The queer community remembers the Stonewall Inn riots that occurred in 1969 each June as Pride month. At every drag show, with each Queen and King that walks across those stages, queerness is celebrated and accepted. Without the help of heterosexual and cisgendered allies, the community wouldn't be alive, they were the first to accept the community and they are the people helping it to continue. It takes allies to keep a movement going, but when are they too much?
At Blue Ridge Pride, I was so excited and honored to be a part of their first procession. I walked with my university's LGBT organization as their President and held our banner to begin the city's Pride celebrations. We marched through the streets of downtown Asheville as the morning fog receded, hotel stayers gawking overhead and people in the streets cheering us on. As we got closer to the square where the main celebrations were happening I yelled to the watchers and other marchers "Scream if you're gay!" and their voices echoed like happy banshees off the tall buildings surrounding us. I was home, happy and prideful of who I was and joyous from the voices around me.
Hours later as I was waiting for the bus back to campus, my girlfriend and I watched the traffic go by and observed the tourists as they ogled at the radical queers before them. She and I laughed at their reactions but that turned sour when we watched two pub-cycles stop at the intersection in front of us. White women clad in all white with a few rainbow mardi-gras beads screeched out Top 40 lyrics and waved at the people going by. Of course, the bachelorette parties picked the perfect weekend for their getaway to Asheville. I cringed seeing them call out "Happy Pride, gays!" as they drove away.
Similarly a few weeks ago, I was at my local gay night club. Queens in their tall, glittery heels strolled through the crowds of college students, short Kings, and all other sorts of queers. Above the crowds, three separate bachelorette parties took over the side stages, twerking in their matching fanny packs and leopard print leggings.
During the show, the MC Queen shouted to the crowd "Any gays in the house?" and cheers came from about a quarter of the throats in the room. "Any lesbians?!" quieter calls erupted from a group in the back. "How about my trans and nonbinary people?" An even smaller group from the corner behind her mostly made up of performers that had come to visit their coworkers for the night. And lastly, she asked "What about our straight allies?" and drunken screams ruptured and outnumbered any noise the rest of the people in the room had.
I lost my safe space in those moments at Pride and at the club. That may seem exaggerated but as a queer person, I'm always shocked to see so many straight cis people in places that are supposed to be dominantly queer, especially in a city that's known for its large LGBT population. Many women come to gay bars and clubs because they feel safer in these spaces, knowing that the men are less likely to hit on them and creepily try to take them home for the night. Seeing that Scandals is the only club that allows those 18-years-old and up, I understand wanting to find a safe space like that, it's why I go there as well.
But, I believe that the generalized idea that all minorities should share safe spaces like these can harm the Queer community by erasing their space. Already there is a male-centered mindset for queer spaces. When you walk into Raleigh NC's gay club, you will see a masculine mannequin adorned with a jock strap that changes colors depending on the night you're there. While gay men are prominent members of the LGBT community, it is important for queer women, trans, and non-binary people to have a space that is 'theirs' as well. Having more cishet people in these queer spaces further eradicates the members of the queer community. It also commodifies a rich history/culture
In this political environment where the government is attempting to rid the country of its trans citizens and prevent same-sex couples from having equal rights, the LGBT community needs its allies more than ever. Taking action is what the community needs, whether it be rallying and protesting in crowds to even just being empathetic and comforting as more news reports come across TV screens. While allies should continue to feel and be welcomed to queer spaces, they should be aware if they are overstepping the boundary.