Monica Roberts

Allies Aren't 'Homophobes' or 'Transphobes' For Telling The Truth

Filed By Monica Roberts | March 23, 2009 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Politics, The Movement
Tags: civil rights, GLBT, LGBT community, Monica Roberts, opinions, straight allies, transgender

The late poet Gwendolyn Brooks said it best when she stated that black woman speaking'truth tellers are not always palatable, there's a preference for candy bars.'

One of the things that irritates me is when the people in the GLBT community who prefer candy bars start hollering 'homophobe' or 'transphobe' when allies offer constructive criticism. Many times that criticism is not offensive, but is offered in the spirit of King-ian love in terms of helping to improve or contribute to the ultimate success of the movement they support.

It takes courage for a straight ally, knowing they will probably take a lot of crap for doing so to stand up and publicly declare that they are with us. Many of them see the interconnectedness of the issues that we are fighting for and realize those issues also impact them as well. It takes even more courage for one who is a politician or similar public figure to do so.

There were many whites, Asians, Latino/a's and GLBT people who helped us (and still do) in advancing the African-American civil rights struggle. Many straight people and transpeople are fighting for same gender marriage equality not only because it is a simple fairness issue, but they see their rights under attack as well. In many cases the anti gay marriage laws are being written to attack unmarried couples and transgender ones as well to mask the bigotry and make hem not as easy to overturn in state or federal courts.

One of the tendencies I see in the GLBT movement is when allies offer criticism, especially when it comes from people of color, cisgender people, or straight peeps, they immediately start screaming 'homophobe'. If the person happens to be a POC, transgender or SGL leveling the charges, they escalate into borderline racist or transphobic personal attacks or claim the person 'doesn't know what it's like to be gay' in order to silence the criticism they didn't want to hear.

Thumbnail image for straight allyThe problem with that shortsighted knee jerk reaction is that potential allies who are on the fence about supporting you see the nekulturny negativity. It not only turns off the ally you attacked, it gives the opponents ammo to point to that they'll use against your cause. It also turns away people who were on the fence about supporting you. Many times they are closely observing how you treat the declared allies before they make their final decision as to whether to support your cause or not.

Transpeople are just as guilty as well, and we need to chill with that, too.

Every ally is a precious resource. They can speak for us in settings that we're not able to reach or talk us up in their influence circles. Every person they can get to see the light that GLBT rights equals their rights is one less person signing a petition for an anti gay referendum, voting against us if a referendum occurs or standing up against homophobic/transphobic bigotry and intolerance in their own lives.

So it's time to work smarter, not harder. It's a sign of the maturity level of your movement if you can take the criticism and make the necessary changes. But if you insist on chomping white chocolate candy bars and ignoring valid criticism, sooner or later your movement will start to develop truth decay.

You'll also end up alienating the very people you can't afford to piss off.

(Originally posted at TransGriot)

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I think Brian Kinney from "Queer as Folk" said it best when it comes to allies,

"There are two kinds of straight people in this world, those who hate you to your face, and those who hate you behind your back."

...same goes for cis people.

And thank goodness Brian Kinney is a fictional character and that he is spouting lines that were written for him by a possibly straight script writer.

I don't believe that one can categorize any group people into only two types. It's a very narrow view, just as narrow as the views of those who try to categorize us (LGBTQ) unfairly. I believe that this is partially what Monica is trying to speak out against. If I'm wrong about that, Monica, I do apologize.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | March 23, 2009 8:11 PM

A, if I really said here what I think of you and your comment, it would so grossly violate the terms and conditions for comments on this site that I'd probably also lose my status as an occasional contributor. Your words are pure and unadulerated, simplistic, and hateful hogwash!

So very true, Don,, and reality and history is bent to serve an agenda. Women are to restructure their thinking and philosophy to accomodate an agenda that they do not share and in many ways demands that they change how they conceive of themselves.

If the price of trans-inclusion is stated finally, specifically and irrevocably to be the acceptance of the deconstructionist conception of gender for all of us and the scrapping of anything or any spiritual quality uniquely feminine, then the price in that instant will become too high.

