So...You Think You're an Ally?

So…you think that you’re an ally? In a world where Corporate America is commodifying LGBTQIA+ inclusiveness in billboards, ads, and media every day (we’re looking at you Pride Parade), being “progressive” or an “ally” has become the most glamorous and sought-after identity in our secular culture. Have an equal sign on your bumper? Gold star for you. Take the time to correct people who say “that’s gay” in public? You deserve a round of applause. Have one of those “gay best friends” every straight white women seems to want?  Congratulations, you’re officially LGBTQIA-friendly.

In spite of the culture that rewards the most basic human decency, I am here to tell you that it’s easier to be homophobic and transphobic than you might think. Sadly, this isn’t the 1990’s. Saying you “love gay people” isn’t going to cut it anymore in terms of ally-ship. In 2018, being an ally requires constructive and empowering language. It insists on inclusion in the classroom, in the workplace, and in our media. Finally, ally-ship demands that we put the power in the hands of those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, pan, gender-queer, non-binary, and asexual, rather than relying on straight cis narratives to tell the stories of voices that are silenced.

Yet time and time again, we opt for a half-assed version of what it means to be an ally, where a rainbow logo, and a passive Facebook status about marriage equality is enough. But I am here to tell you that it’s not. So with that, here are the ways you may be acting homophobic, transphobic, and LGBTQ-unfriendly, without even realizing it.

  1. Supporting religious institutions and businesses that fund anti-LGBTQIA programs

In a Capitalist system, money is undoubtedly the greatest source of power. So when you pay tithing, or make donations to churches and religious institutions that fund programs like conversion therapy, your ability to be an ally will certainly be called into question. Though don’t be fooled, supporting radical programs like conversion therapy is not the only way to be stripped of your ally-ship. Funding and supporting a church that actively speaks out against the rights of LGBTQ members (and non-members,) whether it be on issues of marriage or employment, and non-members, is equally punishable. The same logic can be applied to your interactions with businesses. Though I know it’s incredibly difficult to give up your beloved Chick-Fil-A, if you’re committed to a cause, you will seek to understand the power of your consumerism, and apply your knowledge to use it more productively.

  1. You don’t correct homophobia when you witness it.

Whether it’s hearing “that’s gay,” and passing up on the opportunity to step in to address the destructiveness of homophobic slurs, or letting your friends scoff in disgust over male-male sexual representation in the media, you’re part of the problem. Remember, silence can be equally as violent.

  1. You eroticize same-sex couples every chance you get

While I completely understand the struggle lesbian couples face in having their sexuality be taken seriously in the contexts of romantic relationships, over-eroticizing them is NOT the solution. These queer relationships are not just sexual experimentations, but unions rooted in mutual respect, common values, and, yes, love. So, only asking about your queer friends sex lives to prove that you are ~progressive~ enough to talk about homosexual sex isn’t doing your LGBTQIA friends any favors.

 

  1. Relying on the “gay best” trope to gain traction in the LGBTQIA community

Ah, yes. The one many white cis women like myself are guilty of. As a young adult who was just barely witnessing the transition from widespread homophobia to queer issue recognition, I believed glamorizing the “gay best friend” in my life, to be a form of LGBTQIA support. But to no surprise, much like my decision to wear neon colors in junior high was a mistake, so was my choice of ally-ship. Gay men’s value should not be derived in relation to the white women that love them. They are valuable on their own, and deserve to be treated as such.

  1. Ignoring trans individual’s pronouns

Often times, trans-folk are strategically de-humanized and treated like a topics of debate, rather than individual people with unique lives, personalities, and struggles. Because of this, cis people will treat pronouns as preferences or options, rather than requirements. Though I completely understand the complexity of arguments surrounding gender dysphoria, shouldn’t we prioritize respect and love for the people around us, before we prioritize the politics of gender pronouns or how “they,” may or may not be grammatically correct? Newsflash: in case we needed a reminder, real people are more important than grammar and political views.

  1. We talk about sex, as if everyone is interested in it.

This is micro-aggression I am, personally, most guilty of. As someone whose political platform is built on sex-positivity, sexual liberation, and open discussions about sex, oftentimes I forget that there are people in the world who are completely disinterested in sex. So, before we claim that “everyone is going to have sex in their lives,” or “everyone is inherently sexual,” think twice, and remember the asexual individuals that live and thrive without a sex life.

  1. Saying you don’t support someone’s lifestyle, but you still love them

This might be an obvious one, but it is crucial to understand that love is not conditional. It has no ifs, ands, or buts. If you really love someone, you support them fully: whether it’s your kids or coworkers.

  1. Dating someone homophobic or trans-phobic

This micro-aggression often gets overlooked, simply because so many of us out there are guilty of it. And I know what you’re thinking, if I’M not the being homophobic, how am I still guilty? To that I say, remember how silence can be just as violent as homophobia itself? Because romantic relationships function as a partnership, the thoughts, opinions, and actions of your significant other often inform your own thoughts, opinions, and actions. Surround yourself with people who have similar passions for equality (that isn’t to say we exclude others who hold different political views, as this will only feed rapid party polarization)

  1. Only supporting your queer friends and family, and not applying this same respect to LGBTQIA strangers.

When you claim the title of “ally,” this doesn’t just mean you will support your family and friends’ queer relationships and identities. This means supporting all forms of LGBTQIA identities. Similarly, despite popular belief, being “LBGBTQIA-friendly,” does not allow the freedom to pick and choose which identities you “agree with.” The movement acts as a coalition, and its allies cannot and should not have the power to deem the “LG” worthy of attention, while the “BTQIA” is left behind.

With these micro-aggressions in mind, I hope you recognize and accept two things. One, the parameters of ally-ship will always be determined by members of the LGBTQIA identity themselves (and these parameters will often change). Secondly, much like anything, there is always room for mistakes, just as there is always room for improvement. Nothing, not even LGBTQIA-inclusivity, will be perfect. So, go forth, recognize your privilege, and work to identify where your ally-ship may fall short.

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