As An Ally: Simon Kendler

I come from a Jewish background. I am the grandson of a Holocaust survivor and the son of a feminist who has campaigned against oppression, particularly for women in Jewish religious communities. On my journey to adulthood the importance of resisting oppression shaped the narrative of my upbringing. However, it wasn’t until I reached university that I began to understand the day-to-day experiences of those still facing oppression in everyday society. And it wasn’t until I left university that I began to understand that my family’s experiences, as well as those of women and LGBTQ+ people, were all different flavours of the same thing: oppression. 

I was able to piece together my family history – my personal experiences – and conjoin them with the experiences of people I met and the history of the civil rights movement across the world. The difficulty is navigating a world where I ostensibly fit in as a cis (where my gender identity corresponds to my sex assigned at birth) white male, as I simply don’t experience the “othering” that, for example, members of the LGBTQ+ community face. And yet, I could understand that their experiences are to be listened to as there was a time when my ancestors faced the same thing.

Therefore, I made it my aim to amplify the voices of those who face such oppression and strive for equality. Part of what made me realise this was my old career where I was a tour guide. My team was diverse and I worked closely with those who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans. It was being close to my colleagues that I got to learn about their experiences, their lives and their struggles. Combined with meeting thousands of people as part of my job, my understanding of people from all countries and backgrounds grew, leading me to the realisation that there is as much that separates us as there is that unites us.

This begged the question as to how I can help create a world where those who face oppression can live with the banal day-to-day privilege of walking down the street and being completely ignored. These are just a few of my own ideas of how we can work towards that goal:

  • Read, read, read. There are plenty of resources online outlining the difficulties faced by women, non-white people and LGBTQ+ folk. 
  • Ask, ask, ask. Don’t be afraid to ask for help to find such resources, or for help understanding the experiences of others. 
  • Listen, listen, listen. It is really great to listen to the words of others and prepare for answers that might shine a light on your own privilege.
  • Act, act, act. Think about the small things that you can do that can make a difference. Things such as including your own pronouns after your name, raising concerns about negative language or behaviours and checking-in on people to make sure they are okay. 

Ultimately, this is what I would like people to do for me and it is what I therefore try and do for others. My ancestors would’ve also wished to be so treated when they were subjected to oppression. It’s the least we can do to try and leave the world a better place than when we entered it.

As An Ally… is an occasional series telling the real stories of LGBTQ+ Allies within the transport movement. Its aim is to share some of the lessons learnt and to inspire others to become the best Allies they can be. We firmly believe that Allies have an important part of play in the furtherance of LGBTQ+ Progress and, whilst their experiences don’t replace those of LGBTQ+ people, their voices have a place in the discourse to educate and support others. If you want to share your own experiences As An Ally, drop us an email at onboard@theprogresstrain.co.uk and we’ll let you know more.

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