Today I saw an article published by the American Humanist Association’s social justice coordinator Rachel Deitch, titled How (and How Not) to Attend Pride Events as an Ally and I’d like to respond point by point to it because to be honest the whole thing seems incredibly pretentious. Before we get into it, I want to define a term I will use throughout in place of the traditional LGBTQ+ acronym: GRSM, which stands for gender, romantic, and sexual minorities.
How to be an ally by Rachel
So to her first point:
Do your research.
She states that before you should even think about attending a Pride event as a cisgender, heterosexual person, you first need to be well researched in the history of Pride and get to know transgender women of color (specifically). This seems ridiculously unreasonable. Sometimes people just being there can show support. There is strength in numbers and requiring someone to have history lessons in order to show up for you now is absurd. People don’t have to be well versed in the history of politics in order to vote in today’s elections. If someone shows up for you to stand up with you, they are an ally.
Put your body on the line and get in between LGBTQ+ people and religious or other protesters or between them and the police.
This seems a bit presumptuous. While some GRSM people (like any other people) may need backup, some may be fine and completely able to defend themselves it seems odd to me to assume that GRSM people need protection from the cishet people. And if they do need someone to jump in, anyone could come to their defense, including other GRSM people. This should not be a condition upon being an ally. If you feel comfortable getting involved in a possible physical altercation type of situation fine, do that. But if you don’t or aren’t able to, that doesn’t make you less of an ally.
Pride isn’t about you.
I’m pretty sure non-GRSM people know that. Here she lays out a set of rules to follow when you attend these events as a “guest.” First up, don’t get exceedingly drunk. This is, in general, a good rule to follow so you don’t get arrested for public intoxication. But this would apply equally to anyone attending a public event. Here’s another… “don’t wear a flag unless you are prepared to explain how you are supporting LGBTQ people every day.” Go fuck yourself, Rachel. Honestly, who do you think you are? Wearing rainbow colors is a common way that people show they support the community. And people don’t have to be an activist for the community every day to be an ally. Sometimes it’s quiet support, sometimes it’s just showing up. No one owes you or anyone else an explanation nor are they required to prove what they do and don’t do on a daily. In this portion she also gives examples of ways you can spend your day being of service, like offering to take pictures, handing out drinks or snacks, and giving up good viewing spots to others.
Her fourth point, I actually agree with:
Don’t assume people around you are gay, bi, straight, trans, whatever…and if you need to know someone’s pronouns ask.
Definitely. Good point. I’m on board. But then she follows it up with this in reference to asking someone their pronouns, “this is the one educational question allowed and encouraged.” The only question ALLOWED? Says who? You? I fully understand that some members of the GRSM community get a lot of questions about various things on a regular basis and I empathize with the fact that this can be frustrating or tiresome and may even feel to some like they’re constantly justifying their very existence. However, there are a lot of people who don’t mind answering honest questions from people who are trying to learn or understand. There are even some who appreciate non-GRSM people who make the effort to be better allies through better understanding.
Okay, next up:
Pride isn’t a spectator event.
I guess that depends on what kind of event it is. If it is a parade, yeah, it kind of is. If it’s a festival or march, maybe not so much. She comments that Pride is a moment when people get to be unapologetically themselves. Maybe for some. Not for others. Maybe some are unapologetically themselves all the time. Pride has different meanings to different people. I’d offer advice that was given in the last section…don’t assume. You don’t know someone else’s experiences. She does say something I do agree with here though, this isn’t really the time or place for gawking or judgement.
The cops aren’t there to be your friends.
While I agree, especially in the U.S. that there are issues with police aggression towards minorities, this is not always the case. And believe it or not, there ARE police officers who are members of the GRSM community. Rachel also says, “Don’t thank uniformed cops for showing up and don’t take pictures with them.” How about you just mind your own business? Why can’t we thank them? And what is wrong with taking pictures with them? You don’t know them. Maybe they are a part of the GRSM community or an ally. Maybe they are a wonderful person just doing their job. You don’t know them. How about we just go by the general rule, don’t be a dick?
Patronize LGBTQ-owned and operated businesses.
Okay. It’s certainly fine to do this. But to be honest, I don’t know who owns every business or their GSRM statuses, so I’m not sure what the expectation here is. Should we be calling businesses and asking invasive questions?
And that leads us to number 8:
This isn’t an educational moment, don’t ask invasive questions ever, but also not today.
Okay, so let me get this straight…people are supposed to just know things and can’t ask affected communities anything, ever to try to get to know them (which Rachel actually said we were supposed to do in number 1 “get to know transgender women of color”) or to try to better understand them? It makes more sense that people just respect each other’s’ boundaries. If someone doesn’t want to answer questions, they shouldn’t be pressed or made to feel like they have to. But you can’t expect people outside of the community to just know or understand things if they aren’t ever allowed to ask questions. So…
Don’t call yourself an ally.
This is followed by an entire paragraph of grandstanding about what allyship is and that if you’re not doing this specific thing or that specific thing to support the GRSM community, then you aren’t an ally. Rachel, you don’t get to define “ally.” In this section, you talk about cishet people and use the term “we” so I am going to make the short leap and assume that you’re not a member of the community. What makes you think that you are the arbiter of what being an ally means? Even further, members of the GRSM community have different ideas on what being an ally means. So if someone wants to consider themselves an ally based solely on the fact that they support gay marriage, or because they go to a Pride event every year, or because they take their kids to Drag Queen Story Hour, who the hell are you to say they aren’t? It makes more sense to accept even the loosest sense of allyship and build on those relationships than to alienate those who you don’t consider good enough and push them away.
And finally, 10:
Do the work before and after Pride; being an ally takes work every day.
I both agree and disagree with this sentiment. If you give money to anti-GRSM groups who actively work against the community 11 months out of the year and wear the rainbow flag in June, I agree. But I also don’t expect everyone to want to be an activist. Sure, I think that part of being an ally is supporting and voting for politicians who are GRSM-friendly. You can be an ally and not be actively doing things every day.
In conclusion, I’d just like to thank Rachel for her woke-ass perspective but I feel as if this whole thing is some kind of virtue signaling attempt to get ally points in which she talks down from her soap box to the GRSM community and allies about how to do things “the right way.” We don’t need a gatekeeper, Rachel…and if we did, it most certainly would not be you.