“Straight is great.” Don’t get me wrong. I love my straight allies. But there should be a discussion about allyship and what it means to really be an ally. Because New York banned LGBTQ groups from participating in the St. Patrick’s Day parade, Guinness and Heineken pulled their sponsorship from the parade after a bar owner threatened to stop serving it to customers since these companies were helping to sponsor the parade (which raises the question, did these companies pull their sponsorship because they were pro-LGBTQ, or because they didn’t want to lose profits?).
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights in the United States, has come up with his own “cleaver” response. He wants to march in the NYC pride parade under a banner that will read, “Straight is Great.” The NYC pride parade’s response? “Straight is great—as long as there is no hate.”
I have issues with allowing this group to participate in NYC’s pride parade. Both Bill Donohue and his organization are most definitely anti-LGBTQ. His participation in this parade is a snuff to LGBTQ folks; they are not participating in this parade to show support, but rather make a political statement about the rights of straight people that are becoming more and more infringed upon. It’s basically a majority organization protesting the emerging equality that minority groups are gaining.
Which brings me to my ultimate question, is it still okay to let this group participate? Even if there are no open anti-LGBTQ remarks made, said, or did, does this group get freelance to participate? I would argue yes and no.
I say no because pride parades are about the celebration of LGBTQ and the diversity of gender and sexuality. There should not be a group representing a majority (which exists all the time) that refuses to let go of its own privileges, especially at a celebration for the minority. For these reasons it is not acceptable to have “white history month,” “straight pride,” or “men’s rights,” although there are certain extremists who would love to vie for these things. Why would you want to allow a group to participate in your own parade when you know they are doing it with a political agenda in mind, especially one that is against what you are standing for?
Then again, this could be a huge opportunity for our community to reach out to some of our greatest opponents and educate and enlighten them. I would welcome Bill Donohue to a pride event and let him see all of the people who go there, to see all of the faces of individuals who are proud to be who they are, to see diversity. Although he would be a bit overwhelmed by it, and it would certainly be a shock to him, it is also a chance to learn so much more about the diversity of our world and how that should be celebrated.
I suppose what this article boils down to is to ask allies why they are being allies, and how. It might be obvious to see that marching under “straight is great” with the intention of snuffing the LGBTQ back for its backlash against the St. Patrick’s Day parade is clearly not allyship, but what about the smaller things? Are you an ally because it’s cool? Do you think you’re an ally just because you know someone who falls into the LGBTQ spectrum? Do the actions and words you say and do reflect true support of the people you claim to be an ally for?
Being an ally for the LGBTQ community should go beyond simply saying, “I will be there for you.” I actually want you to do something. Go to all of my pride events freely and don’t feel the need to flaunt your heterosexuality there when I have to see it every day. Know when you are taking up too much space. Don’t speak out for me. Let me talk, and help make the space necessary for me to talk if I need it. Support equality, and advocate actively for it. Educate yourself on the issues, and don’t expect the oppressed to have to educate the oppressor. Learn, live, grow each day. Fight heterosexism and homophobia.
“Straight is great, as long as there is no hate,” simply is not enough.