Alyssa Milano
photo: Getty Images

Actress Alyssa Milano tweeted for International Women's Day, but things didn't really work out the way she thought it was going to. She called transgender women her "sisters," and someone replied to her tweet asking if she was transgender. 

Milano didn't directly answer, but claimed that she was part of a bunch of minority groups as a questionable show of solidarity. Twitter didn't like that and promptly called her out, as it typically does. But when she was confronted, she didn't give the best apology. She might need some tips on being a good ally.

Actress Alyssa Milano posted about transgender women in a tweet for International Women's Day. 

International Women's Day just passed on March 8, and plenty of people posted on social media to show their support. Milano tweeted that she was celebrating her "transgender sisters" that day. Someone replied to her tweet asking if she was transgender herself. 

That question in itself rubs me the wrong way because it seems like this person is only asking because they don't see the value in allyship of transgender people. For some reason, there are people who think that you have to be transgender yourself to support that group of people or their rights. I digress, but it was Milano's response that got Twitter upset. 

Milano then claimed to be part of a bunch of minority groups she's not part of. 

This is what Milano's follow-up tweet said: 

"I’m trans. I’m a person of color. I’m an immigrant. I’m a lesbian. I’m a gay man. I’m the disabled. I’m everything. And so are you, Kirk. Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know or understand. No one wants to hurt you. We are all just looking for our happily ever after."

I think I know where she was going with this. Milano may have been trying to say that all women are oppressed. We all face some kind of challenge as women, and we should stand together to be there for one another. That's just what I think, but I could be wrong. She's trying to be an ally, but she's clearly not doing it well.

Here's a word of advice: You can be an ally to a certain group without claiming to be a part of that group. 

I can't say that I know Alyssa Milano that well, but I've never heard her come out as a part of any of these minority groups. For all I know, she's a white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied woman. 

Being a part of a minority group and being an ally are two different things completely. An ally is supposed to use their voice to assist us, learn from us, and help us fight for equality. Milano's tweet is tone-deaf and does nothing to benefit the people she's talking about. 

In fact, with this tweet, she did the exact opposite of what she might have been trying to accomplish. 

Compassion is certainly something people can have for others. But Milano will probably never have the experiences of these groups, and that's a privilege. By saying that she is a member of each of these groups she downplays their struggles. 

She doesn't have to worry about how she'll enter a building with no ramp. She doesn't have to worry about how people will look at her when she goes to the bathroom. But these issues can be common occurrences for people with disabilities and transgender or gender-nonconforming people respectively.

Milano's apology wasn't much better. 

In her "apology" tweet, Milano said: 

"I’m glad this tweet invoked conversation. I’m so sorry it offended some. I see you and hear you. But just a reminder, empathy is not a bad thing. Nuance is important and literal interpretation is not always intended. And I can identify with and not identify as. Both are powerful."

I was all for this apology at first. Sometimes we say the wrong things and spark a conversation we didn't mean to, but that conversation can be a great learning experience. But then she said "but."

She still decided to defend her original statement. She said the "nuance" is what's important. I can agree with this because I don't think she meant to offend anyone or actually claim a part of any of those groups. It's just that her apology could have been better. 

Milano would have been better off saying something like, "I don't have to be transgender to empathize with people who are trans."

This is true for any minority group, but this whole thing started with a comment about transgender people, so I'm using this example specifically. Plenty of people are open to talking about their experiences, sharing their feelings and how they came to discover their identity, and more. Get to know these people. Build relationships with them and you'll be able to gain that empathy for others. Or, you know, just treat trans people like they're human, because they are, just like you.

"I don't need to be part of a group to support them" would also have sufficed.

The person who originally replied to Milano may have tried to imply that she had to be part of a group to care about it. Cisgender people can care about transgender rights just like white people can care about racism and able-bodied people can care about the disabled. Something shouldn't have to directly affect you in order for you to care about it.

And as for her apology, I have some tips for that, too.

I will admit that Milano had the right idea at the beginning of her apology. She kind of ruined it at the end, but at least she addressed that she said something questionable. She probably just should have stopped before she felt the need to defend herself. If people are offended, and they're telling you they're offended, you probably shouldn't defend yourself. 

She could have used the opportunity to educate herself on her word choice. 

This would have been a great opportunity for Milano to say, "I didn't mean to offend anyone. I meant to say we are all one people. How should I have phrased this?" Part of being an ally is listening to these groups and letting you know you hear them. It's very easy to call yourself an ally, but acting like one is the real challenge. 

Because at the end of the day, being a good ally to any marginalized group requires more than just saying you're an ally.

You don't have to pretend to be a part of a group to be a good ally. But also, being an ally requires more than just listening. Support laws and movements that support transgender issues. Donate your time and resources to transgender causes. Make sure public buildings are accessible to all kinds of people. If you see someone being racist or sexist, say something.