""There are two kinds of straight people in this world, those who hate you to your face, and those who hate you behind your back."

...same goes for cis people."

That is just so much hooey. You are trying to tell us that there's *no* such thing as a true ally. Given that most of us personally know people who have worked tirelessly and selflessly for GLBT rights, that rings completely untrue. That's not even taking into account the numerous non-GLBT civil rights leaders who have been publicly acknowledged by our community and history.

It is inherently discriminatory to paint any group with such a broad brush. If someone made such a generalization about GLBT people, such as all transpeople are prostitutes, you would be rightly outraged. Don't do that to others.

Mostly, it's sad that you have such a bleak view of humanity.

That is simplistic and grossly unfair to any number of women who suppport trans-identity and trans inclusion.

It does, however, create a convinient paradigm with which to daemonise anyone who has a different set of priorities than you.

I've been the victim of that kind of thinking before. It makes productive and respectful dialogue impossible.

I've resolved, in the future to invoke a variation of Godwin's Law, hereinafter to be known as Maura's Law: The furst one to cite "cis priviledge" in a discussion fo LGBT issues, automatically loses the argument.

I think that I'd have a lot of takers supporting the institution of "Maura's Law"

Ahh yes, The institution of childish internet rules in the face of real social facts. Classic.

Consider it a challenge to construct reasoned arguments that must be supported sans the tactical device of retreating behind a charge of 'cis priviledge," a device that makes a true socratic dialogue impossible.

You want a reasoned argument, fair enough. Here I will give it to you in a neat little numbered format

1. Cis folk experience a structural advantage over trans folk (all other things being equal) in this culture, universally.
2.This structural advantage universally harms trans people.
3. Recognizing or denouncing this privilege and being an ally does not negate a cis persons benefit of it.
Conclusion: cis people universally harm trans people from a structural perspective and therefore are not deserving of my sympathy when they get called out by my brothers and sisters.

Well, A
Then I and mine reserve the right to toss "male priviledge" back at trans people.

Perhaps it is the reluctance to surrender the male priviledge, rootend in a persistent trace or more of male identity, that motivates trans people to unleashe the ridiculous and largely trans-invented "cis priveledge" upon us whenever trans issues are discussed.Shall we really drop communoication between Lesbians and Trans to such a lever?

I don't see how trans women benefit from male privilege. We aren't / nor ever were men. We are just women with a particularly harsh and frustrating girlhood and/or a medical condition that you luckily never had, which causes us to experience hate and disdain in the world at large.

This if my last thought, but I'm thankful that your version of "feminism" (i.e. the transphobic, ableist, and racist variety) is dying out and so women of all stripes and varieties will no longer be held back in our own oppression by the likes of you and yours.

European Feminism, drawn from Irigaray, Kristeva and Cisoux is hardly dying out.

It celebrates what is uniquely female and feminine, it calls upon us to nurture the creative spects of the Espirit Feminine.

To throw out racist and transphobic charges at myself and at a school of thought of which you seem unfamiliar would be akin to my quoting Mary Daly and Janice Raymond's charges concerning trans people at you.

You need to re-read Kristeva's essay on the foreigner (and pretty much all of the emancipatory work of Michelle le Doeuff). You have obviously missed a huge chunk of their thought contained in purely academic, apolitical and lets face it, singularly french feminism.

I'll stick to western philosophical arguments, you know the kind that uses justification and evidence as opposed to misreading certain literary moments and obscurantism. I know you are thinking"how phallologocentric," save your breath and publish an article in social texte, philosophy and social criticism or some other equally worthless "academic" waste of paper.

p.s. Instead of merely dying like 2nd wave western feminism, french feminism is actually already dead as anything more then a historical moment as of 15 years ago. The Ecole Normale is giving seminars in analytic philosophy these days.

I was at the University when many were writing, A, and I attended Dr Irigaray's lectures at the University of Liverpool just a few years ago.
European Feminism is the frequently preferred term, as a number fo the adherents and theorists other than Luce and Helene were not either residing in France nor were natives of France.

