Just because people call themselves LGBTQ “allies” doesn’t mean they automatically stop feeling some weird, deep-seated resentment against us. And, although I know the term “performative allyship” has been used and overused, that doesn’t mean it’s not real and still actively working against us.
In a Northwestern University study published online last month, a gag-worthy 8.5% of “allies” expressing support for sexual minorities still didn’t want to live next to a gay person. The study, which utilized decades of data from dozens of countries and regions, included 545,531 respondents who rated their sexual prejudice on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being “fully accepting” of gay people. Among those giving themselves a 10 — who I assume are the type of “allies” to memorize the lyrics of a “Dangerous Woman” era Ariana Grande song just so they can sing it with their gay besties — 4,714 said they wouldn’t want a homosexual neighbor. The study referred to these respondents as “superficial allies,” but honestly, I’d just call them snakes.
The research didn’t get to the bottom of why, exactly, these people wouldn’t want gay neighbors. Is it because they know we’ll blast “Renaissance” on our speakers late at night? Is it because they think the outfits we wear just to pick up our mail are better than any of the hastily made cocktail dresses they possess? Or is it because they’re worried some of our glow will rub off on them and they won’t know how to carry it?
Whatever the reason, this study sheds light on just how hypocritical all types of allyship in our culture can get. It reminds me of how, for a long time, a lot of white folks who would never call themselves racist didn’t want Black neighbors. In my opinion, this is the most dangerous type of supposed allyship — one in which the ally gets to define the terms of their loyalty, without actually listening to the marginalized group about what kind of support it wants and needs.
The author of the research paper suggested that offering LGBTQ people more legal protection and inclusion could help stigma against them to subside. But honestly, it feels more complicated than that. At a time when no one wants to be considered homophobic, few are willing to admit to or learn about their own homophobia, which is scarier to me than people who are upfront about the fact they don’t support us.
I’m not fully convinced that the state recognizing and protecting our identities is the only solution. There will always be people who say one thing to our face while believing something else completely, and we just need to remember that those people exist.
To fight performative allyship, queer and transgender people should be the ones to decide who our allies are. But until we can set up some sort of a judicial system where we judge every ally’s true intentions, it’s the burden of those self-proclaimed allies to prove that they are not just in favor of us when it is convenient for them.