LIFE

There’s more to be an LGBTQ+ ally than not saying faggot

I remember in June 2016, shortly after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, where 49 queer people, predominantly PoC, were killed at the hands of Omar Mateen just for being gay, there was a huge outpouring of solidarity for the LGBTQ+ community. Messages, such as ‘Love is Love!’ and ‘Gay rights are human rights’ flooded social media as people, irrespective of their sexuality, responded in horror and disgust that in the 21st century queer people could still hated by swathes of the population, so much so it warrants killing us.

It was beautiful to see something positive come out of such a heinous attack on our community, with high profile names speaking out and reiterating what gay people have been saying for decades: we’re people just like you who deserve respect. And call me naïve, but for a short time it felt like there was a real change taking place.

Oh, how wrong I was! Last year I was almost physically attacked on the tube by a group of young men. Why? I was holding my then boyfriend’s hand while we sat there on our home after a day out. It was a Saturday night and the train was packed. I looked around at the people around us wondering if they could see what was happening and if they were going to say something. But conveniently they all busied themselves reading their books, checking their tablets and admiring the intricate patterns of the tube floor.

You’re probably wondering what on earth any of this has to do with anything, which is fine. But let me explain.

Earlier this week, Attitude Magazine released its latest cover celebrating the important role LGBTQ+ allies play in our on-going fight for equality. And who was the famous face that Attitude Magazine saw fit to represent the hard work allies do in using their platform to speak up about our rights and freedoms? James Corden.

The cover has of course upset off a lot of people on Twitter, with many people scratching their heads and tweeting the magazine asking how exactly James Cordon fits the bill as an LGBTQ+ ally when he hasn’t really done anything for the community. I mean, unless you consider kissing Harry Styles in an episode of Carpool Karaoke, because two men kissing is just SO! FUCKING! FUNNY! or kissing Kevin Spicer, Donald Trump’s former press secretary, an act of allyship and progressive, I don’t see how he’s helping us.

James Cordon Attitude Cover
James Cordon graces the cover of Attitude Magazine

And really, that’s the main thing with being an ally. It actually involves doing something of value to help the LGBTQ+ community. Using your platform as a straight person because for some reason people are more inclined to listen to and believe a straight person when they say homophobia is bad instead of when a gay person says it. It means actively challenging damaging stereotypes and speaking up when those around you use slurs like faggot and dyke, thinking it’s just ‘banter’. What being an ally is NOT is having gay friends and thinking to yourself ‘oh the gays are okay!’ because here you’re only doing the bare fucking minimum by not being a homophobic prick. Thinking it makes you an ally by default is the same as saying you can’t be racist because you have black friends.

So please tell me, what has James Cordon done for us lately to warrant this cover? Because from where I’m standing it’s not a lot. Wasn’t this the same man who made a joke about the current Harvey Weinstein sex scandal, because apparently sexual assault and rape make for great punchlines.

Part of me wants to play devil’s advocate here and say his Carpool Karaoke skit has gifted the gays with incredible comedy moments with gay icons including Britney Spears, Lady GaGa and Mariah Carey that we all reference and make into memes. But even I know this is an almighty reach.

Looking around the current media landscape, it’s not like it’s hard to find other celebrities who are true LGBTQ+ allies, doing incredible work and using their voice to speak up for those of us who can’t. Little Mix band member Jade Thirlwall routinely uses her platform to champion LGBTQ+ equality. In late 2017, the singer had a drag themed birthday party, which helped raise money for Stonewall. And just the other week she was pictured at the Stonewall offices tweeting about how proud she was to be working closely with the charity to learn more about what she can do to help and encouraging her legion of ‘Mixers’ to do the same.

Jade Thirlwall
Jade Thirlwall at her drag themed birthday party in December 2017

To make James Cordon’s cover even more of a shit show, Attitude released a second cover for the same issue only this time with Drag Race star and CBB winner, Courtney Act.  Looking a vision in millennial pink, she spent the last month educating the entire nation about queer history, trans rights and dispelling myths around gender, while being forced to live with haggard bigot Ann Widecombe. Yet an actual driving force within the LGBTQ+ community was made to play second fiddle to a man who not long ago thought having a news reporter acting really flamboyant while covering stories about war would be the basis of a funny TV skit because, you know? Gays innit.

Gay media needs to be really careful about who they consider an ally of ours because dishing out these titles to anybody devalues the hard work true allies continue to do for us. When I was on the tube that night I almost got attacked, no one did a damn thing. I’m not expecting everyone to fight my own battles, but if you’re going to claim to be for us, you better be ready to step up. It helps no one to pay the queer community lip service and jump on the ‘Love is Love’ bandwagon every time Pride rolls around and then Ray Charles all the discrimination we endure the rest of the year.

Stonewall recently launched their ‘Come Out for LGBT’ campaign to encourage non-LGBTQ+ people to stand proud in solidarity for us and learn how they can be better allies. This is a fantastic step in the right direction and really highlights the huge amount time and effort that goes into speaking up for us because, honestly, if you say you’re an ally of the LGBTQ+ community then you better work bitch.

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