Talking LGBTQ allyship in 2021: An exclusive interview with Jordan and Katy from VideoOut
This Pride Month, we bring you the latest conversations shaping inclusivity and allyship through the lens of LGBTQ+ thought leaders. We had a conversation with Jordan Reeves, Executive Director, and Katy Chatel, Director of Development at VideoOut on what Pride and authentic allyship looks like in 2021.
VideoOut is a non-profit that works to amplify LGBTQ+ stories to educate the world through content, training, and workshops.
Watch the interview
Or you can read what we talked about.
What is the story behind VideoOut?
A: Jordan: We started in 2016 as a project to record the unheard stories of LGBTQ+ people. We travelled all over the United States, recording folks in small towns, rural communities, and big cities like New York and Chicago.
Over the last five years, we’ve transformed into this national non-profit with programs that serve demographics, all over the country. And over the past year, since the pandemic, we’ve been able to reinvestigate our mission and see where we can have the most impact.
We’ve shifted our focus to primarily education and advocacy. We produce LGBTQ+ stories, content, and programs that educate and equip the world to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community.
What are a few things that keep you committed to the cause?
A: Jordan: For me, one reason is queer joy. One thing that we don’t see enough of is our multifacetedness. We have things that really excite us. We like Star Trek, we like cooking, we like camping… essentially, we like all the things that make us unique and at the same time connect us to other people.
We are way more than just our queerness, we’re way more than just our transness. That is part of us. That is our magic. That’s what sets us apart. But also, that includes us in this big story of shared humanity.
A lot of times when we talk about LGBTQ advocacy, all we hear about is how hard it is for the community. But I think what we want to normalize, is that queer people are joyful. We are happy, whole, and complete.
And we deserve to live in that existence, not just always fighting for survival. We deserve to have a smile on our face as we walk down the street as our authentic selves, knowing that the world is going to be on our side.
That’s the primary motivating factor for me, just joy.
Katy: For me, it’s the lens of gender, and sexuality. Even if you’re asexual or do not identify with a gender, there’s still the construct of sexuality and gender that bisects every other identity – be it ethnic identity, racial identity, ability, profession, or others. And the way that we identify ourselves has an opportunity to bring together an extremely diverse group of people.
It excites me when I go to a really good LGBTQ conference that discusses issues like anti-racism within the LGBTQ community. Talking about the different viewpoints and bringing in so many diverse perspectives give a holistic picture of humanity.
What is the one thing that you take pride in as a member or ally of the community?
A: Jordan: I think another reason that we do the work that we do, is to get to know all the people who are like us, living today. But another reason is to get to know the history. Who are the people and what are the places and events that shaped us?
The thing that I’m most proud of now is that we have a history of standing up for ourselves, demanding more than what we have been given so far.
I’m proud that living authentically is, for the very first time in my life, starting to be viewed as a good thing. No longer are we required to fit into this very unimaginative, boring, and harmful stereotype of humanity. Now, no matter who you are, you should be valued. You should be treasured and accepted because you are human. And that’s really important.
So, I’m proud of this movement, not just for the LGBTQ community, but for humanity as a whole.
What is one thing you wish people knew about LGBTQ individuals?
A: Katy: One thing that comes to mind right now, is that throughout history, we’ve been perceived as dangerous, and as a threat to other humans.
And right now, I think, hatred is targeted towards trans people in particular. Trans female athletes are being restricted from playing sports out of fear that they would have an unfair advantage. the advantage is insurmountable in the eyes of authorities, who do not let these kids play in a sport according to the gender they identify with. I think we should start with breaking down some of that.
I think there’s a lot of fear around bathrooms and locker rooms. There’s always a question about which bathroom is the most appropriate for LGBT students to go in. There’s fear from outside the community that LGBTQ people are somehow perverted.
Many people also believe that LGBTQ people shouldn’t be allowed to be in positions where they take care of children. They are not seen as great teachers or mentors, and people prohibit them from having one-on-one interactions with a child because they’re not fit to do so.
To me, all these prejudices are fear-based. When people get more exposure, education, and witness real-life examples, these prejudices usually break down.
Of course, there could be an individual who’s a predator in any community, but to consider the entire community inappropriate will only promote discrimination and oppress the said group of people – be it the LGBTQ community, or any other.
Jordan: Yeah, I think that’s a good point Katy, that fear is not the answer. Love is the answer. But an active, radical love – a love that accepts, no matter what.
How do you think corporate volunteers can be authentic allies to the community?
A: Katy: Non-profits can always use money. But I don’t think that necessarily speaks to authentic allyship. I think doing something that creates some personal vulnerability, such as sharing one’s own story, is very powerful.
Taking up an opportunity to personally learn about a community by volunteering one’s time and engaging in an event that takes participation is ultimately more powerful.
It’s about finding ways in which LGBTQ people can engage with allies. Whether it’s in a workshop, training, or volunteering session, sharing personal stories with cisgender and heterosexual people will help cultivate empathy. We grow as humans only by hearing and accepting stories that are different from our own.
Jordan: I live in a country where being white is considered valuable. Your whiteness offers a set of privileges that are just given to you. Even as a queer, trans, nonbinary person, my whiteness gives me privileges.
To be an ally, you have to take stock of your privileges and say, “Oh, I’m able to do certain things, because I have privileges.” You also have to know who in your community does not have the privilege. And then you must say, “Well, I’m going to wield my privilege as a tool to ensure that everyone who does not have privilege is treated the same as me.”
That, I think, is the best way to define allyship.
But one of the people that Katy and I love so much, who helps VideoOut a lot, is Sam White. Sam once said that ‘ally’ is not a label you can give yourself. Ally is a label that someone else has to give you. Someone in the community that you’re helping needs to give you that label.
If you were using the term ‘ally’ to give yourself credit, get followers, or have some sort of social credibility, then you’re probably not doing it right. You should just authentically be a person who acts on behalf of people who have no privilege. If that’s who you are, then I will give you the label ally, you don’t have to give it to yourself.
What is one quote that you live by?
A: Jordan: There is a quote from Emma Lazarus, a Jewish liberation activist, that we use all the time – “We are none of us free until all of us are free“. I think, for me, it means that there are intersections of activism. If there’s anyone who is not free, then none of the work that we’re doing matters until all of us are free.
If there’s one person who’s still experiencing injustice, then we can’t rest. I can’t go to sleep at night knowing that I’m not doing everything I can do to ensure everyone is treated equally. So we are none of us free until all of us are free.
Katy: Love that. For me, I don’t know who said it but a phrase that frequently floats through my mind is How do you live when nobody’s watching? I think this gets to the heart of showing up as an accomplice and genuine kindness, especially in a digital age where so much can be focused on performance.
Thanks, Jordan and Katy.
Take a step towards being an authentic ally, this Pride Month
The fight for inclusivity and equality for the LGBTQ+ community has taken on a new form in 2021. As the digital medium grows bigger every year, there are more avenues for allies to come forward and help create a safe space for everyone.
As Jordan rightly said, you should use your privilege as a tool to ensure that everyone who does not have privilege, is treated the same as you are.
Want to engage your employees in impactful Pride Month activities with impactful non-profits such as VideoOut? Reach out to us to get access to the 15 team-based virtual volunteering activities we’ve put together for corporates. We’d love to have you onboard the goodness journey.
Are you a non-profit looking to engage corporate volunteers who want to help the LGBTQ community? Goodera can help you. Please reach out to us.
Accelerate your journey towards allyship this Pride Month with Goodera!