Poem: Straight Allies Flag

Joelle Taylor (left), Hannah Chutzpah (right)

I was delighted to be commended in the Waltham Forest Poetry Competition – judged by poet, theatre-maker, enthuser & force of nature Joelle Taylor (shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize – watch this space). The night was absolutely gorgeous, and an embarrassment of riches with some incredible talent. All the winning & commended entries can be found on the Waltham Forest Poets website.

My poem wot got commended (below) is called Straight Allies Flag. It’s named after the real life flag which I think of as the ‘no homo, pro homo’ flag, which I find bitterly funny as a concept. The black and white bars imagery is actually taken directly from the homophobic ‘straight pride’ flag – hopefully unwittingly? Either way, the flag was a route in to addressing some harmfully low expectations.

Straight Allies Flag. Awkward.

Straight Allies Flag

Your allyship wants to clarify its role to everyone
Does not want to be mistaken amoung our ranks
“I’m straight, but I think it doesn’t matter who you love or what you are”
Your allyship has not listened enough to know
That indifference does not sound like solidarity
Your allyship expects to be told how good it is
And how fierce it looks today, girlfriend
Your allyship thinks my girlfriend is just a friend
Your allyship needs to stop using the word ‘girlfriend’ like that

Your allyship expects congratulations for turning up at Pride
Consumes the most consumable parts of our culture
And fucks up our pronouns
‘Compliments’ us with a surprised
“Oh, really? I’d never have known!”

Your allyship assumes heteronormativity
In the spaces we hold open for our ‘other’
Your allyship slams doors it cannot even perceive
But it’s fine because some of your allyship’s best friends are gay

Your allyship can now toddle about on its own
But is not yet ready to stand shoulder to shoulder
Your allyship wants a cookie for knowing that you don’t hit people
Wants to rest in its low expectations pushchair
– While we push –
And bawls, wounded, if someone explains
Why that thing it said wasn’t very nice
Or here’s how it could do better next time

Your allyship wants to take part
But is still shitting its pants and crying
When its someone else’s turn

Your allyship needs to grow up.

Footnote: It has come to my attention that some people don’t like this poem and feel judged or called out by it. To them I would say: this poem is a challenge to do better. En garde.

Painting ‘L’Escrimeuse’ (The Swordswoman) by Jean Béraud. Credit: WikiCommons

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