Posted by Damini Mehta
The struggle for the LGBTQIA+ community for acceptance has come a long way, and the youth seem to be the ones who have become flag bearers for this change. The community enjoys a rising support from the youth. However, this allyship has certain drawbacks. Such overt support, while very welcome within those that claim to be straight allies, are sometimes very surface level.
There is a distinction that must be drawn to uncover how straight allies, who claim to have a liberal mindset, act and interact when given space within the community. While they may seem welcoming of all genders and sexual orientations from a distance, their behaviour betrays otherwise when they participate or interact with queer people in queer spaces. These interactions are truly telling of how important it truly is, now more than ever, for the community to realise who allies are, and be cognisant of those that seek to encroach upon the safe spaces that the community has fought for.
We must realise that such allies seek to bring heteronormativity to queer spaces, and that in itself defies the purpose of such a space. Instead of coming into such spaces with a truly open mind, they seek to bring in their biases. These biases manifest themselves within interactions between queer and straight people. One might claim to be an ally, but get queasy and uncomfortable if a same sex queer person puts their hand on your shoulder as an expression of camaraderie and friendship.
A lot of straight allies view queer spaces as alien, and therefore when welcomed into those spaces they seek to heterosexualise it under the veil of being allies. This becomes extremely evident when cis-het people who claim to be allies ask “Who’s the woman/man in the relationship?” very nonchalantly, and when confronted with the possibility of that dynamic not existing, they justify it by saying that they’re trying to understand the queer space through their own experiences, to relate better.
One might claim to be an ally, but get queasy and uncomfortable if a same sex queer person puts their hand on their shoulder.
Such biases also manifest as privileges that “allies” carry. When allies appropriate queer spaces – whether that is a discussion on how queer oppression is carried out or when they see celebration of queer expression as something “quirky” – such people inherently come with the mindset to take away from the already limited and restricted queer spaces. Under the garb of being allies, when confronted with queer expression, something that they see as different from themselves, they try to understand it by making it their own. This is how pseudo liberal allies continue to solidify heteronormativity.
Their heteronormativity is also expressed when they see genuine queer expression and resistance as something they should admire from a distance to seem like a part of the movement, while making no concrete contribution to it. Such seems to be the state of those “open-minded” allies that seem to only be in support of the movement from a distance, simply because they see it as a trend or something that adds to their personality quirks. This sort of non-committal attitude is how allies re-establish the divide between the heteronormative society and the LGBTQIA+ community; a divide that the community since its inception has been trying to erase.
Some “open-minded” seem to only be in support of the movement from a distance, simply because they see it as a trend.
However, that goes to say that there do exist certain allies who make significant contributions, while being sensitive to the space they’re in, knowing that they’re only guests welcome in the space. They have continued to make significant contributions to the furthering of the movement, and create safer spaces for the community.
That being said, those that would like to call themselves allies need to realise that they need to leave behind their biases and their conditioned heteronormative understanding when they enter queer spaces; and that these spaces will not cater to their needs. The queer spaces are not obligated to help you come out of your biases, it’s a burden the community cannot afford to take.
When you do choose to enter queer spaces as a straight ally, come into it with a truly open mind, one that is not uncomfortable interacting with same sex people an one that is ready to contribute to the movement and not just reap the benefits that accrue.
Damini likes to have intellectual conversations and basic equal human rights. You can follow her on Instagram @allhaildamu.
Featured Image Source: Skeptic’s Play