By Bokchoi | @a_bokchoi | 6:50 PM EST, Sun. June 16, 2019
Happy Pride everyone!
For those who many not know how Pride Month came into existence, according to the Library of Congress, “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month is currently celebrated each year in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. The Stonewall Uprising was a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. Today, celebrations include pride parades, picnics, parties, workshops, symposiums and concerts, and LGBTQ Pride Month events attract millions of participants around the world. Memorials are held during this month for those members of the community who have been lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS. The purpose of the commemorative month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally.”
Pride is always an interesting month, but even more so with the rise of social media as it is a conduit for voices previously unheard (or only locally accessible) for worldwide broadcast. If you have an internet connection and a keyboard, congratulations, you’ve got yourself a platform.
Thanks to this, even the most nonsensical voices are amplified. Every year, without fail, we see cries for “Straight Pride.” This is ignorance at its finest. In a world where being cisgendered and heterosexual is considered the norm—the default—there is an insistence on having the entire pie to themselves, when there is plenty of pie to go around. It is insulting because Pride is a protest born out of violence, a plea and a stand to ensure our right to exist. Yes, it involves being proud of who we are, but it is also a remembrance of those who came before us to ensure we are persecuted a little less and a condemnation of the violence that pervades our culture when someone is different.
Pride is also unfortunately used as a cash grab. Companies who have never been particularly vocal about LGBTQIA+ rights adorn profile photos with rainbows and fill their platforms with commentary on inclusion. “We see you,” they say, all while toting merchandise that screams “Yas Qween!” and other generic LGBTQIA+-isms they lifted off of a quick Google search. Once it hits July 1st, all of the rainbows and solidarity just vanish because it is no longer profitable. “You’ve had your month,” they seem to say, and then everything is business as usual.
It makes sense though. After all, being an Ally is the new Black; it’s in, it gives you clout, and in a world of woke culture, clout is a highly coveted, social currency. Especially amongst Internet personalities such as Twitch streamers, “wokeness” gives you the ability to build an audience and increases your shot at being an influencer.
Let’s have a quick chat about being an Ally, and the possible performative aspect of it by discussing usage of the LGBTQIA+ tag on Twitch. If you aren’t part of the community, I don’t agree with using the tag.
I’ve seen people using it for “Allyship,” claiming that they’ve created a safe space and are using it to advertise as such.
This leads me to ask: How do you personally know it’s a safe space? If you don’t share that identity and those experiences, how can you claim that you have a safe space for a marginalized community? Marginalized folks know firsthand what needs to be done to keep themselves and those around them safe.They know how to fight for themselves through lived experience. What do you know about the oppression and the violence we face?
Allyship doesn’t equal identity. You can use your platform to help others, but that doesn’t make you LGBTQIA+.
I view tagging as a method for folks to find people just like them. To use the tag, but not share any aspect of those identities, it almost feels like queer-baiting or a way to broaden your audience through inauthentic means. Allies are defined by their actions. Adding a simple tag does not automatically make you an Ally.
You are not oppressed in the same way. Don’t make your Allyship about you. Support the voices that need to be heard. You don’t have to identify as one of us to be an Ally, (that’s the beauty of being an Ally) but to assume a position of being our spokesperson instead of amplifying our voices is centering yourself.
You don’t have to use tags to prove you’re an Ally. That’s just disingenuous and performative.
You may ask while throwing your hands up in exasperation, “So then how can we support the LGBTQIA+ community?” After all, whatever you do seems to be lambasted by the community or labeled as not good enough. Take this article for example; here I am, criticizing the use of something as innocuous as a Twitch tag. Well, this exasperation is mostly due to an assumption Allies like to make. Instead of asking the affected community how to best serve them, most Allies tend to take a stab at what will help, resulting in a lot of showboating and little-to-no actual forward progression. They say, “Hey, I did something!,” in the hopes of hitting that feel-good receptor in their brains. If this upsets you, you may want to reevaluate if you’re truly an Ally. Your feelings shouldn’t come before our rights.
Here’s one suggestion: Instead of using the tag, have panels that indicate that your stream is a LGBTQIA+ friendly place. Have visible rules and actively enforce them. If you notice revolting behavior, such as transphobia or homophobia, strike that hatred down with an intensity as if you were wielding Thor’s Hammer Mjölnir. Boost our voices with your platform, but don’t make it about you.
As for other methods? Ask your LGBTQIA+ friends and family how to better serve them… and not just this month, but all year round.
A_Bokchoi is a jack-of-all-trades artist and content creator based in New York City. When she’s not daydreaming during her 9-to-5, she navigates the waters of adulthood as a Queer Korean-American and focusing on what it means to carry two cultures on her back (while also engaging in weebery and spitting out terrible puns). You can find her streaming at twitch.tv/a_bokchoi.
By Bokchoi | @a_bokchoi | 6:50 PM EST, Sun. June 16, 2019