You can hardly find a term today that does not have multiple definitions. All of these definitions have certain meanings and values. Yet, the presence of so many definitions creates confusion in any rational human’s psyche. To simplify the definition of allyship, it means a term used to define an individual or an institution that advocates, supports, and works for the inclusion of a marginalized group in society.
You can be an ally of a community or a social justice movement. The difference between an ally and a member is that an ally stands in solidarity and supports that community or movement without being a part of it. That does not reduce your social or political importance though, you are an integral part of the development of that movement.
It is very easy to understand allyship. Allyship’s idea can be understood from wars and battles in ancient times. If one country (X) attacks (Y) then the battle is between X and Y but Z, an independent country comes in support of Y. Now, Z is not the one attacking or getting attacked. But since it stands in solidarity and support of Y it is an ally of Y.
The same applies to social movements. Some individuals are allies of the LGBTQIA+ Movement. They are not members of the community, they do not lie in any of the terms under that movement but they stand with them. They are on the roads fighting for their rights, they are a part of pride parades, and they are supporters of them in as small as a social gathering of their friend circle.
This however poses a bigger dilemma. Are people who are not a member of the community, allowed to be allies if they take the space and exposure of the members of the community? Can men, essentially the people against whom the feminist movement stands be feminists? Or are they only allies?
The next dilemma rises, who decides allyship? Who can call themselves allies? And is there harm in anyone calling themselves allies? So, there are no objective standards to pass to be called an ally. This is where terms like intersectionality and imposters come into play. That is what makes the idea of being an ally complex and gives birth to so many subjective definitions.
Understand it like this, An individual supports the Gay community and thinks that they should get equal rights, and equal laws, and should not be discriminated. On the surface, this person looks like an ally. Now, the second piece of information about this individual is that they do not believe that Trans Women should get equal rights as cis women.
They think that because that person has spent a significant time of their life being a man, they or can’t understand the complete struggles of a woman and resonate with them. Is this person still an ally? Or is this person just transphobic? The answer will always be subjective.
The idea of intersectionality says that there are so many layers of intersectionality in a movement. Under just the term gay, there are people divided by race, ethnicity, language, religion, political beliefs, etc. Being an ally of some of them and not supporting others looks shady.
The idea of imposters is hard and scary. An imposter is a person or an institution that is faking to be an ally or claiming to be someone they are not. RSS Chief, Mohan Bhagwat has had a history of being a homophobe, yet he released the statements like “Hindu society does not see the trans community as a problem” and “LGBTQ people should have their own private and social space”.
Did he have a change of heart? Or is he simply faking this to stay relevant? In both cases whether he is a real ally or not there is an advantage to his releasing such statements. This moves move further and grows more. But the question remains the same. Is he an ally? How do we determine that? Well, we can’t. You need to study someone’s moves and do an analysis if someone is an ally or not. The result will be subjective.
Some companies are imposters because they never hire the people of the LGBTQIA+ community but show that they support them during Pride Month. Some men have self-declared their allyship to feminism to have their spotlight instead of the women that they claim to support.
Allyship remains simple if people do not misuse this term for their good. You are supporting a marginalized group not making a profit out of them. How to be an ally is a question for some other time.