It has come to my attention that a lot of straight, cisgendered (that's "non-trans", first time readers) allies of the LGBT+ community suck at their jobs. I mean, really, really suck. To the point where you wonder why they call themselves allies at all. So I decided to lay down the wisdom I gleaned through my powers of "having fuckin' common sense", for apparently I am Shaun: Lord and God of Obvious Shit. (This line's the origin of my tumblr handle, by the way; if you're a regular reader of my journals, I don't have to explain how that's possible.) Gather 'round and hear my wisdom.
Before we get started, a confession: I was quite transphobic in my youth. I didn't hate or fear trans people, I was just sitting on a mountain of unrecognized privilege which allowed me to blithely spout out what turns out to have been some insanely offensive shit. (I call this "the Trump effect"--see "How to Check Your Privilege and Why" to see why.) (I'd like to preempt anyone whose thinking at this point of making a reply with anything that even resembles the word "etymology" in it by saying that if you do I will smack you! Definition is defined by usage.) The most transphobic things I can remember saying are:
-- "She's a tranny? I knew something was off--no real female is that feminine."
-- "Man, this blows. There aren't enough butch het chicks as it is, and he has to go and make himself into a gay man."
...Okay, seriously, what the fuck, younger me? God, you were such a little shithead. Fucking teenagers.
There's a point to me bringing up this quite frankly embarrassing story. If you look closely at those statements, you will see that even that insensitive prick managed to use the correct pronouns--you have no excuse!
I literally can't think of any reason you wouldn't, short of pure spite. I mean, literally even if you've only been told to "use the correct pronoun" without being told whether that referred to their birth sex or the gender they identify as--which do you think they would prefer to be called by??? This is not exactly a mystery that would baffle Sherlock Holmes, people!!!
Long story short: if you can't use the correct pronouns, get out. Just get the fuck out of my classroom. You need a lesson on remedial civility, and your kind isn't welcome here.
Right, now that that asshole is gone, let's get on with the show:
1) NEVER speak for the people you're allied to.
Look, trying to speak for a minority group when you are not part of that specific minority group is like someone who has never even been in the military trying to speak for Vietnam vets. You can read about the war, you can study the statistics and hear the stories, and you can certainly be sympathetic and help raise awareness, but you weren't there, man! You just. Weren't. There! You can of course be helpful to their cause, but not by pretending you know what they need better than they do. Do not speak for the people you're trying to help. Certainly don't speak over the people you are trying to help. And for the love of all things not annoying, don't assume that you know what gay people go through because you could draw in the third grade (Mackle-buurrrnn).
Above all, you don't get to tell people what's legitimate for them to feel or be.
2) If you ever feel the need to say "We're not all like that!"...don't.
No one thinks all straights and/or cisgendereds (cisses? cissies?) and/or whites and/or males are "like that." We live in a nation that is dominated by white cishet males--they've met us. We are in every piece of media ever--they've seen us. No one needs to be told what we're like--we are literally everywhere. You cannot miss us. I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that not every last one of those whites/cissies/hets/males they have known, met, or ever heard of has been made of complete shit. (And if they have been, what exactly do you imagine you're going to accomplish here? Is your one indignant "We're not all like that!" going to make the cisphobe see the error of their ways? Get a grip.) All you prove by saying "We are not all like that!" is that you're blind to your own privilege to such a degree that you've never considered any of this. And really, I don't even know how that happens.
Speaking of not checking your fucking privilege...
3) Cisphobia and heterophobia are not real and "cishet" is not a slur. (Nor could cis-/heterophobia be as bad as trans-/homophobia even if they did exist.)
And here we get into the real headdesk-worthy territory. Now, think really hard about this: how many times per year have LGBT+ people perpetrated hate crimes upon cishets for being cishets? Anyone have an answer that's larger than a rounding error? No? Didn't think so. Right, on to our second mental exercise: If you were to pick ten cishet people at random and ask them if "cishet" was a slur, nine of them would say "What the hell is a 'cishet'?" You can't claim something is a slur if the vast majority of the people it refers to have never heard of it! And no, it's not "a slur if you use it like a slur"--any fucking word in the world that describes a group of people can be "used as a slur." Hey, Hitler has been known on occasion to use the word "Jew"--is that a slur now?
What it all comes down to is that homophobia, transphobia, racism, and sexism aren't bad because they're offensive, they're bad because they're harmful! People suffer because of this shit! They face harassment, glass ceilings, rape, and murder, just to name a few. You don't have a right not to be offended--my God, do you have any idea how many people are offended by Piss Jesus?--you do have a right not to be harmed.
Tying in with the above...
4) "Hate breeds hate!" "You can't fight fire with fire!" et al.
Look, if you're even here, it implies that you believe that LGBT people are fully-actualized human beings, just like everyone else. So...why do you not expect them to act like it? They're going to be angry, and they're going to vent.
Those of you who bring up MLK are suffering from a gross misunderstanding of history. Firstly, King never advocated letting someone walk all over you, and secondly, there was this guy named Malcolm X running around at the same time with a much more militant take on things, and yet he somehow avoided making a hash of things for MLK. In fact, Malcolm X gave one of his most inflammatory speeches at one of King's events, specifically so that White people would know what the alternative to MLK was!
Furthermore, you're getting infinitely less hate directed at you than they are getting directed at them, so how about you take your own advice? Come on, turn the other cheek and stuff.
I suppose everything I'm trying to say boils down to...
5) Check. Your. Fucking. Privilege!
And I find myself pimping this rant again.
Nothing someone on tumblr says can hurt me. I have the armor of a giant goddamn mountain of privilege. I know they can't hurt me. They know they can't hurt me. I know they know they can't hurt me. So why should I be offended by someone saying "die cishet scum" to no one in particular when it is never, ever going to amount to anything? Meanwhile, one in twelve trans people will end up as a murder statistic.
There is one thing I want to say to the LGBT+ folks, though...
6) You are allies, too.
If you're a white LGBT person, you're an ally to LGBT people of color. If you're a cisgendered LGBT+, you're an ally to the transgendered community. If you're a transgendered heterosexual, you're an ally to the cisgendered LGBT+ community. If you're a (cis- or trans-) man, you're an ally to the (cis- or trans-) women, and if you're either, you're an ally to the nonbinaries. Homosexuals are allies to bisexuals and asexuals, bisexuals are allies to homosexuals and asexuals, and asexuals are allies to homosexuals and bisexuals.
And you know what? Some of you suck at your job. I mean, really, really suck. But don't worry--the aforementioned advice applies to you, too. Particularly #1, #0 (which is the "use the right pronouns" thing), and #5. There's a reason I keep pimping this, you see, and it's that the overarching theme of the essay is that everyone has privilege. If you think you don't have privilege, it just means you haven't checked it. And if you fail to check your privilege, when I call you on your shit, it won't be, say, a heterosexual talking over a homosexual--it will be one ally calling another ally out on their transphobia. You have been warned.