LGBTQIA allies should be wary of representing, speaking for community

Opinions Columnist | Public Relations Freshman

Straight allies mean well and are an important part of the greater LGBTQIA community but should make sure not to speak for a group of people they are not a member of and whose struggles they can therefore never fully understand.

Every marginalized community has allies who offer their support. In general, allies are welcomed and are often an important and integral part to communities and their acceptance in society. That being said, allies are not directly affected by the discrimination marginalized communities face, and as such they should make sure not to co-opt movements nor speak on behalf of the communities they support.

Straight allies who attempt to talk on behalf of the LGBTQIA community cannot speak from a place of experience. They are not a part of the community and do not know what it is like to be systematically discriminated against because of their sexuality or gender identity. Ally voices should offer nothing more than support—anything else would be inappropriate.

I understand how straight allies think they are “fighting” for our rights, but to me that is not the case. Allies offer their support and advocacy for our rights and struggles—that is all. It is the LGBTQIA community that “fights” each and every day against vandalism, slander, bad jokes, violence and even murder. That is what fighting is. If I get my ass kicked (as if someone could) and someone aids me afterward they did not all of a sudden “fight” for me, they simply offered their support in my time of need. Helping is not the same as fighting. Allies should not be co-opting the struggles of sexual minorities for their own self-satisfaction.

My intentions are not to slander or distance allies, simply to educate. Straight allies have pure intentions, but sometimes the way they go about things can come off as ignorant and entitled.

Many straight allies are guilty of treating LGBTQIA individuals as their sexuality and/or gender identity instead of as a person. I am not defined by my sexuality any more than straight allies are defined by theirs. Introducing someone as “my gay friend” or “my trans girlfriend” demonstrates a lack of both tact and understanding. Everyone, regardless of sexual preference or gender identity, is a person first. Who someone sleeps with or how they identify themselves is more often than not of little importance.  

When confronted by LGBTQIA individuals about their problematic behavior, straight allies sometimes get defensive. Instead of listening to the critiques of someone actually in the community, they think they have everything already figured out and refuse to alter their behavior. However, as an outsider advocating for a community they are not a member of, their understanding can only go so far—a truth that straight allies must recognize.

When straight allies do not listen to actual members of the LGBTQIA community, it makes me question whether they are allies because they truly want to help or rather simply because they want to make themselves look good. I really would like to believe it is more the former than the latter.

The work of straight allies is not taken for granted and the vast majority of the LGBTQIA community is grateful for their support, kindness and care. The work they do and the support they give is invaluable and vital to the success of the LGBTQIA movement. However, sometimes allies just need to listen before they think, think before they speak and speak before they act—that is all.