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.
As someone who has been violently assaulted on two separate occasions for being perceived as being non- straight, when it was probably just my social clumsiness (I’m an Aspie), I get that much of the time I’m actually a person of privilege (Pakeha, male) compared to many who are part of a minority. But I’m also aware that at other times when I’m unable to hide my autism completely, I’m treated with obvious and open contempt, almost as if I was subhuman.
Most people who haven’t had to live for in the shoes of the non-privileged really can’t comprehend what it’s like, even though they might understand it intellectually. I’m grateful for support from whatever quarter. They might not understand what is is like to experience bigotry but they can still be real allies.
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Yes. And there is that resentment, which means I don’t want to let them get away with anything. It’s the Pulse shooting, because in Florida they were outsiders, not properly protected by law. Even if someone is an ally that does not make me their friend- they have to earn that.
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I get that. I do it I’m quite sure, but I get it too. ‘We’ the people often doesn’t include women, or certainly anything specific to the generally female experience, whereas ‘we’ the people it so frequently about men. And I’m suspicious of self-trumpeting ‘allies’ after Arb.
The Arbourist (sic)’s particular brand of feminism allows him to feel righteous about being nasty to people. Your desire appears to me to be being a decent human being, rather than seeming. You are allowed to make mistakes. Tristan Cork here is making a very good point, and being vulnerable- he has been an ally for a long time, but now he sees why that is so necessary. I love that he shares his moment of realisation, and I wish he did not refer to the “Orlando” shooting.
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