If Your Support Of The LGBTQ+ Community Is Conditional, It Isn't Really Support

by Sa'iyda Shabazz
Originally Published: 
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Supporting people doesn’t mean that you have to live your life the way they live theirs. If you support the LGBTQ+ community, you’re saying you believe in their right to live. That’s literally all it is. To say that you support LGBTQ+ people and then add “but” means that you don’t support us. Support can’t be conditional when it comes to the existence of other people.

During the month of June, I saw a comment somewhere on the internet that said, “I support the LGBT community, but why do they have to celebrate Pride?” I don’t think shock accurately describes the state I was in. If you claim to support the LGBTQ+ community and yet question our need to celebrate Pride, you don’t support us, period. We absolutely must celebrate Pride, because it goes so much deeper than just being proud of being a part of the community. We’re celebrating the fact that we’re still here when there are plenty of people in the world who want us dead.

Whether people choose to believe it or not, the United States isn’t kind to LGBTQ+ people. Members of our community suffer violence at the hands of cisgender, heterosexual people every single day. And that violence manifests itself in all kinds of ways, not just the obvious, dangerous way. It could be something as simple as a dirty look when you’re holding hands with your same-sex partner. Telling your bisexual friend or family member that it’s “just a phase” is another. Or refusing to acknowledge the singular “they” is a valid pronoun to use for an individual. All of these are violent microaggressions that can lead to true danger.

Alex Kingsley/Pexel

Saying you support the LGBTQ+ community and then asking why we have to live our truth out in the open is demeaning. Our entire world is designed for cis-het people. We’re just starting to see advertisements featuring gay or queer couples or individuals, and half the time, it’s flagrant tokenism instead of just a natural choice. No one is out there saying, “I support straight people, but do they have to get married?” Instead we just buy you an overpriced serving dish, choke down dry chicken, and try to avoid talking to your homophobic uncle during dessert.

We live in a world where the cis-het narrative beats us over the head until we feel inferior. Until the 1970s, being LGBTQ was considered a mental disorder. Queer people literally believed that they were fucking mentally ill for their normal biological feelings. So many of them had no choice but to squeeze themselves into the narrow box of heterosexuality or be considered “crazy.” How is that a way to live? Saying you support the community “but” basically shoves us back into the goddamn closet. And let me tell you, the closet is not a pretty place.

Never do I see LGBTQ+ people recoil in horror at the thought of a man and a woman kissing. No parent of a queer kid is worrying they’ll see heterosexuality on their TV shows and be confused. Straight people don’t have to “come out;” the world just assumes you’re straight until you tell them otherwise. And then it’s a constant nagging of, “well can you be?” just to make everyone else comfortable. And when do we get to be comfortable? When we’re dead?

Your support should not be dictated by whether or not members of the community live their lives to your standards. We don’t exist to please cis-het people, just like you all don’t live to please us. Forcing us to try and live the way you think we should live does nothing but reduce us to second or third class citizens. It makes us feel that by merely existing, somehow we’re doing something wrong. That’s no way for people to live. We shouldn’t have to conduct ourselves by a stranger’s arbitrary standards just to be seen as equals.

To support the LGBTQ+ community, you must have a complete sense of empathy. You may not understand our lifestyle, and that’s fine. You may say, “I could never live like that,” and again, we’re not trying to convert you. We’re not asking you to be an equal partner, but we’re asking for you to stand beside us and behind us. You can walk a mile with us without putting on our shoes. Your support is built into the rocket that helps propel our fight for acceptance and respect forward. Supporting us is taking the time to, at the very least, try to understand the struggles we go through. To support the community is to take the time and do your homework. Be aware of not only our current state, but where we began. When you say “but,” you’re proving that you not only lack empathy, but also compassion.

If you’re choosing to be an ally (which is what you’re saying when you claim to support the LGBTQ+ community), you can’t put conditions on it. Being an ally means fully showing up for the group of people you’re choosing to support. It’s not their job to exist within the parameters of your support. And if you need to show your support with the word “but,” then trust me, we don’t want it.

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