There is an old trend that seems to flourish lately and it says that one can only ring its own bell. Chris Thompson, a YouTuber, is one of the best-spoken advocates for gay rights I have ever listened to: clear, straight to the point, genuine, asking the right questions, righteous but not sanctimonious. Yet some gay people seem to have a problem with him defending their rights, going to gay prides, campaigning for equality: he’s not gay.
He basically doesn’t belong to the community as such so their argument is that he’s taking the speech time and the space of someone who is truly gay, who can speak first-hand about the realities of what it means to be gay and actually bring water to the mill instead of a half-glass of lukewarm water. Chris Thompson is straight so he should shut it and let the gays speak for themselves.
Firstly, he says it himself, his advocating and expressing himself doesn’t shush the others into darkness. He’s not taking anyone’s space. It’s 2016 and the age of virtual reality with infinite space to share, not 1850 with a couple of newspapers columns to fight for. If anyone has anything to say, say it. Open a YouTube channel, it’s free, a blog on WordPress or anything and just say what you want to say but don’t blame others for taking your space when you don’t even create it.
Secondly, we need him. We need straight people to also speak for us because they know exactly what to do to convince them: be themselves – tolerant and happy. Having straight people to defend us doesn’t make us any weaker, or more dependent on them. The truth is that we are a minority so we do, somehow, depend on them. As of today, we depend on the people from the majority to also speak for us because there is safety and results in numbers. To call for the community to be the only one to be allowed to speak and defend itself is not going to get us anywhere.
Minorities and everyone who suffer discrimination in any form cannot afford to curl up in an armoured and restricted community that will be the only voice out there. We need people who, because of their gender, sexuality, skin colour, religious beliefs belong unwillingly to what is considered as the dominant group because they will be the first ones to be taken seriously by the said group and they will be role-models their peers will follow.
The first reaction we have in the face of someone else getting what we have is a feeling of self-defence so it’s dangerous to force the precept that we should only fight for our own privilege. It creates division and infighting when so much can be done by their free electrons to unite us under a common goal and make others understand that the fight for equality doesn’t deprive them of anything.
All these men – like me – who everyday explain to other men that women’s rights are not a personal threat to every living male. All these straight people I met at the gay pride who show the world everyday that gay rights are not a personal attack of straight people’s freedom. All these white people who campaign against racism. All these people who campaign for animal rights because they have no voice. History moves forward and our societies improve because people see beyond their own privilege, why stop them?
Where would the women of France be without the man who used his position of power to weather the storms of his sexist peers as he managed to convince them that contraception had nothing to with men but everything to do with women’s freedom to have control over their own body?
In South Africa, it took a white man to stop the Apartheid. Why? Because white people had the power but it doesn’t make Nelson Mandela and his life work irrelevant. De Klerk was a selfless force for good who saw beyond his own privilege and that’s what Mandela needed, what every black person in South Africa needed. People like him is what we all need.
Don’t let anyone restrict you to your own parish. You needn’t be a woman to fight for women’s rights, you needn’t be gay to fight for gay rights, you needn’t be fat to fight against body-shaming, you needn’t be discriminated to fight against discrimination.
If you want to help ring the bells of someone who, you know, is being ignored or discriminated, do it. If, for whatever reasons, the society has put you in a position of power and you want to use it to help others, do it.
Use your position to do good, we need all the help we can get.