It is hardly dead, nor have you grasped it's essence, a celebration of a creativityy and a voice uniquely feminine.

I am part of a group of Lesbian professionals, A, who by and large are adherents and who also see ties to this form of thought in Daly's "Amazon Grace."

As far as the Phallocentric remark, I would have not made it.

I will say how arrogantly misogynistic the dismissal of and a pronouncement of death over an entire school of feminist thought is . Many Lesbians share, in whole or part, these concepts, A.

You might be amazed just how many women read this blog but who do not comment; I've had angry calls from friends today outraged by what they perceive to be the arrogance of someone unfavourably disposed to the feminine slamming feminist philosphy that disagrees with deconstructionism.

We are not trans-phobic, beffore you go there or cite our "priviledge;" we have women fo operative histories amongst our numbers.

As you will, Sophia, if you and A speak for all trans people.

I assume that the Lesbians that I represent are similiarly unnecessary, including the members with positions at HRC?

Honestly, I know that a number of feminists have had a field day with Ms Harney's hyperbolic polemic.

Since you are unwilling to make common cause with Lesbian feminists, I assume that you all want out of the LGBT umbrellla since some accomodation of the views, rights and desires of Lesbian feminists would be vital to continue under that umbrella?
Wheen should we start using just LGB again?

"Conclusion: cis people universally harm trans people from a structural perspective and therefore are not deserving of my sympathy when they get called out by my brothers and sisters."

So you're saying that a majority harms a minority simply by existing. That's unacceptable. If there are any groups who could be put out of existance because they "harm" (or disrupt or inconvenience or make uncomfortable; which is always in the eye of the beholder) a different group, it would be minorities.

Everyone has the right to exist. One of the first obstacles trans people have to transitioning is from friends and family members who say 'you can't transition because you'll make me uncomfortable' or because 'you'll destroy our family'.

It's also tantamount to saying that all men harm women; that all whites harm all people of color; that all able-bodied people harm all disabled people. Not only is it nonsensical, that thinking would doom all of humanity to the strictect segregation based on every difference.

Otherwise you might have a white mother who "harms" her child because he is black. And you'd have to take disabled children away from their abled-body parents who "harm" them. Or gay children from their straight parents who "harm" them, just for existing.

In this instance, you're the one who did the calling out of non-trans people; not the other way around. The article to which you were commenting was chastising trans people for yelling transphobia, which you proceeded to do anyway.

As for sympathy, those who aren't willing to give it, will rarely find the opportunity to receive it.

That is simplistic and grossly unfair to any number of women who suppport trans-identity and trans inclusion.

It does, however, create a convinient paradigm with which to daemonise anyone who has a different set of priorities than you do.

I've been the victim of that kind of thinking before. It makes productive and respectful dialogue impossible.

I've resolved, in the future to invoke a variation of Godwin's Law, hereinafter to be known as Maura's Law: The first one to cite "cis priviledge" in a discussion of LGBT issues, automatically loses the argument.

I think that I'd have a lot of takers supporting the institution of "Maura's Law"

At least you cited a source, which was a character based on, in the show creator's own words, Ayn Rand's philosophy.

Which is just what everyone needs more of in America: rhetoric about how none of us can work together to solve problems and how we're stuck going it alone. Which seems to be the opposite of the point Monica was trying to get across.

Huh? Ayn Rand? Godwin's Law is a Usenet and Well thing.

It was back in 1990 that I set out on a project in memetic engineering. The Nazi-comparison meme, I'd decided, had gotten out of hand - in countless Usenet newsgroups, in many conferences on the Well, and on every BBS that I frequented, the labeling of posters or their ideas as "similar to the Nazis" or "Hitler-like" was a recurrent and often predictable event. It was the kind of thing that made you wonder how debates had ever occurred without having that handy rhetorical hammer.
Mike Godwin

I don't get the Nazi/Godwin's Law reference, since Rand, as far as I know, was against the Nazis. Unless Ayn Rand is now so evil she gets her own box when it comes to Godwin's. Maybe she should!

