Good Allies, Bad Allies, and Sometimes That Doesn’t Matter

Rainbow flag. Symbol of gay pride.

Rainbow flag. Symbol of gay pride. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Everyone knows now that the Supreme Court of the United States has taken up two separate cases in the fight for marriage equality. These cases may have far-reaching effects for the LGBT community. If the Justices come down on the right side of history, and there is some reason to believe they will, there is a good chance of a backlash from the hetero-sexists out there. The odds are also favorable, however, that it will lead to a further shift in our attitudes. Those attitudes have already been changing, and one need look no farther than one’s Facebook newstream to see that.

So many of the people on my friends list on Facebook have changed their profile pictures to the pink on red variant of the Human Rights Campaign’s logo as show of support that the “friends on chat” sidebar now looks like a game of Concentration. It is heartwarming to see so many of my hetero friends and family taking up the cause. You outnumber the bigots now and it is a nice reminder that things are improving.

In the midst of all this, though, is another dialogue, one in which I have taken part with both sides. The HRC does not have the best of records when dealing with certain segments of the LGBT community. Those segments are any segment not of the gay, white, cis-male variety. They have marginalized anyone not in that group, giving a little more attention, maybe, to white, cis-lesbians than to the others. If you are a PoC in the community you had no voice, and for a long time, if you were trans*, your voice was reviled. The HRC was a driving force in spreading the myth that the trans* community was riding the cis-gay community’s coattails. They actively fought inclusion of trans* people in anti-discrimination laws.

So while I am overjoyed to see so many “straight” people taking up a “queer” cause, I wish they would think about the message they are sending, both to the trans* people and to the HRC. The organization recently said goodbye to Joe Solomnese, the transphobic leader who was the biggest cheerleader for that mindset among our LGB brothers and sisters. They have promised to be more inclusive. They have made token efforts to honor queer PoC and to include trans* issues. They even supported GENDA, though the timing is suspect, since they did not do so until it looked like it had strong support to begin with. They have a long way to go, and by using their logo, as opposed to say the more or less all-encompassing rainbow flag, you are sending a message that those efforts have been good enough. They have not.

That said, those of us who already knew all this need to take a deep breath. Just as those of us white folks in the trans* community do not always know all the wrinkles in the challenges facing PoC, our hetero/cis allies do not always know all the wrinkles in our challenges. They are out there supporting the gender non-conforming. The vast majority of them do support our issues too. This one has just caught on. The gay marriage fight has gone viral. All of us in the LGBT community know it is not the be all and end all. It is not the one defining characteristic of our struggles, but it is an enormous and positive change. It represents a huge shift in the attitudes toward all queer folk, including we trans* people.

I have described the fight for our equality as a long road. There is still a long way to go, but the path is becoming clearer and the road signs more promising. It would be sad to lose any progress because we missed a sign, or got out of the car because we were angry they did. You can correct the driver, and even demand the wheel, without shoving them out of the vehicle. Maybe I am too soft, maybe my hippy (sorry dad, know that’s not your favorite word) upbringing shows through too much, but we are all in this together. Yes some of us are more affected than others, but we hurt ourselves when we hurt each other. Ignoring our voices hurts us. Demanding the other is prescient hurts them. We can support and educate each other without doing either of those things. It would be a shame to abandon what we have gained after coming so far.

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6 thoughts on “Good Allies, Bad Allies, and Sometimes That Doesn’t Matter

  1. Christine, while I agree with much of your criticism of the HRC, I found myself just find great joy and comfort looking at a sea of pink variations of the marriage equality symbol. I have not seen this kind of solidarity before.

  2. Pingback: Do you love someone who’s trans*? | Consider the Tea Cosy

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