Why We Need to Stop Relying on Allies
I never thought I’d be writing a piece about J.K.Rowling. Indeed I’ve instead tried to ignore that elephant in the room. I’ve made my peace with the idea that I can’t support her directly (though I will be buying that Harry Potter game). But today, when the news is breaking that Eddie Redmayne, while still (from what I’ve read) critical of J.K.Rowlings views, doesn’t support the level of ‘vitriol’ they’ve received, it made me come to a realization. Maybe we rely on allies too much to fight for us, when that is the opposite of what I’d expect allies to do.
A lot of papers are also stating it as Eddie Redmayne standing up for J.K.Rowling. He feels that she has received a disgusting level of abuse online — though he does at least mention that the level of harassment and hatred trans* people also get is disgusting. The thing that I don’t believe he understands is that trans* people are rarely ever in power. J.K.Rowling hasn’t had what I’d consider numerous amounts of abuse — all though death threats and threats of sexual assault are certainly wrong and should not get discarded. Yet equally trans* people do not have the level of power that Ms. Rowling has. If someone is getting called out for problematic behavior, and people electing because of this to no longer wish to support that person through financial means, that is hardly abuse. That is merely the free market in operation.
But that is not what I want to talk about here. I want to focus on how we have started to depend on allies — especially those with the financial backing — to do all our fighting for us. Now that in itself isn’t a bad thing, especially with celebrities involved; however, we need to remember that most of them are cisgender — and as thus do not know the issues we’ve faced. They may be aware in written form, and from reading the problems we’ve met, but without facing similar issues, they would not be able to empathize as easily. It’s harder to walk a mile in the steps of someone you cannot get a single point of ‘I understand this person struggles.’ It’s why when I get asked, “How can I be a good ally” I encourage people asking to focus on how they can lift people’s voices up in the community. It’s why I’m saying now — especially as we can put pressure on the rich via a refusal to consume what they put out — maybe we need to stop focusing on wealthy allies doing the talking for us as much.
At least not without they get educated on how they can be an ally. And no, playing a transgender woman in one film isn’t an education. It’s at most a form of method acting, and from the reviews I’ve read, it’s a very cliche cis-coded idea of being a transwoman. It’s that a transwoman is a man in female clothing pretending to be a woman, using highly stereotypical actions and phrasing.
An ally who truly wants to speak for us needs to spend more time listening then actively speaking, and by listening, I mean listening with an intent to learn. Coming to the table without preconceived notions or biases — and being aware of those you have, so you can always question ‘is this what they’re saying or is this my bias talking?’ It’s only through active listening; you will learn about the struggles. Likewise, becoming an ally will result in some hard questions about your actions. You may feel accused or uncomfortable — you’re here to help, why are they ‘attacking you.’ This is your ego talking, again listen and look hard at yourself. This path isn’t going to be easy, after all. My last advice for an ally is don’t attack others, and don’t speak over those who are educating who are trans*. Elevate our voices to reach the audience; we need to educate on who we are, don’t believe you know better.