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Four Ways to Spot a Bad Ally

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October 24, 2013

Society has advanced leaps and bounds over just the past decade when it comes to rights and acceptance for members of the LGBTQ+ community. Just a hundred years ago gay people didn’t even exist. Now look at us, boycotting Chik-Fil-A, framing our Civil Union certificates, and having our marriages recognized by other states like real people. And really, who do we have to thank for our progress? Who has always been there pushing us forward and forcing us to create change?

I got an answer for you: straight people. They’ve been extremely busy with the LGBTQ+ community if you haven’t noticed; writing bills to keep themselves from discriminating against us and making sure everyone knows what the “A” stands for “Allies”.

No but let’s be real. There are allies and then there are allies. Some allies make a positive contribution to social justice and others are more stamp-their-feet-in-the-dirt-until-I-get-my-way, let-me-play-in-your-reindeer-games kind of allies. This is about that second type of straight allies. And if you don’t know these types of allies, well you certainly will by the end of this blog post. Seeing that it is Ally Week I figured I’d take this chance to share my own feelings about these types of allies and the things they’ve been doing for my community, starting with…

#4. Their Unquenchable Need to be Constantly Recognized for Achieving the Mediocre

If you grew up with a younger sibling you know exactly what it’s like to be followed around by a slightly lesser version of yourself calling your name every couple of minutes and asking you to look at every single thing you pass by on the sidewalk. They are fascinated by the world around them and are interested in your friends because they’re just so cool.

Straight allies are very much the younger sibling in this scenario, holding up their “Straight But Not Narrow” signs with excitement, hoping it’ll get put on the Social Justice Refrigerator for everyone to see. And, as the apparent monolithic community that we are, we smile awkwardly and give them a thumbs up for all their hard work and dedication.

When Pope Francis stumbled onto his balcony earlier this year to say that he had no place to judge gay priests people lost their fucking minds. Many in favor of LGBTQ+ rights flocked to the pope in awe of his radicalism and readiness to stand up for “the gays”. The pope was suddenly a symbol of progress and hope and solidarity.

As long as you didn’t count …you know…the past 1500 years of sexual oppression of queer people by the Catholic Church since the fall of Rome.

The most irking thing about the situation was that the pope really didn’t do anything. He saved face is what he did. He didn’t call for the end of indoctrinated homophobia, he didn’t come out in protest of likening homosexuality with pedophilia, he didn’t say that “You should be treated as equals”. He said “who am I to judge”.

No one. You’re no one to judge, Pope Francis. Glad you recognize that. Nobody is special for not judging queer people. Nobody is radical or progressive for treating us like human beings. And doing these things doesn’t make you an ally it just makes you not shitty. Congrats.

#3. They Have an Incredible Desire to be Part Something They’re Not

There is a straight pride flag.

Let this sink in. There is a flag specifically for straight allies at Pride parades and festivals. And this is what it looks like:

To clarify, the purpose of a pride flag is bravery. The existence of pride flags is bravery by default because for many years we have had to hide who we are and what we are because of the awful consequences that we’d be subjected to if we put one toe out of line. To hoist colors that are our own into the sky for people to see miles away, to let everyone know that we are here and we exist and we’re not going to be quiet about it is brave.

The creation of a “Straight Pride flag” and even the idea that Straight Pride is a real thing is a huge slap in the face to the entire queer community. It’s insulting and deprecating to the morale of the community for allies to believe they can waltz into a safe space like a Pride Parade waving this thing around as if they were the ones beaten and bloodied at Stonewall.

I can understand the desire to feel included in a community that you support but to fulfill that desire by marginalizing that very community is selfish in the extreme and only serves to perpetuate the mistreatment and inequality that you may very well be fighting against.

Speaking of safe spaces…

#2. Allies Never Stop Talking…Like Ever…

I don’t particularly like children. I mean they can be cute sometimes, they can be chill and cool sometimes. But many of the children I’ve met that fall into this category have all had one thing in common: they aren’t loud.

Don’t get me wrong in relating this back to allies, it’s great to have allies who are really active in making change and advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, but what’s not so great is to have the sounds of allies be the background for every single queer space around you.

Safe spaces exist for this very reason. Allies are welcome to voice their opinions and thoughts and ask questions. In spaces that are designated discussion spaces. Safe spaces serve as a place for people of a particular group or minority to go and be around like people.

It is literally exhausting to be surrounded by people that you cannot connect with. Sometimes I need to get away from straight people. Hell, sometimes I only want to be around other pansexual people.

Part of being a good ally is knowing when you are needed and when you are not. Pushing and shoving your way into safe spaces just because you have questions or what to hold discussion is simply not acceptable. Your very existence as a straight person in a safe space may be enough to make someone else uncomfortable or even trigger someone into anxiety attacks and depression.

We’re glad you’re curious and have so many questions. But understand that sometimes we just cannot deal with it and you’ll just have to wait until later for us to answer you.

Which brings us to…

#1. They Fill In The Blanks With Any Dumb Shit

Children can leap to conclusions faster than a teenage girl with an anxiety disorder.

They come up with ideas about the world around them with or without input from those wiser than themselves every single day. And they don’t even really mean to, it just sort of happens. When I was younger I thought babies came from eggs that were kept inside the mommy’s tummy (which was why the tummy got big, duh) and when the egg finally cracked inside her the baby was born.

I have no fucking clue where that idea came from. It just sort of plopped itself in my mind and stayed there until I was about 9. But the point is that I just sort of made it up based on the limited information I had and the little observations I was able to make. And it’s borderline crazy talk.

That is basically what allies, and really anyone, does when faced with experiences and information they cannot know or cannot comprehend. We’ve got to just guess and hope we’re somewhere in the relative ballpark of accuracy. It’s not something that we can really blame allies for doing because it’s just the human condition. The main issue arises when people convince themselves that their version of reality is the end all be all and refuses to learn from a direct source.

If I had never stopped believing that eggs inside of you cracked and produced babies do you know how stressed out I’d be every 28 days? How ridiculous would it have been for me to tell my doctors and sex education teachers “I know this whole deal, I’m good, thanks but no thanks, deuces”?

It’s a hard balancing act though. On one hand no minority is required to sit someone down and educate them on not being a racist/misogynist/homophobic etc. douche. But on the other hand the best information will come from a variety of primary resources.

Education is key. Keeping yourself open to new ideas and new information and perspectives creates not just great allies but great people. Being proactive in learning about sexuality and gender and identity make it easier for allies to understand where queer and trans* people are coming from and will most likely make us more comfortable around you.

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One Response to “Four Ways to Spot a Bad Ally”

  1. Victoria

    Hey! Nice post.
    As an ally I always question my role in the LGBTQIA community. I want to show my support yet not invade their space. I feel like it’s kind of a fine line to cross. I have many friends in the community and help out a bit with a club on campus but more than anything I just want to show my support and learn so I can help educate others.

    I think the fact that some people even consider the A in LGBTQIA allies is crazy. I don’t know where that came from.