Annie Rowley - Ally and Anglican chaplain at York St John University
I went on the Stonewall Allies programme after seeing it advertised by the campus LGBT forum to find out how I could be a more effective ally to LGBT people. I've always been committed to LBGT equality and in my role as a chaplain,I walk around my university, which is Church of England-founded, with a rainbow-coloured lanyard and my dog collar.
At first I did wonder if the LGBT community liked having a straight person defending LGBT rights. I felt a bit bogus, not being LGBT myself, but the more LGBT people I engage with the more I hear that allies are vital. Moreover, it’s a moral issue, an equality issue and if I am a priest, I feel I ought to be standing up for justice. LGBT people have said to me that they find it affirming and they feel supported and included when allies are visible; it’s not a side issue, it’s everybody’s issue.
I had the space to explore what it meant to me to be my authentic self."
The Allies programme was an extremely reassuring day where I felt free to talk openly about anxieties, able to be honest and where I felt I had the space to explore what it meant to me to be my authentic self and what I can do practically to be an inclusive ally. We had 30 people on the day. Our group was from York St John University combined with staff from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and it was good to hear different perspectives.
As an ally, I appointed a chaplaincy assistant who is a christian and an out lesbian, so that if people want to speak to another LGBT person I can put them in touch with her. Together, we set up a lunch for LGBT christians and attendance was much greater than we expected. At the event a woman in her seventies came out for the first time; it was an amazing moment.
Moreover, at Pride I put a big rainbow flag outside the chapel on campus with an explicit message that we support Pride, and I went on the Pride march with my dog collar on and carrying a big banner. I loved it! Overall the whole campus is really LGBT friendly and we promote LGBT events.
It’s great to have done the Allies programme – it calls me to account. I have represented allies at multiple events since, including an interfaith conference organised by the Home Office. If you are thinking about becoming an ally and doing the Allies programme, I encourage you to do it because it’s important. We all need to work together towards a workplace where people can be themselves.