In the last decade or so, LGBTQ people have made massive strides on the road to establishing our rights.
For example, across the United States more than 70% of the population lives in a place with marriage equality (same-sex couples are now entitled to benefits too), other countries like England and Scotland have also passed marriage equality laws, anti-discrimination laws now protect many millions of people from being treated badly because of their gender or sexuality; and there has been an increase in LGBT adopters due to improved laws about same-sex adoptions.
Each and every one of these achievements was made possible with the help of straight people! Wait, what? Don’t worry I’m just kidding – but the idea that the LGBTQ rights movement would not have happened without our straight, cisgendered allies is a familiar, yet incorrect opinion.
Some people argue that because straight, cisgendered people are a majority, queer people should cater to them and be careful not to step on their toes since being nice to heterosexuals is the way to full equality.
But this is not a viewpoint shared by me. I ask the question of why should queer people care what straight people think, when they took our rights away in the first place?
Why should we sit around campfires holding hands and singing kumbaya with these people, when just a few years ago they were happy for LGBTQ people to be treated like second class citizens; second class citizens who once less human rights than animals.
And two queer people I spoke to – Ebony and Jess – had answers.
Ebony explained that catering to straight people “makes it seem like [queer people are] doing everything we can to make [straight people] feel comfortable when they’re the oppressors. It’s backwards and it should be them saying ‘yeah we know we oppressed you and now we want to help you in a respectful way'”.
Meanwhile, Jess added that “[straight people] don’t tone their sexuality for us so why should we do it for them? It defeats the point of the legalisation of gay rights because it makes you feel ashamed, it gives you sense of being oppressed because although you’re considered equal in law, in society, you’re not as liberated as it implies.”
Not only is a softly softly approach unfair to queer people, as Jess and Ebony have said, it also doesn’t work.
People pull up similar arguments when it comes to racial inequality, asking why people of colour don’t just cross their fingers and hope that someday all white people will be accepting and we’ll live in a harmonious society: The simple truth is that the people with the power don’t care and they’re happy to carry on oppressing us all since it doesn’t make a difference to them.
If anyone got anywhere by playing nice and twiddling their thumbs, inequality across the board would have been eradicated long ago.
In addition, if queer people were to sit back and deal with it every time a straight person treated them badly or spoke micro-aggressions (e.g you’re pretty for a trans girl! Or, why do all lesbians dress like men?) then we’d be faced with them all the time. The only way to stop these things from happening is to be clear: we will not tolerate this.
LGBTQ rights are more important than heterosexual feelings and if our straight allies are as invested in helping as they say they are, they should recognise this instead of asking us to play nice.
Two women kiss in front of anti gay crowd