LGBTQ “Allies”: Supporters or Consumers?
As another Pride month comes to a close, I’d like to spill my thoughts on a long-polarizing topic within the LGBTQ community: Allies
…or, as I prefer to call them: “All-Lies.”
Why do I call them “All-Lies”? Well, my view of the general presence of“All-Lies” in the LGBTQ community can kinda be summed up by this:
Here, we have a straight (from what I gathered by his Twitter feed) couple visiting an LGBTQ event (San Francisco Pride 2016) and basically opting to…well, do that. After just a day or so, he deleted the original tweet because he couldn’t handle the backlash, but stood firm that people were making a big deal out of nothing, because of course he did. Now, I could deep-dive into the racial aspect of a white woman feeling so entitled to a (visibly) Black man that she grabbed a handful of his crotch without his consent (i.e. sexual assault), even knowing that he had the authority to haul her off to jail if he wanted to — and of course, he didn’t, because Black man and white woman— but that’s not the point of this piece.
I wanna first address you cisgender, heterosexual (cishet) people who like to visit our spaces and show your entire ass. This kind of behavior is reflective of a long-running issue that many LGBTQ people have seen with cishet folks (particularly women) who come into queer spaces and events. While many cishet people visit LGBTQ venues out of genuine support and “allyship” for their queer and trans friends, a lot of cishet women have taken to these spaces, as they’ve found that the lack of cishet men grants them a certain amount of safety that they often don’t find in hetero-centered spaces — i.e. the comfort of being able to freely dance with your friends however you want without having to worry about man forcing himself on you when that’s not the kind of attention you’re looking for. This is all perfectly understandable…however, a lot of y’all have taken that freedom and safety, along with your straight, cis (and in most cases, white) privilege, and often opt to use our spaces as your personal playground to completely center yourselves, to the detriment of the queer people, whose safety these spaces are supposed to be centered around. For another example of this, see bachelorette parties.
Of course, the men aren’t off the hook, here…not by a long shot. First, there’s the fact that, because so many of these women are so overly-comfortable in our spaces, many don’t find at all inappropriate to bring their dates and boyfriends out to the gay clubs/bars with them — not realizing (caring?) that many of these dudes are LGBTQ-phobic as hell…so, y’know, fuck our comfort and safety, I guess.
Also, there’s an increasingly common practice among cishet men, where they will often play the baiting, “heteroflexible” angle and/or play up their “allyship” in a way of gaining admiration (which translates to fame and money) from the LGBTQ community (gay men, in particular). There’s this guy, Chris (a.k.a. SupDaily), who hounds the internet with video after video of himself highlighting how much of an “ally” he is to LGBTQ people, teasing his own (nonexistent) sexual fluidity — many of said videos featuring him shirtless, because of course they are — all to bait a gay following into viewing his videos (which, again, translates into notoriety and $$$).
Another one of the notable “All-lies” is Nick Jonas. Over the last couple of years, he’s essentially built his career around baiting and teasing queer men — via focusing an acting career around playing gay men, giving conveniently ambiguous responses to questions around his sexual practices and orientation, and just taking up space in general. The most recent (and arguably most egregious) instance, is when he, and several other cishet people, were granted time to speak at a (supposed) vigil for the victims of the horrific shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, FL, which was held at the Stonewall Inn in New York. The problem with this is, the victims, and primary targets, of the shooting were LGBTQ Latinxs, who were given no real opportunity to speak for themselves. Why is this hetero “ally” being given a platform to express his feelings about the situation over those who were most heavily affected (just days after he released an album, no less)? And frankly, why did he accept it? Why is it that an “ally,” who has supposedly been so committed to contributing to the improvement of queer and trans lives (hint: said contributions seemingly don’t exist), think it would be appropriate to speak over those who actually live the existence of being queer (or, more specifically, queer people of color)?
Queer people who support the presence of these cishet “all-lies” will take these things at face value and argue that they’re showing support by simply being there, voicing affirmation and “embracing” our corner of the population. They’ll probably even argue that we should be grateful for the “support.” But is that really what’s happening here? Are we really being supported? Are our issues and struggles really being centered and properly addressed, or are our lives and spaces being taken advantage of for the gain of people who already have more access and privilege? Are they seeing a segment of the population that needs to be lifted up and supported, or a segment of the population where their privilege can be even more easily and fully centered? Are they coming into our spaces asking how they can help, or are they asking what can they gain? Are they asking what can they give to us, or what can we give to them? Are these people supporters of our culture, or consumers of it? Maybe the answers are all the former, maybe all the latter, or maybe a combination of both. Either way, the end result remains the same.
Obviously, there are many instances where people do behave like actual allies (where I don’t need to wrap quotes around the term) and do step up and support our plight — i.e. People coming out in droves to donate blood for the Orlando shooting victims, where men who have sex with men are, by law, unable to. And there are plenty of cis-hetero people who come into our spaces with full cognizance and respect of where they are, in many cases adding to the space. When this happens, I think it’s great…but fact is, that’s just not always the case.
I think, instead of grasping at any glimmer of “tolerance” (hate that word, by the way) and “acceptance” that we can get from these “all-lies,” we need to be looking at the kind of relationships we actually have with them more critically. If, in spaces built primarily for LBGTQ people, cisgender, heterosexual people are finding more safety for themselves than us; if cisgender, heterosexual people are in positions where they capitalize on the “gay dollar” more than most, actual LBGTQ people do; if many people within our own community would rather seek out solidarity (no matter how hollow or exploitative) with cisgender, heterosexual people before other people within our own community (i.e. white gays vs queer people of color, or bisexuals, or asexuals, or trans people, etc.)…if this is all the case, then we should be analyzing this situation more carefully, and looking at what we consider an “ally” more critically.
For me, personally, I find that, while there are many who are truly supporters of the LGBTQ community, there are so many “All-lies” who are simply consumers of the culture that, in lieu of seeking out their presence and acceptance within queer spaces, I’d rather focus on centering LGBTQ people in the spaces that are supposed to be for us, and not have their presence, at all. I think, the sooner we learn to collectively shift our focus from gaining approval of “all-lies” (as well as bigoted people who will never see it for us, regardless), the sooner we can build a true community that seeks freedom for all LGBTQ people.