Allyship: The Little Things Count a Lot

This is my very last minute response to the January 2020 Carnival of Aros, on the subject of “New“, in celebration of my shiny new aro/ace/queer pride swag from the holidays this year.

When it comes to allyship, there’s a lot of talk about the big asks that absolutely vital to being a good ally, like talking time to educate yourself about what it means to be aromantic (or ace, or queer, etc.), trusting people with their own evaluation of their identities and experiences, respecting their labels and chosen relationships, not being cruel or mocking their experiences, not kicking them out, defending them from people who do get hostile, etc.

But once that bare minimum is met, I think one of the things that can make a big ongoing difference is the little, fun, positive things that you can do that show that you haven’t forgotten what my identity means to me, and that you are willing to put in some work to actively support me rather than just agreeing to live and let live in whatever way requires very little work.

To that end, I want to share a few brief anecdotes about some the little above-and-beyond things that friends and family have done for me as allies, that went a long way in making me really feel supported and accepted, in the hope that they might serve as inspiration for anyone who wants to be a better ally to their own friends and family:

  • This Christmas, my sister got me an ace oddish bag from redbubble (additional thanks to whatever artist already knew to fill that incredible specific niche!), and my cousin got me rainbow earrings from a local queer artist and picked out special rainbow yarn she used to knit me a subtle rainbow pride scarf.
  • At anime conventions, my friends have started pointing out to me any ace or aro gear that they spot in the artist alley (of which there are surprisingly a lot of offerings these days) – I have a shiny new aro flag pin (with holo glitter!) that I was only able to find because a friend spotted them, thought of me, and sent me a message to let me know where to look.
  • A couple years ago, when mentions of asexuality in the media were even more rare, my mom once heard someone mention asexuality on an NPR show and got so excited that she pulled off the freeway at the first exit to call me and let me know, because she couldn’t wait until she got all the way home.
  • Later, my aunt heard that I was going to be in a newspaper interview, and managed to find and clip a paper copy and offered to send me one as well.
  • When the whole thing about [questionable] asexuality in Death Stranding was going down, my friend who was playing the game took time to let me interrupt their playing to look up all the asexuality file references, and offered to ping me anytime they encountered another reference.
  • When one of the members of my local ace group brought in handmade ace pride bracelets, they also made extra aro pride bracelets for anyone who might want one of those too.
  • When I took an (in)famously direct student-led class on sexuality at university, the student facilitators were very open and supportive when I needed to find alternative ways to fulfill assignments, and took enough note that at the end of the course they also approached me (unprompted) to ask for help finding a/sexuality and a/romantic orientation related materials to add to the syllabus for future years.
  • A couple years ago, my dad and I had a long extended dinnertable conversation about how to adapt civil marriage for alternative relationship styles like friends-with-literal-benefits or polyamory, and I think he might have suggested some even more radical possibilities than I was looking for  – I’m fortunately in that my family is one that is super open and in support of these kinds of conversations in general, but this was just one example that really stuck in mind and made me grateful for that kind of open-mindedness.
  • I also want to send a special thanks to all of my non-asexual, non-aromantic friends who have repeatedly served as the beta testers for all my work on general surveys and awareness presentations and needed to check if they were understandable from an outsider perspective.
  • I have a pair of ace and aro pride pins on my bag,  and every couple of months someone in an elevator, or behind me in line at a shop, or in the audience at a convention presentation will notice them with excitement, mentioning that they/their cousin/their kid/their friend just came out as ace or aro and that they’re excited to meet another person out in the wild. Their excitement always makes me excited to see such enthusiastic allies as well.
  • Another time, I was waiting for a train and I heard a dad behind me explaining to his young son what each of them meant (including all the pokemon related ones too :)) – which made me proud to know they had clearly taken the time to learn about them, and to pass that knowledge on as well
  • Same feelings to all the people who stop by our booths at pride, or at student LGBT conference to grab extra stickers or pins for their ace and aro friends back home who weren’t able to make it.

Even though many of these actions are objectively somewhat small things, they show that these people have remembered my identities, taken the time to learn a bit about it, and have had the presence of mind to actively take the chance to support us when they saw an opening. And cumulatively, they all add up to a lot of support that’s made it much easier to live the lifestyle I want to live without anxiety, and given me the backing I need to continue to do active work even with audiences who might not be so supportive.

If you’re ever in the position to be an ally to someone, consider taking a small steps like these when you find an occasion – a little can go a long way. Also, if anyone would like to share their own stories of little acts of allyship that made their day, I’d love to hear them

3 thoughts on “Allyship: The Little Things Count a Lot

  1. This is a really lovely fucking read. It’s so warming to see all this recognition and thoughtfulness. For Christmas my friend bought me a pretty, pale pink heart shaped pin that has ‘No thanks’ stamped loudly across it. There’s no obvious reference to aromanticism there and I’m not entirely out yet so this gift is a statement that I can comfortably and proudly wear. I do feel seen bc of this action and I’m not sure I realised that until reading your piece here. Thank you.

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