I meant to post earlier, but then I was surprised with a 6-8 page English paper. Add to that that I’ve been a twitching bundle of triggers this whole week, and you’ll see why I haven’t finished refuting Fowler and Erdvig yet, or done anything else I promised. However, this week is Ally Week, and I’d like to write something about allies before Day of Silence begins (yes I’m posting this at 3 am on Friday but it doesn’t count until I go to bed and get up).
A lot of people hate allies. A typical Tumblr post about Ally Week is “You get a whole week just for being a decent person” or a fake medal inscribed “Meets Minimum Standards of Human Decency.” Such posts protest, and rightly, the tendency for people to call themselves “allies” just because they aren’t actively showing prejudice against queer people. They protest the “allies” who think they know more about queerness than actual queer people and/or think they have more right to speak for queers than the queers do themselves. They protest the “allies” who think that a gay best friend is the latest fashion accessory, who want gay marriage more for their Glee OTP than for their gay neighbors, who won’t use gender-neutral pronouns “because it’s too confusing,” who think it’s all about marriage equality and no other issues, who think they’re open-minded because they’re straight men who like lesbian porn or “tr***y porn”, or straight women who like yaoi porn.
And this needs to be protested! No one is going to get equality by becoming the pet or the fetish of the oppressor. That’s false power. George Washington Carver, in the 19th century, thought people of color could achieve equality by filling a special niche within white society. It didn’t work. It just facilitated exploitation; people who subscribe to such mentalities will be so eager to please that they will endure a great amount of abuse for a small reward. It was only when African-Americans stood up for themselves and said “We want the same things and opportunities as you have, and, yes, that means we’ll be competing for your jobs” did any kind of civil rights progress occur. Being doormats will not help the queer rights movement, either. We need to protest the erasure of our dignity and our voices. The trouble is the way we do it.
The only word we protest is “ally.” Not “false ally,” but just “ally.” And this is a horrible, treacherous disservice to those who truly are allies, who truly help advance our rights and help us survive.
Let me tell you about N. I don’t actually remember entirely how I met her, but it was during the first week or two of college. I’d been in a panicky blur for days, having just learned that cis women don’t want their boobs to disappear and that, therefore, I was not a cis woman. Anyway, by a couple weeks after that, we were pretty much best friends. We sqeed at pictures of baby owls and jokingly conjugated “yolo” as a Latin verb and made devilish plans to explode watermelons during Hell Week (we never actually thought of a feasible way). And she stuck with me as a friend when I went nuts. She calmed me down when I had panic attacks, and didn’t laugh at how I was triggered by Greek typefaces. She uncurled me when I was too triggered to talk without hiding my face, so that I’d learn to speak without being scared and shutting down. She reminded me to eat and sleep during a week when I was too out of my head to spontaneously do either. She made me get help when I didn’t think myself worthy of help: “If you’re having nightmares about your parents, go to the counseling center! Now!” (I’ll have dreams maybe once a week, I haven’t really counted, where I’m
arguing with being verbally harassed by my mom, often in front of my brothers. I’d been reluctant to seek help because the dreams weren’t physically violent and because it’s extremely hard to open my mouth and talk about that stuff in front of authority figures.) She protected me on parents’ weekend when my mom unexpectedly showed up on campus. We stayed up past midnight one night discussing the physics of the hypothetical ideal binder. Once, she called me to ask if I was coming to a Rainbow Alliance event on gender identity–I’d been planning to go, but had forgotten to tell her. When I decided that my name was Chris, I talked to her instead of my queer friends, because in terms of knowledge of queerness, she was my peer, not my elder. She was the one who told me that it was fine if I wanted to be called Chris now, instead of waiting till the beginning of the next school year. She took the trouble to learn my pronouns, and went around making sure everything she said to me was gender-neutral–until I told her that it just made me think more about my incongruous gender (true) and that I didn’t need to do that (also true), and then she pretty much stopped. Tonight, she gave me a hug, and just casually called me “bro.” N. does her best to help me, and to help me help myself. She is an ALLY, the best one I know, and I hate that it seems like so many people hate her.
Let me tell you about E. She lives on my hall next door to me. She’s a senior. So, she’s got a thesis. A thesis, to judge from the seniors I know, is an all-consuming tome that one writes during the second semester of senior year. Hers is on early 20th century fantasy literature, and she’s got about half the sci-fi collection checked out for her thesis. (The science library has an entire room–large classroom size–filled with sci-fi/fantasy books. E.’s probably the only English major who actually uses Collier Library for schoolwork.) But despite the thesis and being in two drama productions, she still takes time for Rainbow Alliance meetings every week. Today, I thanked her for being an ally. She said, “I feel like I don’t do very much–just sit there, and ask questions. I don’t really know anything.” But she’s there. She knows when to defer to those who do know. She’s a touchstone for the hardboiled queer theorists in the group who need to remember how to talk to laymen about queer issues in a way that will be understood. And her support is unwavering. People are drawn to her because they can see that she will not judge them, only calm them and attempt to help them, emotionally if nothing else. When she walks into a room, it feels safer. E. is an ALLY, and though she’s not on Tumblr and thus won’t see most of the ally hate, I cannot bear that she is lumped in with those who are superficial and insincere.
Stop hating allies. Hate false allies, or backstabbing allies, but don’t generalize and lump in the true ALLIES. You only hurt yourself when you do.