Called to a New Consciousness: The Importance of Being an LGBTQ+ Ally

June 25, 2020

This blog reflection is part of an ongoing series, Pride with Mercy, that began during Pride Month 2019. These reflections grew out of the Sisters of Mercy’s Chapter 2017 Declaration challenging each of us to respond to those who suffer from oppressive systems and to “become better educated and to participate in engaged dialogue on issues of gender identity and sexual orientation.” We encourage you to forward these posts to someone who might need to read them. Together, may we grow in our tolerance, acceptance and understanding, and extend a hand of welcome to the LGBTQ+ community.

By Sister Michelle Gorman

As Sisters of Mercy, associates and companions, we continue to envision ways to live more deeply into our Recommitment Statement: Called to a New Consciousness. Given our tradition of solidarity with those relegated to the margins of society, it seems appropriate, in this Pride Month 2020, to consider how we can be an ally to LGBTQ+ persons.

An ally is generally defined as an individual from a dominant group who recognizes that their privilege is unearned and who advocates for those who don’t possess that privilege. Allyship with any marginated group is vital to their being seen and heard in the integrity of their personhood, created and loved by God (First Principle of Catholic Social Teaching). In the case of the LGBTQ+ community, the dominant heterosexual community in whose favor society is arranged—socially, economically and religiously—has the opportunity to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community so that they can more easily live with greater integrity without fear for their physical and psychological lives. There are several steps one can take toward a deep and full allyship:

  • Be an ally in your heart.
    • Spend some time in quiet prayer, envisioning a day in the life of an LGBTQ+ person as they adjust to the hetero-normative society into which they were born.
    • Consider your own feelings about those who are not heterosexual. What experiences might contribute to those feelings? Interactions with LGBTQ+ people? Media? Family? Church? Society? Study? Other?
    • What is your deepest prayer/desire regarding LGBTQ+ persons?
  • Be an educated ally.
    • At our Chapter 2017, we committed to “become better educated and to participate in engaged dialogue on issues of gender identity and sexual orientation.” Becoming better educated strengthens us in our ability to dialogue about scientific learnings as well as the many church writings advocating for the dignity of LGBTQ+ persons.
  • Be an active ally.
    • Speak out when homophobic or heterosexist comments are made. As a high school teacher, I often witnessed and intervened when certain students were the targets of homophobic remarks. When I was leaving the school, one of those students said, “Sister, who will stick up for me next year?” We have no idea when the power of our words can make or break a life.
  • Be an open ally.
    • When you have an opportunity, share briefly with your colleagues/acquaintances why you are an ally. This step can take a good amount of moral courage. You may be belittled, or given the silent treatment, or challenged in a way for which you do not feel prepared. There is no need to defend. Your heart is free.
  • Be a visible ally.
    • Attend LGBTQ+ events and networks. This step requires an intentional, active decision to move out of your own comfort zone to places where you will interact with LGBTQ+ persons. Now, most likely, you will be presumed to be “one of them.” But you will continue to learn how they and their loved ones experience the world.
  • Be an engaged ally. 
    • When you engage with LGBTQ+ persons, perhaps you can be inspired by Catherine McAuley’s quote about the poor:

There are things the [LGBTQ+] prize more highly than gold, though they cost the donor nothing: among these are the kind word, the gentle compassionate look, and the patient hearing of their sorrows.(Familiar instructions, p. 38)

In my teaching days, I engaged with my students on an intellectual level. But when I learned from his journal that one of my students had discovered his mother was a lesbian, I did not know how to engage with him, and therefore did not give a patient hearing to his concerns—one of my regrets.

The attitude and demeanor of an ally to the LGBTQ+ community could be summed up in the words of Cyndi Lauper’s song, True Colors:

I see your true colors shining through.
I see your true colors, and that’s why I love you.
So don’t be afraid to let them show.
Your true colors, true colors, are beautiful—like a rainbow.

In fact, when you can do this, you no longer need to be allied with the LGBTQ+ community; now, you are just one human being relating to another—no privilege, no hierarchy, no judgments, just living with greater integrity of word and deed and bringing closer to reality that Oneness that we all desire.

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  1. Randy Hartley

    Sr. Michelle,

    You are shining a light on being Called to a New Consciousness: The Importance of Being an LGBTQ+ Ally. Finally, a loving path to really supporting our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.

    God bless you for your integrity and love for the people of God!


  2. Kathi Scully

    “…Among these are the kind word, the compassionate look, and the patient hearing of their sorrows”…indeed !!! – – along with complete and unconditional access to the full range of human development and equality of opportunity afforded us all.

    Terrific piece. Well done. Thank you.

    Kathi Scully, Mercy Associate
    Local Coordinator
    Mercy Association, Pittsburgh


  3. Roz

    How about being an ally for the LGBTQ+ members of the faculty and staff in Mercy sponsored schools? Or, any Mercy sponsored ministry? Instead, LGBTQ+ people serve worried that they will be found out and lose their job. Let’s overlook the fact that their spouse can’t be put on insurance. It’s great to be an ally for students, it’s what Mercy should be about. But, who is Mercy for the adult community?


