LGBT Week: Kathleen Tinworth on Being an LGBT Ally

I’m Kathleen Tinworth, co-chair of AEA’s Evaluating Art & Culture TIG and member/avid supporter of the LGBT TIG. I am humbled and honored to be a part of the LGBT TIG’s AEA365 blog series and excited to share with you why I feel being an ally is essential to our work as evaluators.

First of all, I want to define ally for this post. In most (if not all) modern societies, identifying as straight/heterosexual is the socially accepted standard. Many of our laws, rights, and ways we are treated assume this “straight standard.” To self-identify or be perceived as LGBT carries enormous risks in every arena of life. A straight ally is someone who not only accepts and supports LGBT people, but speaks up as an advocate for equality and fair treatment.

If you are straight, as I am, you are in a position of power. You can speak from a place not entrenched in oppression and with a voice less likely to be silenced. You have the choice: how and when to use that voice.

So what does this have to do with evaluation?


Evaluation—regardless of your theoretical framework or approach– strives to illuminate, to present, and to assess in an objective and unbiased way. Evaluation, at its heart, is about transparency and respect for participants, taking into account the diversity of interests and values related. As evaluators, regardless of our sexual orientation, we are in a position of power. We are advocates. We are allies. It is our responsibility to ensure marginalized voices are heard. If you are a straight evaluator, you cannot opt out of addressing LGBT populations or assume LGBT evaluators alone will do the work. Being an ally must be an integral part of your commitment to rigorous evaluation.

Rad Resources: Here are a few of my favorite web resources to help you become or get even better at being a great LGBT ally:

Lessons Learned: As my friend and colleague, Joe Heimlich, will suggest later in this series, build evaluation instruments to promote equality. You will be surprised what a powerful statement you make when you ask inclusive questions.

Hot Tips: You’re straight. You have power. Use it! Remember all the resources you have in your toolkit. Speak out. Be visible and be vocal. Don’t wait for LGBT conversations to come up in your work/life; bring them up. Call out hateful language and action. Find other straight allies and work together. Listen. Confront your own prejudices and homophobia, even if it’s uncomfortable. Make a commitment. Get involved. Want to do this through AEA? Join me! Feel free to contact me directly:

We’re celebrating LGBT Evaluation week with our colleagues in AEA’s LGBT Topical Interest Group. Follow @aeaweb on twitter this week, or subscribe to the week’s Headlines and Resources list for more LGBT Evaluation items of note. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

3 thoughts on “LGBT Week: Kathleen Tinworth on Being an LGBT Ally”

  1. Maybe you can define “hateful language and action” and “homophobia” for us so we know for what you are asking people to “speak out.” Too many times, these words are used to strike fear in those who would disagree with celebrating homosexuality. I am totally opposed to celebrating homosexuality, but have no fear of homosexuals. They, like all of us on this planet, have rebelled against our creator many times and seek to find our own paths. When we finally turn from that, then we are free to live the lives for which we were created.

  2. These are just my thoughts but being known as a “straight ally” as I have been called before makes me feel somewhat excluded from the process when I am working with an lgbt group. Granted, I am in many ways, but we also have many similarities and are working together for a common purpose. Are there any other terms out there…”straight comrade”…just curious! I may make one up for myself 🙂 There seems to be a distinction, which you noted, a straight ally works to bring inclusion and support in a new area/evaluation instrument and they advocate (paraphrased). That truly is power. I, on the other hand, volunteer with an lgbt group so we do not have some of the barriers around inclusiveness and they advocate well for themselves. Just a personal preference, but in the latter case I would prefer to be called their “straight friend” or just the evaluator 🙂

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