The other day I was scrolling through Facebook when I stumbled upon a post regarding the Rainbow pride filter that had flooded the site following the SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage. The post, written by a member of the LGBTQ+ community, chastised cisgender straight people for essentially appropriating the rainbow flag for its trendiness and popularity, questioning the sincerity and critical engagement of their “allyship”, which is something I had not thought about before.
For the most part I was excited and proud to see the stream of Rainbow pride filters across my newsfeed. It was nice to see public affirmation that so many people were supportive of the ruling, and it felt like it was a true victory for people like myself as well as those who have stood in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community through every trial and tribulation. As much as this was a victory for me, it felt like it was also a victory for the mom with the gay son, the best friend who took her lesbian friend to prom, and the grandparent who took in his or her trans* child when they were kicked out of the house. And while the ruling may not have directly affected the cis-het* community as large, I thought they had every right to be as happy as the ruling as I am.
I’ve thought about it more, however, and realized that there is some validity behind the post that critiqued the usage of the flag by the cis-het community. There are people who “Rainbow-ed” their profile without ever having acted as a meaningful ally to the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, I saw one girl simply rainbow a picture of her from vacation, without even making a caption about why she did it and I watched another person drop the rainbow profile after only a few hours. To me, these people aren’t allies; they are people who are latching onto a popular trend to get “likes” and look good at the same time. What these people don’t understand is that the LGBTQ+ community is intelligent, enough so to see through your bullshit. We don’t think you’re a good person just because you act as if you are one, and we know that if things got rough that you’d be the last group to extend a helping hand.
Being an ally is so much more than just saying “YAY gay marriage” or asking your gay male friend to go shopping with you. It’s more than complimenting Caitlyn Jenner’s appearance and it’s definitely more than making your profile picture rainbow. Being an ally is about standing in solidarity, it’s about examining your own biases and privileges all while remaining critically engaged. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to see how many people support LGBGTQ+ rights; it feels good to see so many rainbow profiles, but we need people to do more than say it’s okay, we need people to champion and support the community. We need people to stop saying “fag” as a synonym for stupid, we need people to stop equating gender with genitalia, and we have to be active in confronting and educating people who say problematic things about the community. This ruling is great, but there is SO much that has to be done, and I’m afraid that a lot of people with rainbow profiles don’t understand that. They think that now marriage is legal that the fight is over, but the truth is that we have a lot of work ahead of us. Sitting around and waiting for a movement to become popular enough for you to make a profile pic that will help you get a few likes will not create change. An ally isn’t someone who says, “you rock, don’t ever change”; an ally is someone who says “I’ve got resources and I want to help. What do you need me to do?” Talk is great, but change is better, and if you aren’t willing to fight for that, you aren’t an ally. I guess some things are that black and white.