Performative Allies Are Out Here Being Fake As Hell

A new study shows that a good chunk of "allies" would not want a gay neighbor. How does that even work?
Dusan Stankovic via Getty Images

Just because people call themselves LGBTQ 鈥渁llies鈥 doesn鈥檛 mean they automatically stop feeling some weird, deep-seated resentment against us. And, although I know the term 鈥減erformative allyship鈥 has been used and overused, that doesn鈥檛 mean it鈥檚 not real and still actively working against us.

In a Northwestern University study published online last month, a gag-worthy 8.5% of 鈥渁llies鈥 expressing support for sexual minorities still didn鈥檛 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 鈥渇ully accepting鈥 of gay people. Among those giving themselves a 10 鈥 who I assume are the type of 鈥渁llies鈥 to memorize the lyrics of a 鈥淒angerous Woman鈥 era Ariana Grande song just so they can sing it with their gay besties 鈥 4,714 said they wouldn鈥檛 want a homosexual neighbor. The study referred to these respondents as 鈥渟uperficial allies,鈥 but honestly, I鈥檇 just call them snakes.

The research didn鈥檛 get to the bottom of why, exactly, these people wouldn鈥檛 want gay neighbors. Is it because they know we鈥檒l blast 鈥Renaissance鈥 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鈥檙e worried some of our glow will rub off on them and they won鈥檛 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鈥檛 want Black neighbors. In my opinion, this is the most dangerous type of supposed allyship 鈥 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鈥檛 support us.

I鈥檓 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鈥檚 true intentions, it鈥檚 the burden of those self-proclaimed allies to prove that they are not just in favor of us when it is convenient for them.

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