Sometimes Allies- straight people who support LGBT rights- irritate me.
Journalist Tristan Cork covered a vigil for the Pulse nightclub shooting, and stuck a rainbow pin to his backpack, in solidarity. He didn’t bother to remove it, and a few days later was on the bus in the evening, when someone started shouting at him: I won’t repeat what he said, but it was basically a series of statements of abuse each containing a combination of the f-word, the c-word, the b-word, the word ‘gay’, ‘queer’ and ‘homo’. I am not sure what the “b” word is- bugger, possibly, a term I find quaintly old-fashioned, like “bloody”. He had forgotten the rainbow pin, so didn’t realise why the other was shouting at him. Then it clicked.
He’s a big bloke, and the abuser was weedy, but he still felt frightened of the situation escalating. He got off the bus as the other shouted “get off the bus you fxxking queer”.
He is completely right about checking his privilege. I realised then that every single moment of the day and night as I walk around Bristol or travel on its buses, I subconsciously feel I am the one who is supposed to be there – a white English, straight, able-bodied man. Indeed. I have been noticing mine. He makes a fair attempt at explaining that to other white, English, straight, able-bodied men. But then he says,
Whenever anyone mentions privilege there’s a collective groan.
You’re groaning now, I bet.
No. I wasn’t. I was cheering him on. Then I get to this paragraph of only five words which erases me. He assumes all his audience is straight. It’s a slap in the face.
I know he’s trying to explain to straight people who haven’t really thought about it before. I know he is using his journalistic skills to get through to them. I am grateful. And I don’t want to be grateful, because I don’t want to have anything to be grateful for. He’s an ally, and it rubs my nose in the fact that I need allies, because some people are like the abusive man. I knew that already. I have come across them.
There’s also his line about being jokingly called Asberger’s. Asberger’s is a gift: my friend has high intelligence and a retentive memory, sensitive empathy and an inability to work because people have thoughtlessly, cruelly found him not “normal” and therefore less than normal. It is a sickening waste.
When you say you’re an ally, you point up that I need allies, so you may receive my anger. It’s nothing personal. That thing about wearing safety pins to say you would step in if there was a racial attack. Ooh, look, I have a safety pin just in case you can’t see the brightness of my halo. Well, I don’t wear a safety pin, because I am worried about diverting abuse onto me. I have not seen such abuse, but am not sure I would intervene.