not in our stars, but in ourselves
Here’s the thing. I like to think I’m a straight ally, whatever that means. I am very happy that SCOTUS decided to get itself on the right side of history, finally, in legalizing same-sex marriage. However, there’s so much more that needs to happen for LGBT people – addressing homelessness in young LGBT people, depression and suicide, soaring murder rates of trans women (especially trans women of color), and seemingly simple things like workplace discrimination – that I don’t see this quite as a moment for self-congratulation. I see it as a moment of “well, fucking FINALLY!” followed by lots of other moments that need to come as soon as possible.
However, there was a lot of jubilation in the immediate wake of SCOTUS’s decision, and lots of mainstream products, services, social media sites, etc., jumped right on the rainbow bandwagon. Facebook, in particular, installed some sort of feature whereby you could “celebrate pride” by making your profile picture all rainbow-y.
I don’t mean to throw undue shade. Really, I don’t. I’m happy we’re all happy, and this is certainly an important decision. Nevertheless, it seems to me that the biggest surge of rainbow-fication came – at least in my newsfeed – from straight cis soi-disant allies. Not all the rainbows, mind you. But the vast majority. I am very, very cynical. I know this. It was hard for me not to roll my eyes at all these straight people – most of whom had never seemed to care much about any LGBT issues in any other aspect of their daily lives – immediately seizing an opportunity to prove to the world and the internet that they cared! They cared about gay people! “Look! Look!” they cried. “Over here! I’m an ally! Give me a cookie!” Again – yes, I know I’m cynical. I know there are straight people out there who are happy to let the world know that they’re heavily vested in advancing LGBT rights, and I don’t mean to shade them. But, I mean, I’ve spoken with most of the people in my newsfeed. I think I can get a good read on which of them care about human rights generally (and LGBT rights in particular). I don’t think most of them really give a shit.
This belief has been solidified into conviction today. I don’t have hard numbers for you, but I’ll tell you this: a whole bunch of those rainbow-fyers switched their profile pictures back to something un-rainbowed today. That was quick! I mean, you can change your profile picture as often as you like, and I honestly don’t care, but it was telling that so many of them changed and changed back so soon. Here’s my approximation of their thought process: “Okay, I’ve proven that I’m an ally for 48 hours. Now I can resume using ‘gay’ to describe things I dislike.”
My opinion on this is, ultimately, unimportant. I am straight, and this isn’t about me and my cynicism and what I like or dislike. A friend of mine, however, had this to say. It’s just one self-described queer person’s opinion, but for what it’s worth:
I am struggling with allies this weekend. a straight friend [maybe borderline queer, eh] was telling me about how surprised she was that so many queer people were upset at straight people celebrating, and she clearly wanted me to express that I thought they were wrong, and I was just like, nope, sorry, I know why they’re mad. she then she was like “but so many gay people ARE okay with it!” and I was like “uh-huh, and others aren’t. group is diverse.”
So, you know. That’s a perspective to consider.
Just try to be thoughtful. If you’re among the privileged (white/cis/straight), please listen to other voices, even if they cause you to stop patting yourself on the back for a hot second. There is a lot more work to be done, and the best way to be a straight ally is to make sure everyone knows it. Resting on your laurels, or rainbows, won’t do it.