Franchesca Ramsey on Allyship, Representation and Comedy Central

“I try to avoid speaking for LGBTQ folks and instead uplift their voices when I have the chance.”

Pride month tends to be when all the allies love to flex their support of the rainbow flag. I hate to break it to you straight and cis allies – but you don’t get cookies for showing up to a Pride march with your rainbow tutu on. Being an ally to the LGBTQ community means so much more than joining us for an amazing party (yes – we know we throw a hell of a good party). To really truly be an ally, we need you to show up everyday. We need you to fight for our rights alongside us, while not taking up too much space.

A woman of the internet who needs no introduction has continued to show up for and uplift the voices of LGBTQ people in her viral content. Franchesca Ramsey finds ways to make being an LGBTQ ally an action, instead of just talk. Ramsey, of MTV’s Decoded, spoke with GO Magazine on allyship, identity in Trump’s America, representation and her new Comedy Central show.

Courtesy of Franchesca Ramsey
GO Magazine: How do you approach representation in your content?

Franchesca Ramsey: With Decoded, we really make an effort to reach out to folks from different communities to make our content better informed and well rounded. For example, we recently did an episode on LGBTQ teens and prom and we collaborated with Dylan Marron. I’m a low-key Dylan stan, so I already knew the episode would be amazing, but he just brought such a wealth of knowledge and personal connection to the episode that wouldn’t have been there if it was just my straight lady self telling LGBTQ kids to be themselves at prom.

GO: What’s your process around making sure a variety of voices are included?

FR: Since Decoded is about identity, we always want to make sure we’re uplifting other voices instead of speaking over them. And the best way to do that is to reach out to folks and ask them to be part of the show. We’ve built an incredible network of diverse writers, comedians and actors over the course of 5 seasons so there’s never a shortage of talent when it comes to covering topics that I don’t personally identify with as a straight black woman.

GO: Your following online has grown a lot since your first viral video. How do you engage with your followers on social media?

FR: I’m pretty active on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram. But these days my favorite social network is Snapchat because I get to interact with my audience in a more personal way. I get lots of snaps from people around the world about everything from their pets, what they’re studying to people looking for advice. It’s really nice to be able to put a face to my audience and have the chance to talk to them in a more private way.

GO: When it becomes “cool” to be politically active it seems that big capitalist brands latch on and co-opt movements (i.e. Pepsi’s failed attempt at displaying a protest and Heineken’s not so great response). What advice would you give to young activists who want to steer clear of this capitalist framework and keep the movement alive and authentic?

FR: I’ve found that setting my intention before I start working on something is the best way to make sure I don’t get sidetracked later on. That way as I go along I can check back in with myself and make sure I’m still working towards my original goal.

Courtesy of Franchesca Ramsey
GO: Privilege is such a hot button word lately and it seems that anytime someone points out another person’s privilege in hopes to enlighten them, it does the opposite. It infuriates people to hear they might have privilege. How do you personally tackle these conversations with people in your life? What suggestions do you have for reaching across the table and making an impact with someone who has differing views than your own?

FR: I’ve found that talking about my own privilege first makes it a litter easier for people to understand their own. The thing is, privilege is something EVERYONE has, but so often people assume that they’re being piled on or unfairly judged the minute you bring privilege up. I try to remind folks that privilege doesn’t mean you’re a bad person who’s rich and has never worked for anything or had challenges. It just means there are certain experiences you don’t have because of who you are. So for example, as a straight, cis, able bodied person I don’t have to worry about holding hands with my husband in public or using a public restroom without fear or accessibility issues. That’s not my fault, but I have to acknowledge the privilege that comes along with my identity in order to better support LGBTQ folks and people with disabilities who face challenges I don’t.

GO: You often talk about how ally is a verb and to truly be an ally you should be taking action. What does solidarity and allyship look like to you for the LGBTQ community?

FR: Something I talk about a lot is “speak up not over.” I try to avoid speaking for LGBTQ folks and instead uplift their voices when I have the chance. I also make sure to use my voice to advocate for LGBTQ folks in spaces where they’re not present. Too often bigotry rears its head when people feel it’s “safe” and that’s when straight cis folks like myself have to get out of our comfort zone and call people out.

GO: We’re now over 100 days into the Trump presidency. As we face this tenuous and scary moment, what gives you hope? What fuels you to keep existing in your own revolutionary ways?

FR: As cheesy as it sounds, young people give me a lot of hope. I speak at colleges pretty regularly and I’m always so impressed by the students I meet. They’re so smart, passionate and empathetic. There’s a lot of shit going on in the world and some days it’s really hard to be optimistic. So for me, knowing there are so many young people who’re trying to make difference in their schools, communities and families makes me little less worried about our nation’s future.

GO: Who is the number one special guests you’d love to feature your new Comedy Central show?

FR: Ava DuVernay!