No movement survives without the participation of the privileged party. Feminism without men is doomed. Civil rights for ethnic minorities won’t happen without white people joining in. The task is to get everyone on side and marginalise the elements that refuse to join in. The LGBTQ+ movement is no exception, and as I grow weary of it, I find myself inspired by all the great allies. Allies keep me going.
Around last year, I started moving certain kinds of posts to my facebook page. Some articles didn’t make it to my personal wall. I wanted to be less out, and I saw certain information as compromising: an invitation to raise topics I didn’t want to openly discuss. These posts made explicit references to my history and/or felt like they ‘belonged’ to queer folk; sharing them made me feel exposed. It wasn’t much of a barrier. Most of my social media contacts were following my Facebook page, after all, but the separation felt good.
It actually felt so good that I was ready to set all of it aside. Just find life, work on my fantasy stories and other writing projects. I was still pretty much coming out to everyone anyway, but I got to come out. Even with my rather explicit string of articles threading through my social media, it was nice to not have my queerness following me around as an open topic.
"MAYBE IF I HAD BEEN MORE CAUTIOUS, I’D STILL BE IN THE OUT-AND-PROUD CREW MARCHING ALONG WITH EVERYONE ELSE TALKING QUEER AT MEETUPS."
The fact that my relationship with the local LGBTQ+ charity I was working at went south didn’t help. The fact that I had a few folks privately attack me over my distancing also solidified my resolve that I didn’t want to be part of this. Looking back, I know that I might have a different outlook now had things gone differently. Or perhaps I just burned out? I immediately dove into this world without looking forward or back; It was there and I grabbed it. Maybe if I had been more cautious, I’d still be in the out-and-proud crew marching along with everyone else talking queer at meetups.
I made a Facebook friend through a regular at the pub. We were on some feminist rant or other in a thread and I liked her words, so I contacted her privately. We hit it off. She was the first cis person I noticed was sharing out articles on trans rights, calling out bad behaviour and just generally being an amazing ally.
Once I clocked that happened, I recalled another person I knew through an old university friend doing the same. More quietly, less frequent, but she’d hit people with trans memes and spread the word of inclusion. Clicktivism, sure, but these things matter. She was using her voice.
The biggest lesson these folks (and the others that surfaced since) taught me is that we can share this stuff without outing ourselves. Yes, certain things were too explicit for allies to own, but for the most part we can speak out and say what’s right without exposing anything more than our feelings. An irony: the most active queer folks failed to inspire me. Just the opposite. They put me right off, but a handful of cisgender folk in het relationships (never looked further; never became important) showed me how it’s done.
When you see ostensibly (I don’t like being asked so I don’t ask) unqueer folks advocating queer rights, it makes the sharing feel safer. Thing is, I didn’t notice it until I backed away. I was so immersed in the culture of the movement, I didn’t see that we had all sorts of allies chipping in. It showed me how insular my experience was before stepping away.
"IT MAKES ME WONDER IF THIS IS WHY THE MOST ACTIVE OF US GET CAUGHT IN THE SENSIBILITY THAT WE ARE ALONE."
It makes me wonder if this is why the most active of us get caught in the sensibility that we are alone. Or, if we’re not alone, we’re the only ones elbowing in making space for ourselves. That somehow it’s all on us and the forces at work are generally sinister; that the ones not being directly affected really do just stay silent and let us all crack on. Maybe that’s why I was told I’ll never find true acceptance in the unqueer world.
I understand that when someone feels assaulted from all sides, it’s easy to default to a threat response. I was hardened to the extent that I thought talking about queer issues and sharing memes on social media was outing myself, but that’s clearly untrue. Without allies providing me with a frame of reference, I would have carried on thinking that. Allies showed me that this was normal stuff for people who care to do.
If the ultimate goal is normalisation (and it is), we need the unqueer to join in. Those hardened into believing that they can’t find true acceptance outside the company of queer folk are not only incorrect, they’re following a dangerous path. Segregating ourselves in that way might create a rallying point but it eventually will serve to keep us in our social cage. Perhaps the day to abandon the rallying point is not today, but mindfulness is order.
I still tell off allies for their allyish behaviour. There are a lot of bad allies out there just as there are bad activists. But good allies make all the difference. Good allies don’t just make space for our voices. Good allies normalise who and what we are. They create an atmosphere of normality that we cannot. In my case, they showed me that using my voice in this way is safe; I am inspired to continue.