Thursday, March 19, 2009

Allies Aren't 'Homophobes' or 'Transphobes' For Telling The Truth

The late poet Gwendolyn Brooks said it best when she stated that 'truth tellers are not always palatable, there's a preference for candy bars.'

One of the things that irritates me is when the people in the GLBT community who prefer candy bars start hollering 'homophobe' or 'transphobe' when allies offer constructive criticism. Many times that criticism is not offensive, but is offered in the spirit of Kingian love in terms of helping to improve or contribute to the ultimate success of the movement they support.

It takes courage for a straight ally, knowing they will probably take a lot of crap for doing so to stand up and publicly declare that they are with us. Many of them see the interconnectedness of the issues that we are fighting for and realize those issues also impact them as well. It takes even more courage for one who is a politician or similar public figure to do so.

There were many whites, Asians, Latino/a's and GLBT people who helped us (and still do) in advancing the African-American civil rights struggle. Many straight people and transpeople are fighting for same gender marriage equality not only because it is a simple fairness issue, but they see their rights under attack as well. In many cases the anti gay marriage laws are being written to attack unmarried couples and transgender ones as well to mask the bigotry and make hem not as easy to overturn in state or federal courts.

One of the tendencies I see in the GLBT movement is when allies offer criticism, especially when it comes from people of color, cisgender people, or straight peeps, they immediately start screaming 'homophobe'. If the person happens to be a POC, transgender or SGL leveling the charges, they escalate into borderline racist or transphobic personal attacks or claim the person 'doesn't know what it's like to be gay' in order to silence the criticism they didn't want to hear.

The problem with that shortsighted knee jerk reaction is that potential allies who are on the fence about supporting you see the nekulturny negativity. It not only turns off the ally you attacked, it gives the opponents ammo to point to that they'll use against your cause. It also turns away people who were on the fence about supporting you. Many times they are closely observing how you treat the declared allies before they make their final decision as to whether to support your cause or not.

Transpeople are just as guilty as well, and we need to chill with that, too.

Every ally is a precious resource. They can speak for us in settings that we're not able to reach or talk us up in their influence circles. Every person they can get to see the light that GLBT rights equals their rights is one less person signing a petition for an anti gay referendum, voting against us if a referendum occurs or standing up against homophobic/transphobic bigotry and intolerance in their own lives.

So it's time to work smarter, not harder. It's a sign of the maturity level of your movement if you can take the criticism and make the necessary changes. But if you insist on chomping white chocolate candy bars and ignoring valid criticism, sooner or later your movement will start to develop truth decay.

You'll also end up alienating the very people you can't afford to piss off.


Dennis R. Upkins said...


So much for posting this. I've seen this far too many times when an ally or even a member of the minority community calls out (in a loving manner) an issue in the minority community (race, gender, orientation, etc) and they get crucified for pointing out the obvious.

Killing the messenger as it were.

The biggest challenge minorities have to overcome is the minority pass which does more damage than our oppressors ever could.

Thank you for speaking on this.

Monica Roberts said...

Same here Dennis. It's why I wrote it. I'm a little tired of that pattern and it needs to stop.

Jackie said...

Amen sister. You are right that we need listen. We need to NOT push away people. I can't tell you how many times I've talked to people who are on the fence or trying to understand our issues. There are even people who realize that our rights are civil rights that we deserve, but are confused about the facts. They may be offering comments and get it wrong. I've had to talk with these folks, set them right where they are off. I want them to listen. They won't if we jump on every non GLBT we don't agree with. And, yes often they point out things we miss from their point of view. Valuable things and we should listen too.
I love Gwendolyn Brooks.

Feminist Review said...

So true! What a great post!

planet trans said...

Thank You!
I am in awe of people who stand up for others rights sometimes even sacrificing their freedom in the process. Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell life is the very definition of such a person.

Jah said...

I am so glad, big sister, that you are looking at things in a different light and realizing taht we atrract more with honey than we do with vinegar and I hope others will understand taht as well.

Monica Roberts said...

I always had that philosophy.

But I'm not 'scurred' to feed people their words back to them and call out injustice where I see it either.

Jah said...

that you are not, sis. i always go away feeling so sorry for those folks, LOL

genevieve said...

Great and timely post. I have discussed this point on other forums. It believe Prop 8 failed because of what you just discussed.

This is an important time in our history. Constructive criticism should be valued over wrong-headed protocol.

Cherylin said...

as a white hetero female who has done a lot of personal work to be an ally, i appreciate you putting this out into the world. let's stop focusing on our differences, percieved or actual, and get some work done!

Unknown said...

Dude, WTF?

Are you honestly saying that if a white person told POC something to do with telling the truth, you would accept it?

I find this incredibly offensive. Allies should not be praised for telling the truth. And it is wrong for people of one oppression to say that it's okay for allies to criticize people of one oppression, but not their oppression.