For Scott, who taught me how to be an ally.
What does it mean to be an ally of the LGBTIQA community? If you’re straight, it probably means that you have friends, family, lovers, or colleagues who find a key part of their identity in the rainbow. Or, you’re not a psychopath, and can understand that human rights are not restricted to the ruling majority; respect costs nothing; and heteronormativity is a dangerous ideology. Y’know, basic stuff.
So, the real question here is, how can you be a more potent ally?
For one thing, stop using the word “gay” to describe something that’s annoying, garbage, implausible, pathetic, embarrassing, or otherwise shit.
Sure, words and their meanings can change; gay didn’t always mean homosexual, but when it changed in the last few years to mean something less than desirable, it was coming from a negative context. Which really means it’s not okay to say “gay”. If you feel the urge to react with that word, find something else. Be more aware of what you’re saying, and be aware of the power of words. I had this pointed out to me by a friend years ago, and I’ve been trying to change my behaviour ever since. Of course he was right, and in the interceding years, as I’ve claimed to be an ally or even a champion of LGBTIQA rights, I’ve still fallen into this trap.
I’ve started saying “lame” instead, though he encouraged me to say “hetero” to remind me how hurtful responding by saying “gay” could be.
I need to be better. We all need to be better.
Also trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs), or more accurately, feminism-appropriating reactionary transphobes (FARTs) can fuck the fuck off.
If you consider yourself an ally, or even a part of LGBTIQA community, but you refuse, or fail, to support others in that community, then you’re full of shit. It means supporting bathroom rights, and actually fighting for those being oppressed by a system that claims they shouldn’t exist. It means defending and protecting programs like Safe Schools, and opposing hateful bigots like Scott Morrison when they condemn the teachers of trans-students as “gender whispers“.
For decades, gay and lesbian activists fought for acceptance, tolerance, for the ability to come out without worrying about their lives being threatened. That is what transmen and transwomen are now fighting for, and we have to take up their fight, because it is necessary.
Yeah, you can be critical of people like Caitlyn Jenner, as long as you’re criticising her for her words or actions, not who she is. You can have questions about transitioning and gender identities – that’s what Google is for. You are allowed to not understand gender dysphoria as a medical condition, but to deny it exists, or to claim it is mental illness is offensively ignorant.
You should read Benjamin Law’s Quarterly Essay Moral Panic 101, you should listen to podcasts from subject matter experts and those directly affected, and you should watch documentaries, because we all need to learn more so we can be the allies our trans-brothers and -sisters need us to be.
Stop making gay jokes about people you don’t like; and definitely stop making jokes about men being raped in prison, not only is it homophobic, you’re finding joy in someone being fucking raped. Stop decrying bisexual men as somehow less masculine or indecisive about their sexuality, and stop slut-shaming bisexual women.
In fact, stop making assumptions about the sexuality of others. I’m a mostly straight man, but people constantly assume I’m predominantly gay because of how I talk, act, gesture, and behave around friends. This doesn’t bother me, because I’m really not sensitive about this sort of thing, however, on the flip side of that, assuming someone is straight as a default, or gay if they’re bi, can be hurtful and offensive. Unless you’re interested in pursuing some form of romantic or sexual encounter with them, who or what they are into is none of your goddamned business.
Try to avoid kink-shaming if you can. Most people aren’t into scat or blood-play, but hey, not everyone is into penis-in-vagina sexual intercourse. And though adult babies are kinda creepy, but, as long as they’re consenting adults and no one gets hurt against their will, they can do what they want.
If you accidentally misgender someone, apologise and correct yourself. If you accidentally say something offensive, correct yourself. Correct and call out those saying homophobic things, don’t sit there in silence, stand up for the oppressed. Use the privilege granted to you by your gender or sexual preference to lift others up and protect them from abuse.
Don’t out people in public or in the workplace, just because they’re out to you, doesn’t mean they are out to everyone. Some workplaces will still discriminate for sexuality and gender, even though it is illegal. If you see this happen, call it out, and/or go to HR on behalf of the individual if they aren’t up to fighting it themselves – but ask first.
Learn the history of sexuality and discrimination in this country and around the world. Learn more about why the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras came about. Learn why the drug scene was so big in the gay community. Learn about the fact that Australia only fully legalised homosexuality in 1997, and ages of consent for gay and straight teens has only recently been made equal. Read up on gay panic as a defence for murder, and what that actually means. Discover that marriage equality is not the final step in the fight for equality. Understand that feminism is supposed to be about intersectionality, and requires the capacity to fight for many people and groups at the same time, and the ability to consider the range of oppressive, structural inequities that can be affecting someone. Learn what homophobia, transphobia and sex/gender-based bigotry looks like, because it is still so rampant.
Make sure that people know you are a loud and proud, unimpeachable ally, so that they can find support from you if they plan to come out or transition. It doesn’t hurt to learn more about terms, meanings, and range of sexual and gender identities in the LGBTIQA community. It’s about being a better friend, lover, partner, community member, and person.
And it’s so simple.