The Q+A Society hosted a session, with guest speaker Abigail Baker, on what it means to be an ally.

On Friday, 17 April, the Q+A Society was fortunate enough to have a special speaker. We were privileged to learn about how to be an ally and “the journey of allyship” from Abigail Baker who recently graduated from UCT with her Bachelor of Social Sciences Honours degree in Gender Studies. Our regular Q+A learners - as well as other learners who popped in out of curiosity about the topic - filled Room K to engage in this important discussion. The atmosphere was one of enthusiasm and, although we had many people, we ensured that all social-distancing protocols were followed.

Abigail talked us through the definitions of allyship and how to interpret these. Her preferred definition is: “Allyship is not an identity - it is a life-long process of building relationships based on trust, consistency and accountability with marginalised individuals and/or groups of people.” Many learners agreed with this definition. Abigail spent about 10 minutes unpacking the various definitions, and then the learners were given some time to discuss their opinions on allyship and how they believe they can be a good ally at WGHS, and in other communities in general.

One of the quotes that Abigail mentioned in her presentation, which I think is very powerful in regards to allyship, is by Lilla Watson, an Aboriginal feminist, who states: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together." This quotation is impactful because it shows how allies need to disengage in terms of being the focus of discussions and allow the voices and struggles of those whom they are allying to shine in the forefront. Allyship allows the actual community to have their voices heard, rather than people listening to those who have not the lived experience. Abigail sparked a great deal of interest in the learners about this path, and gave us a lot to think about both theoretically and practically, most especially how we, as a school, can be more aware of our allyship journey as a whole, and how learners and staff at school, who are not part of the LGBTQIA+ community, can support this group and make the world a more liberated, joyful place to live in.

We look forward to many more opportunities to engage in topics where we can learn and grow as a society.

Report written by Erin Thornhill (co-head of the Q+A Society)