Homophobia, allies, and definitions

I often enjoy looking over the stats for this blog, particularly to see how people run across this blog.  Today, I found myself fascinated by one visit in particular because of the search they used to land on my blog:

do people have to be an lgbt ally to not be homophobic

Personally, I find that a fascinating question.  I also think it’s a question that requires us to first understand what terms like “homophobic” and “ally” mean.  Of course, different people probably understand the words slightly differently, but since it’s my blog, I’m going to explore how I understand those terms.

I tend to view homophobia as any action which negates, denigrates, trivializes, or lessens the basic dignity and humanity of QUILTBAG people, either collectively or individually.  This means that actually being up a QUILTBAG person, fighting against full equality for QUILTBAG people, and telling a joke that makes fun of QUILTBAG people or trivializes their experience are all homophobic acts in my book.

So what’s an LGBT ally in my book?  Anyone who believes that QUILTBAG people deserve to be treated with the same humanity, decency, and respect given to heterosexuals as a matter of course and acts out that belief.  That doesn’t mean that I think that one has to run out and volunteer to help with the latest marriage equality campaign or anything else so “grand.”  For me (and others may feel differently), being an ally can be as simple as expressing displeasure when someone else tells a homophobic joke.  It can be as simple as lending moral support to the trans* friend who is having problems with a transphobic coworker.

So to get back to the original question, I think it’s actually inverted.  I think the real question is, “Can a person seek to rid themselves of homophobia and still not be an ally?”  As I think about it, I’m inclined to think the answer is no.  I think as a person becomes aware of how their thought patterns and actions — even the minor ones — hurt QUILTBAG people — even unintentionally — and seek to change them, they are in effect going through the process of becoming an ally (or a better one).  After all, when you become aware of such things in your own life, you tend to become more aware of them around you, and it tends to bother you there.

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