Ashleigh Atwell

Ashleigh Atwell: LGBT allies—show up, do the work

It’s officially summer and that means two things: it’s hot as the devil’s toenails here in Georgia and it’s Pride season. LGBT folks across the country are gearing up to march, spectate and shine at celebrations across the country. This Pride season is particularly special because it will give the LGBT community a chance to display our resilience. The shooting that occurred at Pulse nightclub last month shook us to our core but even as we grieve, we thrive.

When news of the shooting broke, straight people showed up and showed out. They were listening ears when LGBT folks needed a moment and showed up in droves to donate blood when a draconian law prevented gay men from doing the same. A couple of my own friends messaged me to check in when they saw that I was hurting and I’m eternally grateful for them. I think I can speak for many queer folk when I say that I am thankful for our true allies.

Still, there is work to be done.

“Ally” is a loaded term among LGBT folks, especially those of us that float in social justice circles. Many people are suspicious of so-called allies because some folks seem to be caught up on being seen rather than actually fighting for LGBT rights. For many of them, their alliance is conditional and ends when an LGBT person pisses them off. They look like women, such as NeNe Leakes, that will adopt all the lingo and parade their gay friends around like a handbag but will use homophobic slurs at any man, regardless of sexuality, that pisses them off. Every time something major happens to the LGBT community, the performers rear their ugly heads. Rapper Nicki Minaj is extremely popular among LGBT folks but was silent after the shooting. When she was called out by one of her fans, she unfollowed him and blatantly ignored any other criticism.

Allies, I don’t ask much of you but there are two things you need to know: the first thing is everything ain’t about you. Yes, I do mean ain’t. When you are allowed into LGBT spaces, whether it’s a club or the parade, you are a guest and need to conduct yourself as such. Don’t draw attention to yourself to show how progressive you are. You don’t have to announce how straight you are every two seconds. When you do that, it highlights your insecurities and it makes us queers suspicious. If you really like our company, enjoy it and don’t make a big deal out of everything.

That brings me to my second point: we are not here for your amusement. When I’d go to the drag shows at my university, there was always a sexuality roll call. The host would go through each sexual orientation and ask for corresponding cheers if the label applied. The cheers from the straight folks were always the loudest. That wasn’t the problem.

I got bothered when the following weeks, at the LGBTQ alliance meetings, those same people were nowhere to be found. I’ve seen this at Pride and in the gay clubs. Straight people love when a queen death drops and will rave about their girl crush on Ruby Rose but when it’s time to do actual work, allies are few in number. Just a couple days ago, #heterosexualpride was trending, less than a month after the shooting. The only people I’ve seen complain are other queer and trans people.

I’m sick of it. I don’t like to think in binaries except for allies, get with it or get gone. Either you’re with us or against us.