What allyship and Pride means to me: a first-person perspective
June 17, 2022

June is Pride Month and Georgian is celebrating with posts about the meaning of Pride, the history of Pride and events and activities happening in our campus communities.  

Today we’re introducing you to Nandi Young, Georgian’s Coordinator for Education and Resource Development, Centre for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging. Nandi was Georgian’s first Black Student Engagement and Outreach Assistant. Below, she speaks about 2SLGBTQIA+ allyship and what we can all do to be better allies.  

Nandi Young, right, marches in the Barrie Pride Parade June 2022
Nandi Young, right, marches in the Barrie Pride Parade June 2022.  

I’m a first-generation Canadian daughter of immigrant parents from Jamaica, a place where being your true authentic self – as it relates to identifying as part of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community – is not acceptable. Former Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding once said, “Homosexuals will find no solace in any cabinet formed by me.” More than 10 years later, I’m happy to say that Jamaica’s current PM is more open and progressive…but there’s still so much work to be done.  
 
My Jamaican heritage and culture are part of who I am, and it’s how I identify. My parents, who have lived in Canada for more than 30 years, have always been open and supportive of me having friends from all walks of life, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. They’re a beautiful example of how folks can unlearn harmful teachings and learn to be open and progressive in a new society.  
 
My parents experienced the Toronto Pride Parade with me 15 years ago when I asked to see what it was all about. To say it was a culture shock for them would be an understatement. But this example of open-mindedness and promotion of learning and curiosity is one I will always cherish.  
 
As a Canadian with Jamaican heritage, it’s important to me that my community sees me marching in the Barrie Pride Parade – and that I not be afraid of what others think. I want other Jamaican Canadians to know that just because we grew up hearing that 2SLGBTQIA+ folks must be beaten and murdered for choosing to live their lives the way they choose, we don’t have to continue that toxic mindset.

It’s time to unlearn these hurtful ideologies and encourage relearning with understanding and empathy regarding issues that impact 2SLGBTQIA+ folks. This is what allyship means to me.  
 
I have a responsibility to my family and friends who identify as 2SLGBTQIA+ to stand up and speak out against discrimination and prejudice. I recognize the privilege I have as a Canadian citizen and to stand in solidarity with and be an ally to the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. My hope is that 2SLGBTQIA+ folks in Jamaica will soon be able to advocate and live their lives freely without fear of persecution, discrimination, or violence.  

Nandi Young, left, with her family.
Nandi Young, left, with her family.

How can I be an ally?

Be open-minded. One of the most important parts of being an ally is practicing acceptance. To truly support your friends, work on being non-judgemental.  

Be a good listener. Your friend may need some support. Show them that you care by actively listening. When your friend talks, demonstrate you’re listening by maintaining eye contact and making gestures such as nodding your head.  

Be willing to advocate. Amplifying queer and trans content on social media is a great way to build awareness but try using your privilege to go that extra mile…sign a petition or walk in a Pride parade!  

Commit to your own learning. Do your research, read some books, watch movies, follow 2SLGBTQIA+ content on social media. Curiosity is helpful and good but be respectful and avoid asking intrusive questions of your 2SLGBTQIA+ friends – there’s lots of useful information available and the EDI&B centre is happy to help you find it!   

Be inclusive. Cultivate a diverse circle of friends, including queer and trans people. Your life will be so much richer if you embrace and connect with people from the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.  

Be kind. Know that anti-2SLGBTQIA+ comments and jokes are harmful.   

Use the right pronouns. Don’t assume everyone you meet is cisgendered. Ask them which pronouns they prefer and use them. 

“It’s time to unlearn these hurtful ideologies and encourage relearning with understanding and empathy regarding issues that impact 2SLGBTQIA+ folks. This is what allyship means to me.”  

– Nandi Young, Georgian’s Coordinator for Education and Resource Development, Centre for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging.