond their idea of what trans is and fail to empathise strongly with our needs, they can and most likely will cast the wrong performer.
In the same way, there is finally an increased focus on bisexual issues. Sadly, too many know-it-alls are rushing in without consulting bi people. I recently heard of someone who presented to a policy forum and said there were no differences between the needs of gays and lesbians compared to the needs of bisexuals. Seriously? I don’t know one bisexual who would agree with that. Did the presenter consult and listen – obviously not.
There’s lots of ideas on what makes a good ally. For me, it’s about asking people from the relevant group two questions. They are “what would you like us to do and what would you like us NOT to do?” Part of that means an ally needs to be humble. A true ally might need to put their ego aside, listen and learn. A true ally might need to share power and privilege rather than forcing their version of it onto other people.
And most of all, a true ally needs to let go of control and might not “be in charge here.” Remember the end of The Simpsons episode – the once-controlling Rabbi Krustofsky lovingly embraced Krusty as an equal. That’s a pretty good image to hold in mind. Go with it.