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what is allyship? why can’t i be an ally?

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almost two years in the making – our allyship zine is officially being launched! we would like to acknowledge, give thanks, and honour the collecive wisdom of the individuals whose work we have compiled as well as those who have come before us – whose names we do not know.

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this zine only scratches the surface of what practicing allyship means, and yet through the process of making this zine we have found how adjusting our language in the way we talk about allyship can profoundly impact how we approach those we seek to connect with and the work that we do.

what we have boiled it down to – is that “being an ally” is not simply about the isolated, short term actions we make (or don’t make) and is, at the same time, about following leadership from those directly experiencing injustice and the process of un/learning, growing, and building a better world together.

for a condensed version of the zine content, please continue reading below!

[image description: the first page of a zine. it has an inch-sized border going around the edges. inside it says IN TEXT: allyship: begins when a person of privilege seeks to support a marginalized individual or group.

it is a practice of unlearning and relearning, and is a lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals or groups.

allyship is not an identity1, nor is it self-defined.

our work and our efforts must be recognized by the people we seek to ally ourselves with. because of this, it is important to be considerate in how we frame and present the work that we do.

i.e. we are showing support for…2
we are showing our commitment to ending [a system of oppression] by…3
we are using our privilege to help by…4
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an active, consistent, and challenging practice of unlearning and re-evaluating, in which a person of privilege seeks to work in solidarity with a marginalized group

  • allyship is not an identity1—it is a lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals and/or groups
  • allyship is not self-defined—our work and our efforts must be recognized by the people we seek to ally ourselves with
    • it is important to be intentional in how we frame the work we do
    • i.e.
      • we are showing support for…2
      • we are showing our commitment to ending [a system of oppression] by…3
      • we are using our privilege to help by…4


we are not acting out of guilt, but rather out of responsibility5

  • we actively acknowledge our privileges and openly discuss them6: we recognize that as recipients of privilege we will always be capable of perpetuating systems of oppression from which our privilege came
  • we listen more and speak less7: we hold back on our ideas and opinions, and resist the urge to “save” the people we seek to work with as they will figure out their own solutions that meet their needs
  • we do our work with integrity and direct communication8: we take guidance and direction from the people we seek to work with (not the other way around), and we keep our word
  • we do not expect to be educated by others9 10: we continuously do our own research on the oppressions experienced by the people we seek to work with, including herstory/history, current news, and what realities created by systems of oppression look, feel, smell, taste and sound like
  • we build our capacity to receive criticism,11 12 to be honest and accountable with our mistakes, and recognize that being called out for making a mistake is a gift—that it is an honour of trust to receive a chance to be a better person, to learn, to grow, and to do things differently
  • we embrace the emotions that come out of the process of allyship, understanding that we will feel uncomfortable, challenged, and hurt
  • our needs are secondary to the people we seek to work with13: we are responsible for our self-care and recognize that part of the privilege of our identity is that we have a choice about whether or not to resist oppression; we do not expect the people we seek to work with to provide emotional support14
  • we do not expect awards or special recognition for confronting issues that people have to live with every day


we act out of a genuine interest in challenging larger oppressive power structures15

  • we are here to support and make use of our privilege for the people we seek to work with
  • we turn the spotlight we are given away from ourselves and towards the voices of those who are continuously marginalized, silenced, and ignored; we give credit where credit is due16
  • we use opportunities to engage people with whom we share identity and privilege in conversations about oppression experienced by those we seek to work with17

it is important to talk about allyship in this way, as much confusion has come out of the idea of “being an ally”. these ideas may be well-meaning, but they often recreate the same oppressions or perpetuate new ones.

allyship is greatly valued and a huge step towards challenging oppression, however, we must understand possible feelings of resentment, bitterness, and even resistance towards us from the people we seek to work with. these feelings are not personal to us, but are reflective of peoples’ experiences with allyship with others like us (past and present.) building trust takes time, so we must recognize that what we can offer may not always be immediately needed or accepted, and that our work being seen as help by one person from a marginalized community may not be seen as help from another.18

in the meantime, we have opportunities to practice allyship every day:

    • how much space are we taking up in conversations? in rooms? in organizing?
    • how are our identities taking up space? physically? verbally?
    • when is it appropriate to take up space and to back off
    • how much do we know about the people we seek to work with? what are our assumptions and where did they come from?
    • what are our boundaries in allyship? who determines them?

take a moment to reflect on your own personal relationships with your lovers, friends, and family. it what ways do these relationships look like allyship?


accountability: being called to account for one’s actions; being responsible for one’s actions; an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility (

marginalization: the social process of becoming or being made unimportant and without worth, especially as a group within a larger society (

power: the ability to do something or act in a particular way; to make happen what one wants to happen in spite of obstacles, resistance, or opposition; the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behaviour of people, the course of events, and/or resources (

privilege: a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people; a privileged group views its social, cultural, and economic experiences as a norm that everyone should experience; rather than being something that is earned, privilege is something that is given to a person based on characteristics they are assigned at birth, such as cultural identity, ability, class, sex, gender, age, species, size, etc. (

oppression: the exercise of authority or power in a cruel or unjust manner; an act or instance of oppressing, the state of being oppressed, and the feeling of being heavily burdened mentally, emotionally, and physically; the exploitation of one social group by another for its own benefit—real or imagined; it is a systematic social phenomenon based on the difference between social groups involving institutional control and cultural domination over the oppressed group (


this document was compiled on unceded and occupied Coast Salish territory—Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh nations respectively. we acknowledge that colonization exists, and that without it we would not be here. we also recognize that alternatives exist—that another world is possible—and without them we would not be who we are today.

we also acknowledge the pervasiveness of ableism, and that this document creates barriers by: using the english language, using academic words, and other ways in which we are not yet aware.

this document is not exhaustive—we encourage folks to expand this work. below are the various zines, articles, and points of unity which this zine is based on.

1 2 3 4 14 No More “Allies” by Mia McKenzie:
5 6 13 15 Ally Bill of Responsibilities by Dr. Lynn Gehl:

8 Allyship & Solidarity Guidelines compiled by Unsettling America:

9 Allyship, Intersectionality, and Anti-Oppression by Kim Crosby:

7 10 11 16 17 18 10 Things Allies Need to Know by Jamie Utt:

12 Allyship by Anonymous: