Catriona Gray on allyship: 'To be better allies, we need to educate ourselves'
MANILA, Philippines – Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray said that before she became an LGBTQ+ ally, she did not know much about the issues the community was going through.
In Vice Asia article, the Filipino-Australian beauty queen and singer said that she first truly learned about LGBTQ+ issues when she moved to Philippines to work as model and made friends who are queer.
“Most of my first friends, from stylists to photographers, were LGBTQ. I’m grateful that I formed these relationships before I was given the opportunity to have the platform that I have now. Because of these relationships, becoming an ally became a personal passion,” she said.
Catriona said that a “defining moment” for her was during the Miss Universe 2018 competition in Thailand where, for the first time, a trans woman, Angela Ponce of Spain, competed. She admitted that at the beginning, she did not know how to feel about it but later sought the help of her transgender friends to help her understand what’s happening. (READ: What Catriona Gray thinks of a transwoman competing in Miss Universe 2018)
“It really broke my heart to hear their personal stories of discrimination, misunderstanding, and conflict. I also asked them, what did it mean to you to have a trans woman representing your country in Miss Universe? It spoke volumes, they said, that it allowed them to feel seen, represented, and valid.”
According to Catriona, seeing Angela having her moment “provided hope” not only for pageant aspirants but also the transgender community. “I knew then that it was not only right to have Angela raise her country’s flag on the Miss Universe stage, it was also powerful.”
Catriona also said that it's important to form a “personal understanding” before taking a stand on issues. She cited examples of her work as Miss Universe and her work with organizations like Love Yourself that have helped her understand the problems the LGBTQ+ community is dealing with.
"I can never know exactly what they're going through but what I can do is listen, and when I can, lend my voice for those who cannot raise their own," she said.
"But before we can become an ally, a protector, a voice, we need to humanize the community so that we care, not just about them as the LGBTQ community, but as fellow human beings. As allies, that's the foundation on which we stand.”
Pointing out that the Philippines has a long way to go regarding LGBTQ+ rights, Catriona said that people should learn to be open-minded over what’s happening and supporting the community.
"To be better allies, we need to educate ourselves. It's not the LGBTQ community's responsibility to educate us. That means asking the hard and uncomfortable questions and seeking out answers. Humbling ourselves when we're wrong. It won't be easy. It's not a Miss Universe Q&A where, in 30 seconds, you can fit your entire understanding of the topic,” she said.
Catriona said that as allies, it's important to keep asking how one can do better.
“Being an ally starts with small acts every day. When you’re in the workplace and someone says something offensive about LGBTQ+ people, stand up and say that it’s not right. They too may be unaware. It’s about seeing discrimination where it's happening and doing something about it that makes a difference.” – Rappler.com