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How to be an ally to the queer community…with a little help from Timberlina

If one of your #goals in 2022 is to be a better ally to your friends and fellow humans in the queer community, we have got the guide for you! We chat with Newcastle’s favourite celebrity, Timberlina, about how to be a great ally, why pronouns are important, and how the world is changing every single day, so you better gosh darn keep up.

When it comes to being a good ally, it can be a little confusing at first. Trying to get your head around who’s who, what pronouns to use, and how to support the queer community. Here’s a hot tip – being a good ally doesn’t mean you get dressed up in head-to-toe-rainbow and party like it’s 1999 at Mardi Gras! Honestly, it’s the little things that count, like being considerate, outwardly supportive, able to admit your mistakes, and willing to stand up for those who might not feel as though they have a voice. 

The fabulous Timberlina was the host of our Swell Soiree last year, featured in Issue 10, and is Newcastle’s favourite drag queen. We sat down with her to chat.

Why do you think that pronouns are so important?

Oh, pronouns are so important! This is actually a great one for me, because in drag, people always get confused with my pronouns and it’s a great way for me to educate people using both humour and performance. See, in drag as Timberlina, my pronouns are she/her, but out of drag, my pronouns are he/him. I just always take the time to explain why I use the particular pronouns that I do, and work on helping people feel comfortable using them in a way that fits with who I am. 

It’s just so important because: one, you should always introduce yourself and say, ‘hi, my pronouns are…’ and then insert your pronouns. Always! It should be a thing that everyone just does. It just makes it less awkward for everybody, especially for those whose pronouns might be different than what we assume. A lot of trans people and non-binary people use they/them, so we need to normalise the introduction of pronouns so we don’t fall into the trap of just assuming or continuously misgendering someone.

What do you think it means to be a good ally for the queer community?

For me, when I think of a great ally, it’s calling people out on their shit. To put it frankly, I feel like a lot of allies are like, ‘yay, we support you!’ That’s great, but like… if you see someone misgendering somebody, are you going to call them out on it? Sure, you don’t have to call them out in front of the person and make a big deal about it, but just pull them aside and be like ‘hey, that’s not their pronouns, they actually go by they/them’.

The other big thing is, if you do misgender someone by mistake (because it’s okay to be human!), just correct yourself in the moment, but also don’t make a big deal about it. It makes them feel awkward if you put them on the spot and make a spectacle of the situation. Just continue on with the conversation and say something like ‘sorry I mean she, she is…’ 

Mostly, being a good ally doesn’t mean going to Mardi Gras and celebrating the queer community through partying. It’s really about the general community – celebrating all of us everyday, as just one big happy community. Instead of kind of putting us in a corner and saying ‘ohh look, there’s the gays’. The queer community have fought for equality for so long and I just feel like, we’re not quite there yet. 

Why do you think sometimes it can be tough, especially for the older generation, to be a good ally?

There are so so many things at play there. But I think one thing we as the queer community can do to help (apart from have a little patience and understanding – up to a point) is personally, I think we need to ditch the labels. There are way (way) too many of them! I just think everyone should be able to do and love who they want, without having to add yet another label to it. It can be such a detriment to the queer community too because it boxes us in. For example, someone can identify as a Lesbian their entire life, but if they fall in love with a man after so long, what does that mean then? Labels are for food cans, so you can clearly tell if it’s vegan or gluten free or whatever, not for people.

And finally… what do you think is the best part about being queer?

I get away with so much more! In that, I get to be myself every single day, and be totally true to who I am as a person. When I came out, it was just this overwhelming feeling of… now I’m free. I can do whatever I like in the sense that I can finally truly be myself.

Our biggest tip and takeaway? Have safe, open, quality conversations with members of the queer community. Make sure you clarify pronouns if you need to, but do it in a way that’s gracious and in a way that helps to make that person feel heard, seen and listened to.

There are little things you can do too, like adding your pronouns to your email signature, or your Instagram bio. But most importantly, go into bat for your queer friends. Sometimes the consequences for the queer community standing up for simply being who we are, are far greater than saying how we really feel. But, with allies on our side, we’re in pretty good hands, don’t you think!?

If you’d like to know more about how you can be a better ally, get in touch with the folks at ACON or check out their free resources online here.

Words: Laura Kebby | Photography: Zoe Lonergan

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