If there’s one thing any queer teenager wants, it is support. We are coming out in a world dominated by straight people, and the last thing we want is to be alienated and isolated in a world that was not built for people like us. This is why we, as the LGBTQQA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Asexual) community, are grateful for allies and gay-straight alliances. Why we love to see the straight people around us supporting and encouraging us.
It is sometimes hard to differentiate between things that support queer people and things that support stereotypes of queer people. This is a common trend among allies in high school especially, where teenagers do not have a full understanding of the incredibly multi-faceted LGBTQQA community. This causes pain. Not as much pain as being called homophobic slurs or being physically threatened, but hurt all the same. All stereotypes are bad stereotypes. When I hear things like, “I want a gay best friend!” or, “Lesbians are so hot!” it lumps an entire community into strict categories; effeminate men on TV or breasty chicks in porn. Now, there is nothing wrong with the people in these categories. I respect them as much as anyone else, but I know that the people making these statements, forcing my community into their idea of gay people, are marginalizing me, or anyone who else who does not fit into these categories. There are queer people who are feminine and queer people who are masculine and queer people who are neither or both. There are queer people who like parties and queer people who don’t. There are queer people who are assholes, and queer people that are the nicest people you will meet. Queer people are multifaceted and diverse, and don’t deserve to be stereotyped, which ignores their individual merits as people.
As the San Francisco Gay Pride March draws near, and as the Supreme Court comes ever closer to a decision on same-sex marriage, it doesn’t surprise me that gay rights are a topic that comes up often. What disappoints me is how it comes up.
About a month ago, it became a meme to put an equality sign with a red background as a profile picture. I was happy to see so many red banners on my news feed, but I ran across a few that were clearly parodies of the equality sign. I was slightly baffled – an equality sign made out of joints, for example, confuses me rather than encourages me. Are you fighting for marriage equality? Weed equality? Gay Stoners? It matters little anymore, since many people have become bored of their profile pictures being red lines, and have changed it in favor of a cute selfie, or another trend circulating around.
The Pride March continues to be a source of frustration. In the months leading up to it, I am surrounded by straight allies who talk about going dressed up to pride, as though it were Bay To Breakers, Part Two. A tip for the allies out there; the pride parade is showy and elaborate because it celebrates embracing our own sexuality as queer people and encouraging others to do so. It shows that you can live through being marginalized by society and it shows that you can come out to a large group of people who will support you, even if some of the people close to you do not.
LGBTQQA people have historically been institutionalized or jailed because of their sexuality – the pride parade shows how far we have come from the Stonewall Riots and other brutal marks of inequality that initially sparked the Gay Rights movement. For a straight person to attend, wearing glitter and drinking vodka out of a Camelbak, doesn’t necessarily show respect or support for the LGBTQQA community, it shows a devotion to partying and being part of a “scene.”
Although I am frustrated, I don’t mean to attack all allies. If it were not for straight allies, I would have come out into a much different world than I did, and so would many other queer people. I’m only suggesting that an effort should be taken to remember why it is important to be an ally, and be sure that you are not pigeonholing queer people into a stereotype of glitter and partying with your actions.