I was actually referring to an interview I read in the Advocate years back with QAF creator Russell Davies saying that Brian Kinney was based on Ayn Rand's egocentric philosophy, and he implied that he thought that was a good thing.

I'm just sayin' Brian Kinney isn't really someone to base one's outlook on life off of.

I call Post hoc ergo propter hoc on myself. (not exact.. but you know...) I read Maura's comment referencing Godwin's Law and then yours. My c affine starved brain read them as connected (i.e. Godwin one of Rand's characters). I'm grateful you said something before I started looking for the character.

I assure you, I distance myself entirely from Ms. Rand's "philosophy."

I'm merely making the comment using Kinney's words to point out that LGBT people don't need to apologize for the fuckups of straight cis people, nor do we need to listen to their "constructive criticism" when it comes to *our* movement, for *our* emancipation, out of *our* oppression. The dialogue can be two-dimensional when social power is equal. Last I checked though straight cis people still had all the power. If anything there should be an article about straight cis people needing to listen to LGBT people when we criticize them for their homophobia and transphobia NOT the other way around.

I realize this is in opposition to what Monica is writing. I happen to think that what she thinks here is flat wrong. You are allowed to disagree in this comment section right?

Completely. I and other allies need to check our priviledge first and foremost, and when offering criticism have to be very very careful that they know what they're talking about. If we can't do that then we're not helping, we're making things worse.

A, As far as I interpret your first comment, it looks like a cynical reminder that allies are far from perfect and need to do a fair bit of soul-searching if they actually want to be of any use. Is that fair?

That is fairly close. Its just a reminder to people that allies are not and should not be our greatest asset in the struggle for equality and legal protection, we should be. Allies, are what they are, an ally, a back up, a support in time of need. Not someone we should be depending on, looking to for guidance, or letting lead our movement.

Makes perfect sense.

Kyle Flood Kyle Flood | March 23, 2009 6:20 PM

Very interesting article. I was recently called stupid and dumb for offering my thoughts on the transgender relations with the HRC. Even though I am an ally, I could only imagine how someone else would react who may be on the fence with the issue to begin with. If an ally is called "transphobe" or "homophobe" then what's to stop them from trying to help in the future?

Kyle Flood Kyle Flood | March 23, 2009 6:22 PM

*what's to stop them from not trying to help in the future?

It's an old tactic. When you hear something you don't like, try name calling.
I was just compared to the religious right on another site for pointing out a couple down issues in the circuit scene.
Monica is so right. Self criticism was made off limits by the pc police a long time ago. And that needs to change.

"It's a sign of the maturity level of your movement if you can take the criticism and make the necessary changes."

I'm afraid that sums up the problem.

Thank you for writing this article, Monica. It was necessary.

thats funny, whenever I heard the words 'transphobic' or 'homophobic' leveled at straight or cis people it was because they were being genuinely rude not because they were offering 'constructive criticism'.

I agree that it can be a fairly lazily dished out sentences just like 'privilege' but just like the later sometimes they are true.

Can you give me some examples of constructive criticism from allies that has been met with this hysteria you speak of? And by constructive criticism I don't mean someone purposefully misgendering someone or writing a comic about how transmen are secret women sex objects.

Sometimes the allies ARE being homophobic or transphobic - after all, they were raised in the same culture that we were, and got the same disparaging messages. We had to work through those messages in order to assert our right to exist openly, and it takes years to unlearn societal contempt. It is entirely unreasonable to expect an ally to shed prejudice and ignorance in a day. If the ally seems to be of good will, why not explain how things look from your viewpoint, or correct the ally's misconception, or perhaps suggest a more tactful way of offering a suggestion? And there's no need to agree with the ally's suggestion if it doesn't make sense to you. The only thing you need do is to listen with respect for the person's attempt at allyship.

The GLBT community, or more correctly collection of people, is somewhere between 10-20% of population in the US.

It takes 51% of the House, 60% of the Senate (to gain cloture), and a Presidential signature to pass laws.

Can't win without converting a considerable number of allies. Like maybe 40% of Americans.

