How To Move Beyond Performance Activism To Be a Better Ally to the Queer Community
This Pride month, we’re taking a deep dive into learning how to become a fierce, surefire ally to the queer community. While most of us have the best intentions in our allyship, we sometimes risk being performative. Making mistakes is better than not trying at all, but we should ensure our work is constructive and meaningful.
Performative LGBTQ+ activism can sometimes come in the form of simply posting a graphic, quote or statistic on an Instagram story and calling it a day; or simply writing a quick tweet about Pride month.
While doing something is better than nothing, it’s important to strive to move beyond that and help the community in real ways. mitú sat down with incredible LGBTQ+ Ecuadorian author Veronica Carrera to talk about how to move beyond performative activism — and we got even more than we were bargaining for in our conversation.
Whether detailing her fantastic memoir “140 Miles of Life: A Remarkable Journey to Self-Acceptance & Love,” where she talks about her coming out journey after being raised in the Mormon church, or providing us real-world tips about allyship, Carrera’s answers are a must-read.
1. First off, tell us about your own experience coming to terms with your sexual orientation while being a member of the Mormon church and an immigrant.
Being raised in the Mormon church made it extremely difficult to accept myself. I struggled with my sexuality for many years and dealt with shame and guilt to the point that I considered suicide. The church teaches that homosexuality is a crime next to murder, so it was torture to live with this dogma.
My whole life revolved around this religious organization, so leaving the Mormon church meant that I had to leave everything that was familiar to me behind. I did feel as well that I was walking away from God, and this is because I was taught my whole life that if I walked away from this church that I would be condemned and live a miserable life.
Part of the struggle was that I did love some aspects of the church. It was all I knew, and I had some great friends who I loved deeply, so it wasn’t an easy decision to leave. I had to rediscover who I am and although it took me some time to find my way; it has been one of the most remarkable experiences of my life to find me, who I truly am, at my core. I have a deeper relationship with God and I have never felt more free, more joyful, and more grounded in my life.
Because of all that I went through, I decided to write the book, “140 Miles of Life. A Remarkable Journey to Self-Acceptance & Love.” [It] tells the story of overcoming childhood and religious trauma as a queer, brown-skinned immigrant. It also issues a clarion call to recognize the realities that drive far too many LGBTQ+ youth and adults to commit suicide under shame from their churches and families.
2. What are your thoughts on performative activism? As someone who is part of the queer community, do you think it is becoming an issue today with social media?
I think everyone is on a journey to understanding how to not just be an ally but a human rights activist. It is really moved by intention, and it is hard to judge people’s intentions and what truly is in their hearts as we advance the cause of equality and justice.
I can only control what I can do to be mindful and intentional, and do everything possible to represent and support the LGBTQ+ community. If we have to call some things out, we may have to do that, but do it with dignity and love.
3. How do you recommend people ditch performative activism (such as simply posting a graphic to Instagram) and become a true ally of the queer community?
Transformation happens from the inside out. Therefore, I encourage people to get educated, to read and understand the injustices that have occurred in our communities. Then, you may be more inclined to take action, and I mean the type of action that is ignited from the heart. I remember reading “The Fire Next Time” by James Baldwin, where he talks about the injustices in the African American community. I was halfway through the book, and I had not cried that much for a while. By the time I got to the end of the book, I was ready to take action. I no longer saw myself only as a gay Latina. I saw myself in everyone and in everyone’s experiences. I was them and they were me. At the end of the day, we are one and when we forget this, this is when we create this illusion of separation.
Ultimately, becoming a true ally has to happen from the inside out.
4. How do you believe people can become better allies to the queer community in the workplace, school, or even within a family structure?
I am fortunate to work for a great company that does activism around diversity, equity and inclusion. Therefore, it is easier for me to use this platform to bring awareness and advance the cause of equity, fairness and inclusion.
Being Latina, it has been challenging to have an open conversation with everyone in my family. My family is old school. But the best I could do is to give them the example of how I live my life, which is with integrity and respect. When my book came out, I think everyone in my family read the book, but not everyone was comfortable talking about it and I thought that was OK. Sometimes, you have to meet people where they are and give them the same compassion that I have to give myself.
With all of this said, I think it is important to never accept any words or actions that make us feel that we are not enough for ourselves or for others. We have to always stand up to injustice with determination, truth and love.