Why Would Anyone Diss Gay Rights Allies?

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A young gay writer just published an opinion piece in The Washington Post telling people to stop displaying the rainbow flag colors on their profile photos.

Why?

Because: "Gay pride is not something you can claim by waving a flag."

Because: "The rainbow symbol is easy to co-opt, but the experience it represents is not."

Because: these people "were celebrating a victory they had no part in winning."

Because: "for many of us, gay marriage is a minor win."

Because: "holding up a victory flag without acquiring the battle scars is an empty gesture at best."

These reasons seem weirdly cranky and solipsistic. The writer can't possibly know how many of the 26 million-plus people who expressed solidarity with gay rights were "claiming" gay pride or not. And why would they be?

Here's a thought: maybe they were just happy, something he seems incapable of comprehending, especially when he disses them as "armchair allies."

Why would expressing solidarity be an attempt to co-opt his or anyone else's struggle? Human empathy is about understanding and feeling with people even if we haven't had the same experiences they have. How else do human rights struggles advance?

And since when are people forbidden to celebrate victories they didn't personally win, even if their support was nothing more than tacit? But again, how can he know what those people have done in support of gay rights before last week And what's the message, then, to allies thrilled by the Supreme Court ruling? "STFU and keep your place"?

As for calling marriage equality a "minor" win, tell that to all the U.S. couples who've been discriminated against in countless ways and treated like second-class citizens -- sometimes for decades. Tell that to all the LGBT youth who know that if they choose to get married someday, they'll be equal everywhere across the country. Establishing marriage equality is an enormous step forward -- though of course more work needs to be done in many areas of LGBT rights. But why badmouth what gay activists -- and their straight allies -- have been working toward for so long? Unless he was hoping to stir up some controversy in advance of a book deal....

The Facebook explosion of solidarity was something to be proud of, whether you're gay or not. It didn't and doesn't detract from anyone's struggle. It doesn't co-opt anything. It's a huge and heartening sign of progress. It gave me hope for more changes to come.

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Lev Raphael is the author of the gay Nick Hoffman mystery series and 17 other books in many genres, which you can find on Amazon.