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Drew's Reviews #24 - "The Savvy Ally"

I just finished reading “The Savvy Ally” by Jeannie Gainsburg

Quick Take: Fantastic introductory guide for anyone wanting to be a support to the LGBTQ+ community.

Longer Take:

If you’ve read my past reviews, you know I’m working to better understand and support the LGTBQ+ community. I don’t have any close LGBTQ+ family or friends, but the isolation and hurt this community experiences have compelled me to want to be better.

An associate at NAIT also wanted to learn about this topic, so we read the book together. We read each section independently and then would get together every 4-6 weeks to discuss things. This was an extremely gratifying experience. It felt good to discuss things with someone who also wanted to be an ally but didn’t fully know how.

I enjoyed “The Savvy Ally.” It’s easily digestible, uses plenty of examples, strives to be humorous, and is simple enough to be on my level.

Before reading “The Savvy Ally,” I thought I was pretty educated on LGTBQ+ issues. But it turned out I didn’t know how much I didn’t know. Here are some examples of things I learned/relearned/loved reading “The Savvy Ally”:

“What will I tell my grandchildren if they ever ask me if I was involved in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights?”

“… I have found that focusing too heavily on a large glossary of terms has the opposite effect that one might hope. People can get so intimidated by the enormous number of terms and identities that instead of having conversations, they are completely silenced by their fear that they are accidentally going to say something wrong, outdated or insulting.”

“A best practice for allies is to avoid using a word/term/identity unless you hear someone embracing it as their identify word.”

“…labels create a powerful sense of understanding and self-acceptance.”

What to say when someone comes out to you: “Thank you for trusting me … then I would recommend mostly listening.“

“…if you’re not sure if a question is okay or not, the “switch it” technique is useful: Switch the person’s LBGTQ+ identity for straight or cisgender and try the question again in your head. Is the question polite, supportive, or useful, or is it offensive, invasive, or motivated by curiosity?”

Typical is a better word than normal.

“The way that humans make sense of the world is by putting things and people into categories. It’s something we do naturally. In this case, try to fight it. Whenever you find yourself thinking, “I bet that guy is gay,” or, “I think she may be trans,” give yourself an imaginary dope slap.”

“The gender pronoun they is a good choice when faced with situations where you don’t know someone’s gender.”

On striving to be an ally: “We need to give ourselves permission to be vulnerable, not know all the answers, and mess up sometimes. … You will do badly. Do it anyway. Do not let fear be bigger than your commitment.”

“I challenge all of us not to shy away from conversations… but to bravely embrace and create spaces for honest discussions without judgment and with the assumption of good intent.”

“Replacing information that we “know” is even harder when we have “known” it for a long period of time and when the people around us in our community also “know” it. If the people we trust have all taught us that being LGBTQ+ is a disease or immoral, we are extremely unlikely to alter that assessment of LGBTQ+ people without a great deal of respectful conversation and getting to know many healthy, happy, well-adjusted, and kind LGBTQ+ people.”

I would recommend “The Savvy Ally” to anyone who wants to better understand the complexities of the LGBTQ+ world.


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