“Is the Gay Community Scaring Away Our Straight Allies?”
This was the title of an article I recently came across, and after being startled by the number of straight and allied friends who had posted it shortly after its release. The startling feeling did not come from the content of the piece – in fact, I agree with the writer’s sentiments. Rather, my pause mostly comes from the amount of friends who shared some sense of agreement that the gay community has, in fact, scared off many of our trusted allies. Consequently, I was happy to see this posted by certain friends, and specifically ones coming from various pockets of my life (or past lives, for that matter). The dissonance is positive, and it means people are processing what all of this means for them and how it plays out in their life. We have a unique opportunity to capitalize on this moment, and ultimately to learn and grow.
The writer shared the story of one of his pals joining him for a QSA meeting, and the result played out like many others have seen before. There was a specific interaction, he cites, where said-friend asked a question which sparked a nasty response by individuals in the room (for the full story, including “tips,” I encourage you to take a minute – it’s an easy read). And, sadly, the reaction depicted in the piece is typically no surprise to many members in and outside of the community. I would argue, even outside of defensive engagements and speech policing, we really have scared away some of our allied friends. Let’s pause here for a moment.
I had this very conversation with a good friend of mine this past summer. PRIDE was nearing, and after an invitation to join me for the parade and celebration after, she respectfully declined. Several weeks later, over lunch, she shared with me that she no longer felt comfortable at PRIDE. Aside from an aggressive drag queen and incident where she was literally pulled on stage during a show, she also had a pretty heated conversation with an older lesbian woman while she was volunteering for an Indiana for marriage equality campaign (the, “you’ll never understand since you have the right and I don’t,” bit). I get it. Drag culture alone is enough to leave many allies confused or frustrated (although, some of my favorite individuals to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race with are my straight and super-allied friends), however the latter was something that did not sit right with me.
My friend ended up resolving her issues, and most of this stress, I believe, came from the drag encounter. Either way, it’s still a moment to pause on. Are we sensitive to the needs of the straight and allied community? Do we fail to provide room for learning and growing? Are we inclusive enough?
Friends, do we even know what all the letters stand for?
Here’s a great opportunity to learn.
In addition to the author’s points, and a need to support our straight allies who are learning and growing in their advocacy, I want to encourage us to think about how we can be a better ally to all the colors of the rainbow following, “LGBT…” An ally to lesbians is much different to that of being an ally to a Questioning or Asexual individual. Let’s pull these apart. To really make a difference in each of these pockets of our community, we have to find ways in which we can be an ally to all of these areas independently, instead of resting on the umbrella to serve as a “catch all” for support. This idea of a, “catch all,” is actually something that has been on my mind a lot.
As we see more and more trans* conversations happening, I think LGB(B, loosely) allies are starting to note that support goes beyond the lesbian and gay right to marry. Yes, specifically, the right to marry. In fact, I think we have enough momentum on this issue, and it’s time to start examining other pieces of equity and equality, in addition to the right to marry. I encourage us all to pause and learn. If you are going to be about it, be about it. Go all in. One of my dearest friends is, what I like to call, “Ally of the Year.” She gets it (whatever and whenever, “it,” is). And I would argue, she is always going all, “in.”
Challenge yourself, grow, develop. Ask questions. Do not be afraid to make a mistake or ask a “dumb” question. And this applies to both the LGBT… community and the ally community. Folks, let’s stop persecuting people for their lack of knowledge or inability to frame a sensitive question. In lieu of publicly blasting someone, pause and offer support. Have a 1:1 conversation. Help. Assist. Grow together. Remember, dissonance is learning – allies are not the only ones who have a stake in this game.
As I said in my last post, we have to start giving more damns, and this is a great area where we can truly engage a critical and thoughtful discussion. This is a great area where we can come together and grow and learn. More to do, more to come.
* When an ally goes all in, it’s a beautiful thing (like this and this). To those allies who have gone “all in” with their support, despite some of the defensive and challenging conflicts with the community, I say thank you. Please never stop loving, supporting, and believing in the equal treatment of the LGBT… community, as well as the many marginalized communities affected by hate, intolerance, and harassment. March on.
** Cake photo taken from when I thought @FoodNetwork was calling their cake, “gay;” Milk’s Instagram; Indy PRIDE 2014