If Not Now, When? If Not You, Who?

speak outThere’s a lot of  talk in social justice circles about recognizing and checking your privilege, which asks someone to reflect on their personal experience and how identity confers or denies certain advantages. In all fairness, checking your privilege can feel overwhelming at first, but this is a reminder that allyship doesn’t start and end with contemplation. Being an ally is a constant process of learning and unlearning. Allyship is ultimately (for me anyway) about using your privilege to intervene when injustice occurs–especially when it feels uncomfortable. Because if not now, when? If not you, who?

I want to tell you about Tricia (not her real name), an HR professional working in a conservative Utah company. She shines as an amazing example of stepping up. One of Tricia’s employees inquired about available protections for trans* and genderfluid folks, because they were going to express wanted to know their rights before changing their style of dress at work. This was an entirely new situation for Tricia and her employee, and she wanted to navigate the situation professionally and with the best interest of the employee in mind.

She called me up to ask about protections in the State of Utah, which fortunately, as of this year, include protections for gender identity and sexual orientation in housing and employment. I am not a lawyer, but I explained Utah’s SB 296 the best I could, and quickly referred her to Equality Utah. Tricia has since had one-on-one conversations with Equality Utah’s Executive Director, Troy Williams, and has helped create a safe work environment for current and future employees, but one point of our exchange has resonated with me since our initial conversation: Tricia was scared to tackle the issue, but she did it anyway.

Allyship equals action in spite of fears. It might be uncomfortable standing up in front of a room full of bigots to explain protections for gender identity, but it’s nowhere near as uncomfortable as the experience a trans* person has avoiding public restrooms for hours at a time. It’s not as uncomfortable as going by the wrong name and pronouns while wearing clothes that make your skin crawl for eight hours a day, and it sure as hell isn’t as uncomfortable as fearing unemployment every time you walk in the front door.

So again, I’d like to remind you: If you and I don’t stand up, who will? If not now, when?

There’s never a convenient time to upend the status quo, but the best time is always here and now. If Tricia can do it, you can too.

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