You don’t know who your allies are until something goes wrong. Gatsby thought he had allies; he had moochers. When it starts to rain, and things get slippery, you find out. Some people will push you off the boat. Some will laugh. Some will film your long fall into the ocean and post it on social media where others will comment that it’s too bad it got posted. Some will go to the other side of the boat and pretend you are not falling off the boat. Some will slyly give you a push and then walk to the other side of the boat and pretend to be surprised when they hear the splash. Some will sail away and disappear into the fog and pretend they don’t know you’re in the water.
When my daughter first came out in high school, she joined the Gay Straight Alliance. Anyone who identified as gay or as an ally of gay people, could join. There were all types, the out, the curious, , the closeted, the queers,, and their friends who lined up to join. My son declared himself an ally. We all declared ourselves allies, but in California, for us, it didn’t feel risky, just warm and loving.
For many members of the LGBT community, coming out is still an enormous risk. We, as humans, rely on community starting with family. Having an embracing family is the first big step. But beyond that, the choice to be out should be only the choice of the person. If you look at the demise of Gawker and Nick Denton at the hands of Peter Thiel, you see the gay wars still raging. Thiel felt that Denton had outed him, and they went to war. Two gay men in Silicon Valley, both with more money than they could reasonably spend, go to war and Denton loses. As Vanity Fair’s David Margolick writes, “a saga in which one fabulously successful gay man tried to ruin another—also encapsulates an epoch in gay history, a time when attitudes in both mainstream culture and within the gay community about acceptance and respectability, privacy and duty, changed so fast that it became impossible for journalists, gay or straight to keep up.”
There are moments when you don’t know what side you’re on, when you feel the left is eating itself. For me, those moments are times when I look around, assess how far I am from land, decide if I can make the swim and see who comes by in a lifeboat with sandwiches and coffee. For my daughter and other members of the queer community, the matter of allies is trickier, and in the next four years, the matter of allies will become dangerous for some.
What I say to myself is this: Always be an ally. Keep your head up. Keep swimming.