Tiq Milan delivered a keynote address on the importance of intersectional allyship to the OutNEXT 2018 Global Summit. Select excerpts are included below:
“Allyship is not an identity, it’s a process. It’s something that we have to work towards every single day. It’s not enough to say, ‘You know, I don’t have any problems with trans people. I don’t have any problems with black people.’ That’s not what it is. We have to examine our own prejudices and figure out how we can walk in allyship with people every single day. Sometimes being an ally means just to sit down, shut up and listen. It’s about asking questions not to invalidate other people’s truths, but to complicate our own. To sit back and let go of all the defensiveness and ask questions so that we can understand people better. When we understand people better, we can understand ourselves better and think about what it means for us to be in solidarity with other people. Do not tell anyone, any oppressed group to be patient. Patience is not a political strategy, it is a diversionary tactic.”
“Examine your prejudices. We all have them. The whole idea of, ‘Oh, I’m colorblind.’ That’s crap. Stop it. Everybody has a little bit of racism, sexism. We all have to deal with these -isms because this is how we’re conditioned. It doesn’t make us bad people. It makes us bad people when we are invested in our own ignorance. This is the culture that we live in, and we have an obligation to work through and examine these things.”
“At the Afropunk festival, on the main stage, there was this huge banner that said ‘No sexism, racism, ableism, ageism, homophobia, fatphobia, transphobia, hatefulness.’ They had these signs all over the park, everywhere. Just seeing that, it changed the whole energy. There were so many people of so many different genders, and gender performances, and races, and different body types. People just there, just expressing themselves in the best way that they could. Loving up on each other. There was no violence, there were no issues, because they made it a safe space for everybody. If you can do this at a music festival, full of thousands of drunk people, then you can do this in your offices, you could do this in your classrooms, you could do this in your homes. You can do it. It’s just that easy.”
“Guilt is not useful. Leverage your privileges. Nobody has time for people feeling guilty about being white, or being men, or being straight, or being cisgender, or coming from money. Let’s work through all of that and figure out how we can leverage these things to be in solidarity with other people. As a really good example, Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain were working on a film together. Jessica, the white woman, and Octavia were having a conversation about their wages. It turned out that Jessica was making exponentially more money. So Jessica talked to the producers and worked for Olivia to get five times more than she had been paid. This is how she leveraged her privilege in that moment.”
“I guarantee that every person of color in this country has faced an indignity in the last day, in the last hour – from the ridiculous to the grotesque to the sometimes fatal – because of our skin color. Race is there, and it’s constant. You’re tired of hearing about it? Imagine how exhausting it is living it. I get tired of hearing about it. Okay, I’m black! I get tired, I’m exhausted, I’m exhausted. Recently I had to take a break from my Twitter and from the news because it was really having an effect on me. We’re in such desperate times right now, it’s important for us to engage and leverage our privileges and collect our folks, but then you also have to take a step back sometimes, because it can just be so much. It can be numbing to the soul, and heart-breaking, the things that we’re seeing these days.”
“I think a lot of folks in this room are fairly binary, just looking around. So what does it look like for binary people, or LGBT+ people who are working in these environments, to create space for our non-binary folks who we care about, who are in our community? Sometimes it can be just as easy as – you have a meeting and instead of ‘ladies and gentlemen’ or ‘sirs,’ or ‘guys,’ try ‘hey folks,’ ‘hey beautiful people,’ ‘hey y’all.’ Because you don’t know what someone’s gender identity is from what they’re presenting. You don’t know what’s happening in their minds or in their spirits. When you do things like this, it can seem really small, but it can make a huge difference when the language that we’re using says that they exist. The language that we’re using is giving them space just to be here. These are the things that we can do on a small scale, every single day. I try to do this all the time. I really had to train myself – even though I’m trans, and I’ve been in the LGBT community for 25 years. It took me a while to understand using ‘they’ for a single person. To stop going to a room where there are five women and one man and saying ‘hey guys.’ It really took work to do that, but we have to work.”
“’If you’ve come to save me, you’re wasting your time, but if you’ve come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.’ This comes from an amazing Aboriginal activist. I think this is really important, for those of us who have seats of privilege. We can get to a place where we have a god complex, like, ‘I have to save these people.’ No! This is about us liberating ourselves. This isn’t about just helping other people, this makes us better. It makes us better spiritually, it makes us better emotionally, and even just thinking about it from a job perspective, when we have companies that are really invested in diversity and inclusion, these companies do better. Their bottom line is better when they have more inclusion. This is really, really important to understand, that it helps all of us when we understand that diversity and inclusion and solidarity and allyship is something that works to benefit all of us in the long run.”
More than 200 emerging LGBT+ business leaders gathered at Barclays’ headquarters in New York for the 5th annual OutNEXT Global Summit. OutNEXT is the only global talent accelerator specifically targeted to LGBT+ business leaders.
Participants in the initiative are hand-selected by their firms as high-potential and high-performing, and receive best-in-class training content by PwC (also a Global Sponsor of OutNEXT).