In the aftermath of the devastating hate crime recently committed in Orlando, it is more important than ever that straight allies to the LGBTQ community offer their support. It is also increasingly clear to me that many, perhaps even most, straight allies are in need of some guidance on how to provide support in a respectful and effective way.
So. What do we NOT need from you right now? What do we need you to stop doing? This isn’t going to be particularly pleasant for either of us, so let’s rip this band-aid off, shall we?
Stop speaking for us. Stop speaking over us.
Don’t pretend to know what it is like to live with the knowledge that there are people here in your own country that will gun you down gleefully, along with so many of your people, just because of how you were born. Don’t pretend to know if you don’t already know.
If you are not sure if something is okay to say about LGBTQ folks, then you need to ask. And not only do you need to ask, you need to be fully prepared to graciously accept a “no” and to keep your mouth shut instead. Don’t assume anything. Stop speaking for us.
Listen. For the love of all that is even remotely good, listen! Every second you spend centering your own thoughts and feelings about this hate crime against a population that does not include you is an active disservice to the LGBTQ community. It does not count as support to shine the spotlight on your own self, even if you make sure to talk about us and to feel Very Sad about what has happened to our brothers and sisters in Orlando. This is not about you.
Again. This is not about you.
I understand the compulsion to express your sympathy and your solidarity, but you need to take an unflinching look inside and ask yourself, “Am I doing this so that my queer friends and loved ones will know they are safe with me, or am I doing it so that I will be thought of as a Compassionate and Sensitive Ally?”
The LGBTQ community does not need your performance of allyship right now. As long as you are putting on a performance, you are acting. This is of no use to us. Your acting may garner you favor with other straight people who want to feel like good allies, but it will not make the world a safer place for us to exist in. You are distracting from the work so many LGBTQ activists are doing to make our lives marginally less dangerous.
You’re sad. We’re all sad. What happened in Orlando is horrifying in a way words cannot express. But your sadness is not so exquisite, so important that it needs to be highlighted over the feelings and experiences of actual queer people. This is not about you. Stop speaking over us.
“But Ashley,” you whine, “How am I supposed to support the LGBTQ community if I’m not supposed to speak for you OR speak about myself?” Don’t worry, guys. There’s still plenty you can do.
First (and easiest) of all, you can shine your spotlight on us. You can draw whatever attention you can to our words. You can hold up your microphone in front of our mouths. And honestly, when I say “we” I don’t even really mean myself. Go find a smarter, better queer person and share their words with your straight friends and family. Tell the LGBTQ folks in your life that you love them. Then pass the fucking mic. It’s that simple.
Secondly, there is all manner of practical support you can provide. You can donate blood if you live near Orlando. You can donate money to the Orlando Health Foundation or to Orlando/local LGBTQ support organizations. You can contact your representatives about gun control laws. And guess what! You can do these things out of a spirit of service and support toward the LGBTQ community, without drawing self-serving attention to your Very Good and Compassionate Sacrifice, and they will still help a lot!
Remember, friends. This is not about you.