COMMENT | Are you really an ally?; “It’s become clear that passive acceptance of the LGBT+ community is very different from being an active ally who fights to support LGBT+ inclusion”
I think I’ve been rather lucky in my 28 years on this planet, that I have surrounded myself by decent people and I’ve been lucky to know a lot of people that consider themselves to be “allies” of the gay LGBTQ+ community. It isn’t a bad thing by any means – I spend 90 per cent of my time around straight people. I work in a very straight environment and the lockdown has meant that I haven’t spent much time on the scene.
The term “Ally” gets banded about quite a lot in modern society. It’s a term that can be used to describe many different kinds of relationships. Whether these are business relationships. Countries are geopolitical allies. Even enemies can become allies in the face of a common goal. Today; it’s used to describe somebody who supports a group that they are not a part of.
The gay community has had several significant allies over the decades since the Stonewall Riots. From celebrities to politicians. From Karen next door to your third cousin who you’ve not seen since you were a child; but it’s become clear that passive acceptance of the LGBT+ community is very different to being an active ally who fights to support LGBT+ inclusion.
However, in 2020, it seems that our allies in government are becoming few and far between and that is a worrying thing. There are two things that I cannot abide in this world. Hypocrites and Members of the Conservative Party. Unfortunately, these things seem to go together. Allow me to get political for just a few minutes if you will.
Case in point; Matt Hancock. Early this week, our Health Secretary, who has done a shambolic job at protecting this country from the COVID pandemic, was asked by Kay Burley about whether Tony Abbott, ex-Australian Prime Minister and the man who was tipped for the top job at negotiating post-Brexit trade deals and his views about women, the LGBTQ+ community and the elderly was an appropriate person to represent us on the world stage. During this extremely awkward exchange, Hancock seemingly excused Abbot’s comments because he is an “expert on trade”. Oh, dear.
Hancock argued at first that he didn’t think that Abbot was a homophobe or a misogynist by saying, “I don’t believe that is true, I haven’t seen any of his (comments)”. Burley, as sharp as ever, fired back “I just told you what he said, I’m sure you don’t support some of his comments, he’s a homophobe and a misogynist”. Hancock’s response was “He’s also an expert in trade”. I mean – come on. You claim to by an ally to the gay community. You wear an NHS Pride Pin on your lapel, and you are still defending someone because “he’s an expert on trade”. The two things don’t go together. It’s like saying that Harold Shipman was a serial killer, but he was an excellent doctor. By not condemning Abbot for his views, then he is endorsing them. He’s also saying that women and the LGBTQ+ community are less valued than trade negotiations.
Hancock isn’t the only hypocrite in government. Our supposed Prime Minister and I use the word supposed because it’s clear that Dominic Cummings is running the country, after all; why didn’t Cummings get fired for breaking lockdown rules to travel 240 miles to test his eyesight at Barnard Castle? I’m being pedantic, but it’s a fair point to make. We are sacrificed so much for 3 months. We put our lives on hold, but he was given a free pass because it was; “The right thing to do”.
Then there’s Boris. Oh Boris. Boris Johnson has a long record of controversial comments about women, gay people and ethnic minorities. He is the man who has refused to apologise for calling gay men “tank-topped bum boys”, compared Muslim women to “letterboxes” and labelling black Africans “Picanninnines” with “watermelon smiles”. All quotes from Boris himself. He’s said that they were satirical or taken out of context – but should this be an excuse? – no, because he has chosen to use that language.
We’ve got Liz Truss, Minister for Women and Equalities, trying to roll back rights for Trans people by making things harder to transition, and protecting safe spaces for women. Cabinet members like Pritti Patel, who actively voted against gay marriage. These people may say that they are our “Allies”, but they are far from it – and it is a scary place to be for the LGBTQ+ community. Remember, that we are not even 20 years out of Section 28, and there is every chance that something like that could be brought back. Oh, and that ban on conversion therapy – we’re still waiting. If you are curious as to how your MP voted on social issues, there is a great website which shows you exactly who vote for what. It’s there in black and white. Either they vote against, or even worse – “we’re not present”. It’s a kick in the teeth.
Those of us that call out hypocrisy or call out social injustice are often demonised as “woke”. The work “woke” actually means that you are aware of social issues and calling them out; but the right wing has demonised the word and, like the term “Politically Correct”, it now means the complete opposite. Criticising woke culture is actually just another way of the right playing the victim card, rather than actually acknowledging the bigger picture and attempting to make a change. The funny thing is though, when those that complain and attack us, when they are challenged on why they feel that way, they don’t actually have a cohesive argument. They rely on a feeling or something that isn’t tangible. To me, it’s not about left or right, being woke or whatever. It’s about common decency to each other.
Somebody I follow on Twitter posted the following statement and it sums up our government perfectly; “The test of being an #LGBTQI ally isn’t whether you’ll add rainbow colours to your logo in June. The test is, will you stand up for us when we are attacked? Will you distance yourself from those who demean us? Will, you still be our ally when it’s no longer convenient” – and that says it all. The Government clearly do not care about the LGBT community, and we are at a greater risk of having our rights revoked, this means we have to fight and shout louder that we are here, and we deserve to have the same rights as straight people.
Views like Abbott’s, and those who wish to demean and defame the LGBTQ+ community should be challenged, because we do not deserve to be second class citizens to others. It’s easy to say that you support the LGBTQ+ community because you like to go to gay bars, or you love watching RuPauls Drag Race. But when the chips are down, will you there to support us in our time of need?
When our government consider bringing back Section 28. When same-sex marriages are no longer allowed because they are not traditional. Or when Trans women are forced to use men’s bathrooms, because they are not seen as women. It’s then you will prove yourself as an ally.
We may need you soon as you think. When the UK finally transitions out of the EU on New Year’s Eve, the UK will no longer be bound to EU laws such as the European Charter that bans discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
Our true allies are those who are challenging them and continue to challenge because, in the end, that’s how we educate future generations. It’s not that we’re some left-wing, woke-community. We just want what we deserve; acceptance and equality.
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