Take Back the Night, an annual event organized by SACHA, is a powerful opportunity for survivors and their supporters to actively build connections, assertively reclaim our right to safety, and courageously stand up against violence.
We’re interviewing male allies about why they support TBTN. Our first interview is with Cole Gately. Cole is a queer trans guy living and working in Hamilton. As a woman he attended 18 TBTNs in a row and now he loves being involved by being an ally.
Why do you think it is important to create space for women and gender non-conforming (GNC) folks?
It’s important because of the assumption that everyone is always safe in Canada, which is not true. Women, as well as gender non-conforming people are at greater risk for violence, especially intimate partner and familial violence. Mainstream media reinforces stereotypes about femininity and masculinity, and sends subtle messages about how we are supposed to behave if we want to be liked, loved, accepted, included, chosen, etc. GNC people are at very high risk for violence from strangers, friends, partners and parents alike, simply for being who they are. So, the idea of women and gender non-conforming folk taking up space, reclaiming the night, and being cheered on by cis-male allies is powerful.
What do you think male allies can do to create more space for women and gender non-conforming folks?
Think about TBTN as being about ‘giving’ back the night, or ‘giving up’ the night. I don’t mean to say it’s about men ‘giving’ women and GNC people the right to take up space, but there has to be a shift whereby cis-men understand that simply by being, they take up an awful lot of space. By stepping back and reflecting upon masculinity in Canadian society, and thinking about what kind of a society they want to see for their mothers, sisters, daughters, and gender non-conforming siblings, parents, children, as well as for themselves, they may understand that speaking out against violence against women, children and GNC people is not about attacking men, it’s about speaking out against violence.
What do you think male allies can do to end gendered violence?
Men need to speak to other men about violence. Male allies have a great opportunity to educate their peers. One of the best ways to actually achieve change is to use one’s privilege to challenge the status quo. When you have privilege, and power invested in you because of your social location (i.e. male, whiteness, non-disabled, heterosexual, etc.) other people in those kinds of positions listen to you. You have a unique opportunity to use your privilege and power in ways that will earn you the respect not only of women and GNC people, but of your fellow cis-men.
What inspires/motivates you to be a male ally?
I’m a genderqueer person myself. I identify closer to the masculine end of the spectrum, but I was raised by feminist she-wolves. I used to be a woman and I experienced violence from a cis-male partner many years ago. I have also experienced, as a genderqueer person, random violence on the street from a cis-male stranger, so I have experience from different positionalities. I now have male privilege, and with that identity comes responsibility. I don’t think a person has to go through violence in order to understand it’s wrong, but my passion comes from a sense of solidarity, compassion and outrage. As a male ally (I am read as male most of the time), I can use that power to educate other men about what is and is not cool.