I can’t count just how many times I was asked for my pronouns since the beginning of the fall semester; they suddenly became a delicately caressed topic on social media sites, attendance rosters, Google forms, and every agonizing icebreaker at the start of the semester.
I would appreciate this formality more if I didn’t intrinsically know that cisgender heterosexual allies have little to no desire to understand anything beyond surface-level semantics and social gestures.
I mean, why would they? As far as everyone else is concerned, it’s easier to just say that I’m a woman who goes by a slightly different set of words than it is to individually deconstruct the postcolonial abstraction of the gender binary.
Most cisgender heterosexuals believe they have no stake in queer liberation. The mainstreaming of queer activism has, unfortunately, isolated queerness as an identity that exists independently from sociopolitical struggles like racism, poverty, and colonization.
Conceptualizing queer liberation as something that exclusively benefits queer lives frames activism as a gesture of individualistic benevolence rather than an interlaced network of global progress. Therefore, allyship is interpreted as an act of mercy to oppressed communities rather than a realization of social agency.
When allyship is offered to marginalized communities from a stance of mercy, it continues to legitimize the imbalanced power dynamic that exists between the privileged and the oppressed. For this reason, it’s all the more infuriating when cisgender heterosexuals treat their bare-minimum allyship as something that’s solicited and sacred towards queer activism.
The parasocial self-worship that comes with social media giving everyone a free platform has contributed to the entitled delusion that any user capable of writing a 280 character message has an opinion worthy of recognition, which is rarely the case, especially regarding situations that people have no authority on.
The reality is, social media activism does little to actually effect change; the act of posting content on social media is in itself performative and largely determined by algorithmic success. In a space where branding, trends, and brevity are king and nuance, insurrection, and accuracy are not, what does this so-called activism actually do besides give allies a false semblance of progressivism? Who is this allyship really for?
To be frank, many mainstream methods of queer activism have been largely ineffective; queer rights in the modern day have been reduced down to a matter of Hollywood media representation and capitalist commodification. Despite whatever progressive ideologies this generation seems to hold, there has yet to be an adequate amount of material change to offer the queer community the reparations they deserve.
Gay marriage legislation only had to happen because heterosexual marriage is the default. Coming out only had to happen because being cisgender and heterosexual is the default. Normalizing pronouns only had to happen because gendered language is the default.
No matter how hard institutions will try to legalize queerness, nothing will fundamentally change if the institutions themselves continue to be modeled after a cis-hetero idealization of civilization.
True queer liberation comes from abolishing and rectifying the oppressive structures that establish queerness as the “other” to begin with. This can’t be done with efforts involving social media activism or representation in the media. They simply attempt to remedy microcosmic issues instead of acknowledging and dismantling the issue at large: cis–heteronormativity.
This is a process that obviously takes more time and energy to accomplish, but if you were the supportive ally that your shiny infographics and “she/her” bios claim you were, that shouldn’t be a problem, right?