Allies vs Bystanders

When I woke up to the news of the murders in Orlando I was at a gay resort attending a kinky womens only leather event. I was surrounded by wonderful people of all ages, many different walks of life, and varying gender identity. While sexual orientations differed from person to person, to say that the rainbow flag flew high with us would be an understatement.

As the bright SoCal sunshine did its draining work on my naturally nocturnal self, I sat with my feet in the pool amongst the lovely trees and the hum of conversation, laughter, and the various other sounds one hears at a kinky lifestyle event. It was familiar and comforting. This is a tribe I’ve been a part of for a long time and I feel at home with them, even if I don’t know every person.

The knowledge that members of my community had been brutally gunned down in what was supposed to be one of our safe spaces left me feeling cold, even in the desert heat. I looked around at what should have been a peaceful place and my vivid imagination saw my sisters laying lifeless on the concrete in pools of their own blood. Screams, pleas, roars of rage, and more echoed in my head as I watched the IMAX overlay play behind my eyes.

I worried for my friends back home in Los Angeles who would be marching in LA Pride that day and may have narrowly escaped the same fate but for a stroke of luck.

It could have been us. Hell, could still be us. We were in what was unofficially called the Gay Ghetto of Palm Springs. Our little haven was surrounded by other gay resorts for more than a block. What would stop someone from doing the same here?

Still, there was no anger. Not yet. Just a deep, slow moving sadness weighed down by the despair born of a lifelong struggle that seems to have no end.

The anger came later.

When I picked up my phone to check in on friends, some who were at LA Pride, others who I just wanted to send some love to, I expected to see a nation grieving on my social media and news feeds.

Instead I saw the Gov. of Texas saying, “reap what you sow”, and the Republican Nominee twisting the situation to make him look like some fake tan Messiah. I saw mudslinging and ¬†people calling the murderer a terrorist. People crying out about gun control and Islam and all the old arguments that we try and fit all of our problems into so that we can point the finger at someone else.

Politicians who previously voted against laws to protect my people from discrimination were all of a sudden praying and well wishing. People who just weeks ago stood on a stage in front of the world next to a man who has made no secret that he believes me and all of my tribe should be put to death, and smiled.

Now you are praying for us? Now you wish us well?

Your prayers are cheap and insulting, your wishes nothing more than hot air.

Then there are the hand wringers, the ones who stand on the sidelines saying, “That’s so awful! Why can’t everyone just get along? Stop the hate!” But next week this will all be forgotten. The hashtags will fall in the rankings, the posts on Facebook will fall down the timeline under selfies and Buzzfeed articles. People will feel righteous once they announce themselves LGBTQ Allies and move on.

Sound familiar? These self dubbed allies are part of the problem.

Why? Because nothing is so helpful to evil and hate as the silence and inaction of “good” people.

A real ally stands beside you, fights beside you, and lends aid. A bystander remains on the sidelines and does nothing. Right now we have too many bystanders calling themselves allies and we are floundering on promised support that never comes through.

These murders were not an attack from an outside source. They were the result of the culture we have allowed to take root and grow here at home. Perhaps you yourself don’t hold hate for others in your heart, but most of you have looked the other way for others that do.

You want to be an ally for real?

As Cameron Esposito said, “The two biggest weapons for peace are your voice and your vote. Use them.”

The President is a small part of our government. Their power is actually fairly limited and meant for quick decision making and fast change. For large reform and foundational reset we need to change Congress.

Now I know, it takes effort to sift through all the bullshit and find out who actually votes in favor of the rainbow and who has shot holes in it. Suck it up. Being an ally is an ACTIVE DUTY. It will take more effort than a hashtag post.

Next: When someone tells you something like, “I don’t want to go to your state, city, party, house, place, etc, because I don’t feel safe or acknowledged as a human being there,” STOP MAKING EXCUSES.

Stop saying things like, “Oh, well actually there are a lot of gay people here,” or “My best friend/sibling/uncle is gay,” or “Actually, its not like you think because Reason X,”. Stop it. Shut up and realize that you see the world through a different lens. People treat you differently. It’s not a matter of blame, or a reflection of your personal values. Stop taking it so damn personally and look around and listen.

If its a space you have control over, then ask the person who is trying to show you a slice of their life what you can do to help. Don’t assume you know. LISTEN.

Think about what you can change in your little sphere. Is your sphere already pretty solid and getting a thumbs up from my tribe? Awesome! How can you spread this to the next sphere?

And this isn’t really a global Ally thing…but just for me, stop calling the murderer a terrorist. The word terrorist means something else to many Americans. It brings to mind us being attacked or plagued by a foreign enemy. This man was not foreign. Our country created him. And terrorism is a two way street.

Terrorism is the committing of heinous actions in order to terrorize people. For it to work the people on the receiving end have to feel afraid.

I do not want you to be afraid. I do not want to see my tribe give in to cowering in terror like a wounded animal, lashing out at everything around it.

I want you to be angry and disgusted, sad and grieving, horrified and darkly amazed at the vast capacity for hate that has been created in our home. Then I want you to let it all simmer into a driving passion that will fuel your rejection of passive silence and your love of the dream that we can become a people who value honor, integrity, and respect.