I have grown up in the LGBTQ+ community. Even before I came out as queer (starting freshman year of college and then officially via Facebook on Coming Out Day this year), I was heavily involved as both an “ally” and as someone with two mothers. I’ve heard the misconceptions and I’ve been there as people yelled slurs at my family. I’ve been told that my family was wrong and unstable and therefore did not deserve the same rights as everyone else.
On Oct. 18 (a full week after Coming Out Day) I saw this month’s Toilet Talk. After the student response to last year’s blurb on Coming Out Day, I figured more attention would be paid this time around. Unfortunately, I was wrong – but I was not surprised. As soon as I saw the blurb I wrote something up on Facebook, but I wanted to share my thoughts with a broader audience as well.
The first issue I had with the blurb was that it touted Coming Out Day as a day “where we celebrate coming out as LGBTQ or an ally!” While I love allies and am all for them being loud and vocal about their support for our community, Coming Out Day is not for them. To state it as simply as possible, please never ever ever “come out” as an ally. Not only does it sound self-gratifying to proudly announce “look at me as I bravely stand up for the basic human rights of another human,” but it minimizes the very real danger that many LGBTQ+ people face when coming out. Some people may stay in the closet their entire lives due to fear for their safety.
My second issue is when the blurb states “those who know someone who is LGBTQ are more likely to support lawful equality.” I don’t even know how to respond to that. What does a straight person’s support of our basic human rights have to do with us celebrating our identities? I am fully aware that when you’re LGBTQ+, everything you do is political. Coming out is in and of itself extremely political. However, the purpose of coming out is not usually to make a political statement In some instances it can be, which is certainly still very valid. I did not come out in the hopes that it would make others suddenly view LGBTQ+ people as valid human beings – I did it because I am queer and I am in a place where I am comfortable living publicly that way. You should support my rights because I’m human, not because you know I’m in this community.
Third– the fact that the statistics in the Toilet Talk are catered to straight people. “1 of every 2 Americans are close to someone who is lesbian or gay; 1 in 10 are close with a transgender person.” Okay great. What about other groups within the LGBTQ+ community? Also, and even more importantly, why not focus on LGBTQ+ people themselves and give statistics on us? For example, listing what percentage of the population identifies within the LGBTQ+ community.
I have so many more thoughts, but honestly, I am tired. I am tired of fighting to be recognized as valid. A blurb like this had so much potential to assert the validity of those who are marginalized due to their gender and/or sexual identity, but instead it was written for the eyes of straight people. If straight allies need information to be overtly tailored to them in order to listen, they are not an ally. However, I will end this by addressing straight allies directly.
Straight allies – you are very important, but this day is not about you. This day is not about showing how many LGBTQ+ people you know. It is about us and us as we claim our identities. Do not reframe it as a day about LBGTQ+ people AND allies. If you are an ally that’s great, but on Coming Out Day your only role is making sure we are safe and loved and validated and supported. And if that makes you angry or uncomfortable, or your reaction is “don’t alienate your allies,” then you are not a real ally.