Since joining Tumblr, I’ve met a lot of young queer people. Look, I’m a bisexual man in a gay relationship, and I’m approaching 30. I was still a kid when Matthew Shepard’s story was being covered on the news. I remember thinking, “I better keep my mouth shut about these feelings I’m having.”
And then I met Dominic when I was 12, and people could see how in love we were. And we got the shit beat out of us. The year I met him, some kids in the grade above me held me down against the bleachers in our gym and stomped on my hand until my fingers broke. Instead of sending me to the nurse, the teacher sent me to the assistant principal to explain the situation. She asked why the kids had beat me up. I said, “They were calling me gay.”
Her response was, “Well, are you?”
My, “I don’t know,” earned a call to my parents, and I was outed. Efforts were made to keep me from seeing Dom. Throughout high school, Dom’s stepmother intensified these efforts. He slept in the basement of the house. Although he was an incredibly talented student, he was prohibited from participating in any extracurriculars. He suffered a lot of physical abuse during those years.
The day he turned 18, he packed up everything he had and walked to my house, and we’ve lived together ever since. Things are better, but they’re not perfect. I’ve had trucks pull up next to me at stoplights and, seeing the pride sticker on my car, through old drinks and garbage into my window. I no longer speak to my dad’s side of the family. I haven’t been to see them for Christmas or Thanksgiving in years. One of my uncles had cornered me at Thanksgiving when I was 17 and said, “I’m not going to judge you, but I’d be happy to break your neck so God can do the judging a little sooner.”
I joined a support group for trans and intersex people. When I joined, 40 people attended regularly. Within the year, the group was half the size it had been. Some couldn’t make it anymore, because they were staying at the shelter, where their stay hinged on them agreeing to instead to attend homophobic sermons. Some were put in correctional therapy. Five of them died. Three of those, I didn’t know, but I knew Alex, the 19 year old who was fag-dragged in Kentucky and died a day later in the hospital, and I knew Stephanie, who went home to Alabama to care for her mom in hospice and was beaten to death with a baseball bat by her mom’s boyfriend.
Tumblr is not reality. The dynamic here does not reflect the dynamic out there. Here’s the part where I finally make a point, and it might be extremely unpopular – but guys, value your allies. Value each other. We are met with enough hate in our daily lives to enter an online safe-space and meet more hate from our own, over petty things. Don’t go after one another over every little thing you find problematic.
Learn to see nuance. Maybe the word “queer” bothers you, and you see a gay man using it as an umbrella term. Maybe someone called a trans man a trans woman because they’re confused about terminology, but the post where they did it was voicing support for the trans community. Maybe someone is just asking a question, wanting to learn more. Stop. Attacking. These. People.
Allies are being driven away. Members of our own community are being ostracized. Others are feeling nervous and estranged, and it’s largely because of places like Tumblr, where the social justice movement is quickly becoming violent and radical. I am begging you, stop nitpicking “problematic” things and start directing your efforts to create real change. When it comes to comes to your allies, forget the “social justice warrior” mentality and put down your torch. Educate calmly. Be respectful. Be understanding. Be forgiving. And I’m certainly not saying that your anger doesn’t have a good place – when you are met with bigots on the street, congress members who want to pass hateful laws, violent protesters, abusive parents, prejudiced teachers, that is when you need to be a warrior. That’s when it counts. In the real world. When you have the opportunity to protect people from real harm. Attacking your would-be allies via anonymous asks is just going to lose us ground in the long run. And we don’t have time for that, not when trans women of color are being murdered every day, not when states are still fighting against marriage equality, not when there are politicians in office who believe that trans people are possessed by demons, not when we’ve just lost 50 brothers and sisters to one gunman, not when the media won’t even admit that the attack was homophobic.
Please step back. Look at the big picture. Look at where we are, globally. Don’t just log on to your safe space and attack your allies over small missteps. That’s like washing the dishes in a house that’s on fire, kids. Let’s fight on the battlefield, and when we come home to each other, let’s just focus on bandaging up our wounds so we can go out and win the war.
Signal boost to this unbelievably important message.