How to be a Better Ally to your Queer Friends

wooly-thoughtsDear Straight Allies,

I’m writing you this open letter because I know that you’re awesome people.  And I know that you want to be the best allies that you can possibly be.  But here’s one thing I’ve been hearing a lot lately from my straight allies and it’s making me want to tear my hair out.

When I confess to you that I’m afraid in the wake of this election (and let’s be honest, through the entire election process), here’s what is really not helpful to hear.

“Aww don’t worry, it’ll be okay, you just have to be strong/brave.”

Firstly, don’t tell me it’s going to be okay when I’m essentially watching my home catch fire.  Between promises to repeal a great deal of LGBTQ legislation, to appoint bigoted white supremacists to positions of power, and the fact that other less informed friends and family don’t have any idea that it’s all happening.  I actually had a family member try to tell me that Trump supports gay people, and they linked me to an article showing Trump holding up that (upside down) rainbow flag.  They honestly thought that seeing that meant Trump was an ally.  It made me feel so depressed because they are an otherwise lovely person, but they had NO IDEA what a Trump presidency could mean for me and my wife.  Because they didn’t have to know, it’s not a problem they have to deal with every single day.

Friends, your queer friends are feeling freaked out right now.  We have good reasons to be fearful of what’s coming at us.

Secondly, and more importantly, don’t tell me to be brave.

I am living in a country where HALF of the population thinks that I am less than human.  Thinks I should be given electrical shocks to cure my perversion.  Thinks that corrective rape is a perfect solution to my ‘problem’.  Thinks that I am the same as a pedophile or that I must be down with bestiality.

I live every day in this reality.  So I am brave.  I’m brave every single time I come out (which is a continual process not a one time thing) to someone and I wonder how they’re going to react.  I could tell you stories about sweaty palms and how I can physically feel my heart beat speeding up when I’m mentioning my wife to someone new.   I could tell you about the time I stood across from the Phelps clan while they shouted about how God hated me.

I could tell you about the very palpable fear I felt when my wife and I went to Pride right after the Orlando Pulse shooting.  I actually made a plan for what I would do if there was a shooting at the parade.  I planned how I would grab hold of my wife and pull her behind me, making sure to cover her head.  I made sure we had good sneakers on so we could run if we needed to.  While we marched in that parade, and in a rally downtown near home I watched every window in every building around us, I looked down every alley, just waiting for a sign of something wrong.

I am brave.

So, instead of saying that, what I’d love to hear is this:

Say that you’re sorry things are really hard right now and ask if there’s something you can do to help.  Don’t spout platitudes at your marginalized friends. Just be a friend, listen, and offer to help where you can.  And I mean actually listen, don’t interrupt with a story you heard from someone else or some queer news bite that you looked up.  Listen to us, and trust that we know what we’re talking about.  And when we say that things are looking bad for us, trust us.

And then get involved and take action.