Simple math.

A has provided a perfect example of what happened to trans activism. First it was the absolute deconstruction of gender, when that didn't fly we got the absolute paranoia of us vs them in the form of "cis-privilege".

Cis-viewpoints are very attractive to transpeople because it rearranges the world into oppressors (everyone non-trans) and those poor abused victims, everyone trans who isn't classic transsexual. It's the ultimate expression of self ghettoization and makes any possibility of allies impossible unless they agree to every single off the wall, downright insane demand of any tranny who is loud enough (owns a computer and isn't afraid to use it). Ironically it also makes the number one claim with a bullet of these "victims" ludicrous. How can you claim on one hand to be a woman (solely because you say so)and claim victimhood on the other by every feminist woman? How can you actually transition when the group you claim to be transitioning into is also the enemy?

It's a self imposed Catch-22.......and it basically has killed any real chance of trans civil rights inclusion in the process.

Congratulations! Having first made those with trans/intersexed histories who actually transitioned your enemies and bullying them out of the discussion, trannys then turned on GLBs (and straights) and blew whatever good will they had there from the ENDA exclusion last year. And it only takes a couple idiots to do this when the dialogue takes place in wider venues such as this.

I know you are just trolling, but I'll make a quick comment.

The notion of cis privilege is just the logical extension of the notion of white, male and straight privilege. Privilege is the unjustified social power that a non-oppressed majority possesses.

No, I'm not "trolling".....I am making observations that apparently are beyond your ability to comprehend.

Embracing some schools of thought lead to intellectual blindness. This is one of them.

Things that I learned today:
1. Second Wave European Feminism is dead, trans-people say so so it must be so and to disagree is to engage in cis priviledge, racism and other isms

2. Despite espousal of an inclusive enda often in the face of resistance and concern from sister Lesbian feminists over privacy issues where showers and similiar accomodations are concerned, I am neither trans-friendly nor a trans ally.

3. Monica Roberts was clearly wrong about trans people needing to meet their allies part way, we non-trans people are NOT allies if we have viewpoints that diiverge at all and the trans community does not need our help or our support.


I can certainly empathize with the anger and sense of exclusion that probably lead to your opening comment on this thread. Yes, there are regular instances of cluelessness, unexamined privilege, and bigotry manifested against trans people among some of our self proclaimed allies. There are several instances of that behavior on this very thread.

Nevertheless, there are a ton of decent cis folks out there in the world. Sometimes they say some really dumb things and they need a little coaxing in the right direction, but they are still decent folk, warts and all. Hell, my mom, very much a cissexual woman, paid for my surgery. You can't get much more supportive than that. My cissexual feminist college friends were among my strongest supporters, as were my coworkers at the natural food store I worked at. That was during the early 90s—certainly wilder and woollier days for trans people than now.

It's not all black and white. The alienation, the loneliness, the anger, and the pain can make it seem so. Nevertheless, there are good people in each and every parcel of human kind one can think of.


Oops. I forgot to address my comment to A.

What you're saying about allies makes a lot of sense. However, we need to be cautious. Anyone that is part of a majority group, by virtue of being in the group, is privileged over those of us that are not in the group. This applies just as much to those that oppose GLBT equality as it does to our allies.

Anyone that wants to be an ally to an oppressed minority needs to recognize that they carry a lot of privileged baggage with them. And that they will be enacting these privileges in their interactions with members of that oppressed minority.

As members of oppressed minority groups, it is important for us to call our allies on their oppressive and privileged behaviors. However, we should try to do so from a position of understanding, knowing that they are here to help us out on some level. We need to open a dialogue and discuss the issue with them instead of just attacking them. To do otherwise alienates our precious allies, as you say. And as much as some may hate to acknowledge it, we need our allies.

By the same token, if you ARE one of these allies reading this, try to lighten up a bit. Members of oppressed minorities are just ever so slightly fed up with getting the constant bullshit shoved in our faces, and sometimes, we just sort of explode or become jaded by the constant privileged bullshit that is rubbed in our faces.