I am a heterosexual male. I struggled with how to start this article, but, I struggled with how to establish context. I am aware, that for many, a heterosexual individual writing in this publication may seem unusual. However, we have a very important role in fighting for equality and an end to oppression. Most LGBTQAI+ organisations do have heterosexual or cisgender active members, this group is no different and we actively encourage their participation.
In this article, I am going to explore allyship, talk about my experiences and what this means in the Early Childhood Education context. Activism is “the activity of working to achieve political or social change, especially as a member of an organisation with particular aims.” (“Activism”) As an ally, you will be an activist for the LGBTQAI+ community and there are certain things that you can do in your organisation.
As a heterosexual male, my involvement in groups such as this has opened my eyes to the language I use within the setting. Simple lexical choices that seem innocuous to me I now know, through discussions with friends in the LGBTQAI+ community, have profound impacts on them and children discovering their own identity.
As an example, one thing I used to do was invite the girls to go to the toilet and then the boys. If a child stood up in the wrong group, I would ask them to sit down presuming they had made a mistake. For young children engaging with their gender identity, I was forcing them to identify in a particular way with a limited choice between two genders. Similarly, a trap that we often fall into is promoting particular family norms. In roleplay or the books we choose to read to the children, we will often see families as being Mum, Dad and child. Many of our families, children and coworkers will not be in or go onto have, families like this.
We must therefore be very careful about the language we use in the setting and reconsider the lexical choices and resources that we promote in our settings.
Cambridge Dictionary defines prejudice as “an unfair and unreasonable opinion or feeling, especially when formed without enough thought or knowledge.” (“PREJUDICE”) We encounter prejudice in lots of different areas of our settings. Staff might hold views about people different from themselves, parents might have inappropriate views which they share with their children.
As an ally, it is crucial that we challenge these prejudices head-on and support other adults in exploring their prejudices. Many prejudices are steeped in a lack of knowledge so education is absolutely key. It may be important to explore this with our colleagues and help them to understand why their views are inappropriate.
Importance of Allyship
For other heterosexual colleagues, it is really important that they see other heterosexual people being activists for equality. It can be very easy to ‘other’ individuals different from ourselves but if every area of society engages with the issue we know that prejudices can be tackled more widely.
“ACTIVISM.” Activism Noun, Oxford Learners' Dictionary, unknown, https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/activism. Accessed 2 11 2020.
“PREJUDICE.” Cambridge Dictionary, Cambridge University Press, N/A, https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/prejudice. Accessed 2 11 2020.