How to be a good ally in Queer spaces
As Pride month draws to a close it is a time to reflect on why Pride itself is important. It is a time for the LGBTQ+ community to assert ourselves and celebrate the progress that we have made by joining together in queer spaces. This often involves bringing along allies we know who want to show their support of our community and want to enjoy our spaces. Allies are always welcome in queer spaces but there are more times than I think most LGBTQ+ people care to admit when straight friends, or groups of straight people in queer spaces, get it wrong and unintentionally disrespect the importance of queer spaces. This article is a guidebook for straight allies who enjoy partaking in queer culture and visit queer spaces. For any LGBTQ+ readers, take these rules as a reminder that our need for our own spaces to express ourselves, join as a community, and celebrate our hard earned progress is important and valid. No matter how tolerant wider society becomes, we will always need queer spaces to preserve our culture and exist without the pressures of navigating a heteronormative world.
1. It is our space, you are a guest
Queer spaces are just that, queer spaces. They are made by and for the LGBTQ+ community, and you need to understand that when you enter one. Far too often I have seen straight people at a gay bar dominate the space, occupying one of the few spaces we have that are our own. As straight people the rest of the world is your space (especially true for men and white people), we do not have the same privilege. When you enter a queer space remember that you are our guest. It is not your space to talk over queer people, belittle the importance of our own spaces, and treat like any other event space or club. Generally speaking, I think the best way to enjoy a queer space and be a good guest is to go with your queer friends, that way you’re actively being invited into that space by the people it is intended for.
2. Queer entertainment is not supposed to make you comfortable
One of the main features of queer spaces are performances by queer entertainers. With the popularisation of queer art through drag race it is increasingly the case that people who visit queer spaces expect that what they see on TV will mirror what they see in queer spaces. This is not the case, queer art and entertainment has historically strived to push boundaries and celebrate the ways LGBTQ+ people have expressed themselves outside of a societal norm. Queer art that can be seen in our spaces still follows this pattern a great deal of the time, meaning that it can often make our straight allies feel uncomfortable or confused. When you interact with LGBTQ+ entertainment and art, remember that it is not aimed at you, and it is not there to make you feel comfortable. It may not be for you but remember that it is valid and important.
3. Do not try to steal the thunder of queer entertainers
There have been far too many times in my life when I’ve been watching a drag show and mid-number the performer is interrupted by a straight girl pulling herself up on stage and trying to join in. You would not do this at a concert or a show at a theatre. The stage may be smaller but the etiquette remains the same, a queer entertainer is not going to take too kindly to having a performance they have worked hard on be intercepted by someone in the audience. It isn’t okay to do this at all.
4. We are not a sideshow to gawk at
Queer spaces are a place where many of us are able to express ourselves in ways we may not feel comfortable to explore in other areas of our life. This can take numerous forms but ultimately queer spaces are a safe zone for LGBTQ+ people to explore different aspects of themselves and dress or behave in ways we may not always feel is safe to do. If you are entering a queer space remember that it is a safe space and unless we are on a stage performing, we are not here for your entertainment. As a gender minority, I have been stared at by straight people all my adult life. This is the the point that I don’t notice anymore when I am out and about. I do however become acutely aware of it when I have been in queer spaces and straight people have been there gawking at me and other LGBTQ+ people. Ultimately it is dehumanising and rude. Yes, I know I look amazing but if you want a closer look buy me a drink and start a conversation.
5. Remember to be respectful
As an extension of the last rule, remember to be respectful to others! This means as well as not staring us out, please stop asking us invasive questions. Trans people do not want to be quizzed on the ins and outs of transitioning and where they are at in their own transition. I, for one, do not want to be asked for tips on how to give better blow jobs (yes this has happened SEVERAL times), and no queer couples want to be asked ‘who is the man in the relationship’. Unfortunately these are all things I and LGBTQ+ friends of mine have experienced from straight people in queer spaces. The last thing we want to do is have to explain to you why these questions are disrespectful while we want to have a good time.
6. We may not always want you there
I hate to break it to you but sometimes LGBTQ+ people may not want to have straight people, even the most clued up of allies, to be in our spaces. Personally I am all down for bringing my girlfriends to queer events and spaces but not everyone shares that opinion. There are some queer spaces that may not want to admit straight people. For me, I don’t feel very comfortable when I see large groups of straight men step into a gay club. A large portion of my experiences with straight guys, especially when alcohol is involved, have been overwhelmingly negative and I don’t want to feel on edge with them around me. Now this is not to cast all straight guys with the same brush but part of me wonders why a group of straight men would even want to be in a queer space.
7. Queer Spaces are not a place for straight people to date
So one of the few reasons I have found straight guys will head to a gay club is to try and find women to pick up. Queer spaces are NOT for you to pick up girls. Women often come to gay clubs because they feel assurance that men there are not going to bother them and they can have fun. Absolutely if this is why you as a straight woman want to enter a queer space, we are here with open arms to welcome you. Please straight people, understand that when you are in queer spaces it is not an opportunity to scope out people to hook up with, the majority of the people there are not interested in you, and you are not interested in them. And a note to the straight guys who do enter our spaces to find women, download tinder and stop turning safe spaces into your damn hunting grounds.
8. If you are not a true ally to all of us, stay at home
This should go without saying, but to be a true ally to the LGBTQ+ community that means being an ally to all identities within that label. If you’re an ally to gay men but don’t support lesbians, stay at home. If you are an ally to gay people but not to trans people, stay at home. If you invalidate the experience and existence of non-binary people and other gender minorities, stay at home. If you don’t acknowledge bisexuality and pansexuality as fully-fledged sexualities, stay at home. If you are entering a queer space, you need to be an ally to everyone in the LGBTQ+ rainbow. If that isn’t you then please do not take up our space.