Over the years, well-intentioned folks have said a whole host of things that are not helpful and are in fact damaging. If you are a well-intentioned straight person: thank you! I really truly appreciate your good intentions. It is because I appreciate your intentions that I’m composing this post: now you don’t have to accidentally hurt your queer friends. If you want to be a straight ally for gay/queer/LGBT people, here’s how you can get started.
Ready? Here we go!
Have you thought about ….
Yes, I have thought about it. This is my life. I have thought about everything and everything you could possibly imagine. Probably every day. Possibly multiple times a day. I’m sure you’re trying to be helpful, if you want to be helpful the best thing you can do is listen to me and trust me.
I have a gay friend and she …
If you have a gay friend who likes it when you call him a faggot or make jokes about her bedroom habits, I’ll have to trust your relationship with that person. I am not that person. Your gay friend is not a Get Out of Jail Free card for the obnoxious and/or problematic things you say and do. And perhaps your gay friend just doesn’t want to deal with your ignorance while trying to be your friend. Take a moment to consider you might not know everything about your gay friend.
Let’s all get along …
Me calling out injustice is NOT more offensive than the injustice itself. I see this a lot around racism. Somehow “racist” is a bad word and describing something as racist is worse than the act itself. Don’t settle for that. Don’t tell me I’m too angry, or I should be patient, or I’m causing controversy, or my demands would make people uncomfortable. It’s easy for the privileged to say “It’s not a big deal” or “Let’s all get along.” Don’t try to change my discomfort by asking me to behave, eliminate my discomfort by eliminating the problem.
Gay people are just like straight people, they just happen to be gay…
I don’t need you to normalize my experience. In many ways, I am similar to straight folks: I need to eat, I have relationships, I have a job. In other ways, I am very different: relationships are inherently difficult and so I must be intentional about them, my faith/religion/spirituality is questioned daily and so I know it intimately, I don’t take gender roles for granted, I am blessed with a family of origin and a network of chosen family. Being queer is one aspect of my identity and while I don’t need you to focus solely on it, I do need you to recognize that it is an aspect of my identity which is oppressed, and thus it does matter.
Gay is the new Black.
No it’s not. Black is still Black. Racism, homophobia, and transphobia are matters of social justice but gay is not the new Black. There are overlaps and there are distinctions. I know you have good intentions, but it’s more problematic than it is helpful.
Gay people are monogamous / go to church / get married / serve in the military / pay taxes and therefore they deserve equal rights…
Your equality and humanity are not contingent upon conforming to some standard. Give me equality and justice because all humans deserve it, and not because I clean-up well. And don’t forget that queers who aren’t monogamous / don’t go to church / reject marriage / oppose the military / avoid taxes deserve justice also. In fact, we can learn something from these non-conformists! Check out Queers for Economic Justice & The Audre Lorde Project to begin educating yourself about other issues important to queer folks
We should love gay people because they didn’t choose to be gay, why would anyone choose to be gay?
Hope College professor Julie Kip put it beautifully when she said “She doesn’t need your love, she needs your justice.” Don’t pity me, be proud of me.
If you would just…
Well, if you would just….
After writing this article, I reflected on the amazing straight folks in my life and what they have done and are doing. In response, I composed Five Awesome Things Straight People Can Do. It’s full of all sorts of ways you can be an ally & advocate.
If you’re digging this article, you want to check out the Tough Questions on the Road to Affirmation series (in progress right now). Subscribe to catch ‘em all.