Sunday, 13 November 2016

Safety Pins and Rainbow Flags

One of the comments from a friend that has made me the angriest after this election was, when I pointed out that LGBT people are terrified of what’s going to happen to them, “You’ve been a victim of the left’s fear-mongering.  Trump is very supportive of the LGBTQ community, and has held up their flag at several of his rallies.”

The conversation got heated about other things and we never really hashed it out, but what I wanted to say was, “So the fuck what?”  If Trump were an ally to the LGBTQ community, he would not have said that states should be allowed to tell trans people they have to take their lives in their hands if they want to pee.  If he’d been an ally, he’d have picked someone who didn’t spend state funding on conversion therapy as his running mate.  And you can bet money that if he’d ever done anything really ally-like in his life, he wouldn’t have Franklin “The Gays are Destroying America” Graham out campaigning for him, because Graham would not be okay with that, and would pull his support quicker than you can say “World Vision.”  (Sexual assault, advocating torture, that’s cool, though.)  And he might have made even a token gesture of disagreement when the RNC put out an extraordinarily anti-LGBTQ platform.

It’s trivially easy to hold up a flag and say you support someone, but it doesn’t mean it’s the truth.  Unfortunately, the same is true of a safety pin. A lot of people are critical of wearing a safety pin to show you’re an ally.  While other folks in marginalized groups feel helped and supported by it. Which should be no surprise, since no group is a monolith, and being a “safe” person means different things, both to individuals and to groups. On the whole, I’m leaning toward the idea that wearing a pin is good, but not enough.

It’s also not okay to want cookies or pats on the back for wearing a pin, or to expect people to automatically trust you because of it.  Saying you’re safe doesn’t necessarily mean you are.  Claiming to be a safe person can even be a ruse to make someone you intend to harm feel safe, like volunteering as a campus safety escort and then raping the woman you were supposed to walk home.  Or, like holding up a Pride flag (upside down, even)* to get people to vote for you, while you sign onto a platform that strips away your rights and pick a Vice President who thinks trying to torture them straight is a good use of government money.

*Traditionally, a flag flown upside down is a symbol of great distress. It’s for things like, “This ship is going to sink! Please send help!” So, Trump holding a Pride flag with the purple stripe on top was unintentionally appropriate.




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