  4. Kathi Scully

    “There are (truly) things LGBTQ+ folk prize more highly than gold, though they cost the donor nothing: among these are the kind word, the gentle compassionate look and the patuent hearing of their sorrows.”

    Indeed!!! – – along with conplete and unconditional access to full human development and equality of opportunity afforded, by virtue of our inherent divine likeness, to us all.

    Kathi Scully, Mercy Associate

    Local Coordinator,
    Mercy Association, Pittsburgh
    Member,
    Mercy Association Advisory Council


  5. Renee Yann

    Dear Michelle,
    This is spot-on fabulous! Just what I’ve come to treasure from your beautiful heart. Thank you!

    ❤️????????


  6. Fran Demarco

    Wow! Michelle, your words reinforce my commitment to be a better Sister of Mercy–to grow, to listen more intently and to be bold in speaking out. I hope you don’t mind me sending this on to my gay and lesbian friends. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with me; you make me proud to be a Sister of Mercy.


  7. Diane Clyne

    Michelle, this is so timely, so important so integral to who we are called to be in Mercy. Thank you for such a clear reflection on walking with, on being an ally in our world and holding up the dignity and rights of all. LGBTQ+ and being ally is growing in us. Let’s hold the light!


  8. Diane Clyne

    Michelle, so timely and encouraging. Thank you for holding the Light to the need for allies as we move into new ways of being. The consciousness you call us to is so vital at this time. And it is a challenge and does lead to hope.


  9. Maria Cristina Caballero

    Thank you for your powerful words! Have shared with my family and students.


  10. Patty Cook, RSM

    Thanks so much for your very beautiful and very wise sharing on this issue of being an ally, Michelle. I am very grateful for your words, challenges, invitations toward Mercy!


  11. Marisa Guerin

    Michelle, I so much appreciate your wise, kind, and motivating words. Thank you, and all best wishes to you in these turbulent, scary, liberating times.


  12. Roz

    I’m wondering why you haven’t posted my comment. Can you please email me a response?


  13. Richard Mary Burke

    Michelle, your reflections bring such a “simplicity” to our true oneness with all of our sisters and brothers. The genuineness of heart among my friends/co-workers from the LGBTQ Community have always challenged me to have a more reverent understanding for the dignity of each individual I meet.


  14. Sarah ("Sally") Sherman

    Sr. Michelle,

    Thank you for presenting this challenge/opportunity so beautifully.
    This is what we all need to hear.


  15. Mary Anne Basile

    Thank you so much, real, inspiring and a call.


  16. Doris Gottemoeller

    Beautifully written and both challenging and practical! Thanks very much, Michelle.


  17. Sister Catherine Cummings

    Very powerful words! and a practical plan of action. Thank you Michele


  18. SR ROSEMARY BOESSEN RSM

    I have been privileged by the trust of the LGBTQ community to assist them with getting their residency since their marriages are now recognized by Immigratrion.
    Their dedication and love is a joy to my desire to serve God’s people.


  19. DONNA RYAN rsm

    as a Sister of Mercy, I have accompanied and been an advocate for gltbq persons and their families since the 1960s. and created affrmation groups wherever I have worked.


  20. Natalie Rossi

    Thanks. Great way to help one to be one with LGBTQI persons


  21. Regina Ward

    This is a wonderful outline and resource for those of us trying to be an LBGTQ+ ally. Thanks so much, Michelle!


  22. Anne Boettcher and Mary Pulda

    LOVE this reflection, Michelle! What an awesome variety of ways to be an ally.
    Thank you for being such a wonderful ally to so many of us!


  23. Michele Schroeck

    Thanks for a great call and explanation of ways we can be an LGBTQ+ ally.


  24. margretta dwyer

    thanks for writing this article…..the discussion is long past due. Hard discussions.
    are difficult for us to have.


  25. Marian Uba

    Thank you so much Michelle for your thoughtful reflection and for providing motivation to continue to reflect, examine and change for the better.


  26. Sheila Stevenson, RSM

    Michelle, Thank you for this wonderful and educative piece, stated so very well. Helpful and challenging and inspiring. A clear call to each one of us in Mercy and beyond. I am grateful for your insights and wisdom.


  27. Jeanne Christensen, RSM

    Michelle, thank you for your thoughtful and caring reflection. Especially thank you for your ongoing love, support and enouragement to those of us who are members of the LGBTQ+ family.


  28. Kathy Wade, Mercy Associate

    Beautiful! Especially your closing: “…when you can do this, you no longer need to be allied with the LGBTQ+ community; now, you are just one human being relating to another—no privilege, no hierarchy, no judgments, just living with greater integrity of word and deed and bringing closer to reality that Oneness that we all desire.”
    Thank you!


  29. Anne Marie Miller

    Thanks Michelle for your words and encouragement of how to “BE” an ally. Intentionality and awareness shine through in your suggested ways to accompany and live with greater integrity of word and deed.


  30. Agustina

    “…just one human being relating to another.” Gracias por iluminar.


  31. Ann McGovern, RSM

    I liked your description of an ally, Michelle. This piece is full of wisdom, but are the policies in our institutions grounded in the justice and oneness expressed here?


  32. Celeste Marie Nuttman, RSM

    Thanks, Michelle: I appreciate this piece: practical and concrete way to go to be an ally.