Ally-ship… Beyond Just Friendship
The topics of the two posts am about to write today have been playing on my mind for the last two days. I just kept it bottled up, perhaps to open up about it in therapy, until … until late last night I happened to talk to two different people, who by chance, brought both the topics, one each; and I was like, this is not just my problem, and so, I might as well write about it because people can relate to it!
Who’s an Ally?
Someone who supports you in something. Right?
An ally to a queer person or queer community is someone who accepts, affirms, and supports their existence, their rights, feeling, emotions, needs, wants, and requests etc.
Who’s a Queer person?
Anyone who does not identify as a ‘straight’ or a heterosexual person. A ‘straight’ or heterosexual person is one who is attracted to the opposite sex, whereas a queer person may be attracted to the opposite sex, the same sex, or anyone in between (like trans-persons, hijras, etc.).
Who is a Friend?
[This is up to the reader to define.]
So while I was myself struggling with the thought of ‘feeling disconnected’ with my straight friends, I got a message from a ‘non-straight’ friend asking me to address, through my mental health page on insta (@mann_conversations), if queer folks can become ‘heterophobic’. Because they too felt like not picking their straight friends’ calls; and at that moment, I decided that my feelings of disconnect are not unique to me, so I must write this post.
While it has now become an effort to speak to or hang out with most of my straight friends, it’s not the same for all. I still do enjoy the company of a few of my oldest straight friends and in fact one of them, unknowingly, gave me such a pleasant surprise that I wanted to write about it too! It’s really an example of how to be an ally, not just a friend. ☺️ 🏳️🌈
So from here on it’s going to be a long-ish post because am about to narrate my experience as a short story. If you’re done with it already, you might wanna leave.
Story Begins ….
G: Good Friend #1
B: Good Friend #2
S: Good Friend #2’s random friend
More than a decade ago I made a few good friends, one of them G, and the other B. While I spent the initial few years of this decade closer to G, I spent the next few closer to B, and recently was reminded of the reason why.
Once I had gone to meet B somewhere and amongst their other random friends present there was this friend ‘S’. Now this was almost half a decade ago and since I saw many of B’s friends that time, I quickly forgot about their friend there called S. Recently, by a mere chance encounter, S and I ran into each-other. This time we spoke afresh, not as B’s friends only. It so happened that we both came out to each-other. I immediately realised that my friend, B had known someone non-straight besides me and could’ve chosen to out me to them just out of excitement but never did.
Sadly, this realisation came with another one. That G had outed me to every Tom, Dick & Harry they came across. Like my sexuality was some scandal, some sensational breaking news that G must talk about to make friends; like it was impossible to see me as the person they’ve known for half a decade before, now that I am out to them, they must out me to everyone else. And you know sadly, I realised, I was bending over backward, not coming out to our mutual friends because the moment I would’ve, they would’ve linked me to G (in a non-platonic way) and G had once been very clear that they wouldn’t be okay with ‘non-heterosexual’ labels. So while I was out to all my close friends from my masters, workplace, and even my parents (imagine!), I couldn’t come out to the friends I had known for the longest time because I was protecting the sanctity of G’s ‘straight-sexuality’… whereas G was going around outing me just for fun. I know there was no malice to it, but was it the right thing to do? My sexuality was not a sensation, and whereas B understood it and the need for privacy around it, G, who had strictly expressed discomfort in being labelled anything besides straight, didn’t.
Now, some straight friends ask me, why is it a bother if someone outs you, if you, yourself are out. So few reasons:
- Most importantly, no-one’s sexuality should be a sensation.
- Some of us, even if out to our friends, selectively, are eventually forced to (or decide to) marry. So, it’s always better to not speak about it without their permission because it might create trouble for them in their later life-decisions.
- India is not a very welcoming country, especially when homosexuality was illegal. People get blackmailed, bullied, trolled. So it’s better not to spread the news like wildfire because you never know where it’ll reach.
- Some people are out to their friends but not their parents. The #1 reaction, still, parents give to their ward’s alternative sexuality is that they’ll disown them. Can you imagine being disowned just because of who you are? Aren’t your parents paying for your education and marriage? Then do you think it’s fair that someone gets disowned because of who they are? More so because you told someone who said something in front of their parents?
- Workplace discrimination is still a thing. Even though in the Pride Month (June) you’ll see all logos go rainbow 🌈, inside the work place, people are still fighting hard to fit in, not be discriminated against, and not lose opportunities for growth just because of their sexuality.
Summary of the Story:
So concluding the story, and my accompanying rant. Friendship means support, love, care, acceptance, affirmation, and sometimes having to even contradict your friends to show them the right way. But sometimes friendship isn’t enough, you need an ally. As a friend you will tell me which person (of the opposite sex) you’re now dating, but as your ally, you will ask me to keep that a secret. Similarly, in seeing you as my friend, I will choose to come out to you, but I expect you to be an ally to me and ask me when to out me to others. My sexuality is not a sensation you build your other friendships on.
… and because of some such experiences, we’re becoming ‘heterophobic’, we don’t feel like picking up our straight friends’ calls…we don’t feel like hanging out with them… because they’ll tell us all about their marriage, the number of pets we’re supposed to keep secret, but we speak of something and they’ll just sensationalise it. Or, just go numb, just not be able to make sense of it. No, it’s not a scandal! Don’t treat it like one. Be an ally, not an ass! Straight or not, be an ally, be a good friend.