A recent trend has cropped up in Internet circles: poking fun of straight and cisgender (identifying as the same gender one was assigned at birth) people. These jabs often include the implication that straight people are boring or unoriginal, or they dig a little deeper and point out their narrow-mindedness and ignorance of their privilege. The allies of the LGBT+ rights movement are particularly vulnerable group to such attacks.
Recently, allies have been striking back, saying they deserve recognition and rights. They complain about fans of series head-casting the characters as LGBT+, claim that these people are being heterophobic or cisphobic, and demand straight pride. It is unclear which happened first: ally entitlement or jokes from the LGBT+ community, but my money is on the former.
What these people don’t understand is that LGBT+ people poking fun at allies is just that—fun. Nothing an LGBT+ person says or does, regardless of how angry or heartfelt it is—and most of the time it really isn’t—will ever have any negative effect on straight people. If they get upset, they can log off the Internet and go right back to a world that does everything to accommodate them. I can’t log off my bisexuality.
Some straight allies claim that cisphobia and heterophobia exist. While some discrimination against cisgender heterosexual people exists, it is nothing compared to actual transphobia and homophobia. Again, it exists mostly on the Internet, so if a straight person feels uncomfortable or unwelcome online, they have the ability to leave and not have to deal with it. A person who is not cis or het, however, faces very real danger of physical and verbal abuse, the loss of homes and family, and many other terrible effects simply for being who they are.
In the same vein, allies also try to fight back by framing LGBT+ people as the enemy. “We’re not the enemy!” they cry. “It’s bigots who are! Stop generalizing!” What they forget is that they are, technically, the “bad guys.” Straight people are the ones who cause problems for the LGBT+ community. And yes, while “not all allies are like that,” saying so makes it sound like you’re putting your feelings before the actual problem. Allies who use this defense are more concerned about how they feel than about the legitimate issues that LGBT+ people face.
There’s also been a recent move for straight pride days, months, and parades, which is frankly ridiculous. The point of gay pride is not, first and foremost, to celebrate being gay. It’s a rebellion against centuries of oppression and discrimination. Straight people should be happy they don’t need a pride parade, and the push for one trivializes the very real struggles of LGBT+ people.
In addition, many allies believe the “A” in LGBTQIA+ stands for “allies” and will often argue with people who try to point out their mistake. In reality, the “A” is for “asexual,” a group often marginalized and ignored by allies. Shoving them aside to make room for allies can make asexual people feel unwelcome in the very community that’s supposed to give them the most support. And it’s rude.
There’s also a huge difference between supporting gay rights and fetishizing gay people. When someone says, “Oh, I’d love to have a gay best friend,” or “Lesbians are so hot,” it reduces LGBT+ people to stereotypes and disregards them as actual people. We don’t exist for your pleasure or to help you shop. We aren’t “your gays.” We’re people, with feelings and preferences and personalities. Many allies don’t seem to understand that.
Allies are supposed to help a movement, not hinder it. People shouldn’t expect special recognition for agreeing that everyone should have the same basic rights. If you, as an ally to a movement, expect inclusion in that community, you’re doing it wrong. Allies exist to quietly support a movement and use their privilege to further it. If the occasional jab by an LGBT+ person cuts too deep, leave the situation—because you always have that ability.
We don’t.