Guides + Resources

Notes on Allyship

TehQuin D. Forbes and Koji Ueno explore how queer people evaluate straight allies. According to them, there are three distinct allyship forms through expectations from allies: post-gay, political, and ‘pieced together’.

Allyship is primarily seen as the support given to a movement by someone who is outside it. However, today much of allyship has become performative activism and woke posturing on social media spaces which don’t directly lead to any immediate change in material conditions. Allyship should be based on community accountability, should exist beyond media screens, and should seep into the privileged, private spaces of our homes.

TehQuin D. Forbes and Koji Ueno explore how queer people evaluate straight allies. According to them, there are three distinct allyship forms through expectations from allies: post-gay, political, and ‘pieced together’.  Post-Gay discourse finds allyship supporting queer people only in our personal lives, where queer people’s lives are not lived, but rather negotiated. On the other hand, political discourse around allyship is supporting the queer community and participating in larger political, queer movement. The third discourse, pieced together, is a mix of these two positions.

Very often, the term “allies” refers to a privileged identity group that supports marginalised groups. Allies are seen as an asset to the movement and this adds to their sociological significance. While it’s true that allies can provide for resource mobilisation, they also stand to benefit by being part of the movement— feelings of reward, an elevated sense of being, and superior morality.  In order to better understand the role of allies in identity-based movements, we need to focus more on queer people’s evaluation of accounts of allies and allyship as opposed to focusing on the perspectives of allies. Research such as “Let’s Not And Say We Would” has shown that allies are not always helpful and may even turn to victim-blaming when it comes to standing up to queerphobic people, which is one of the many ways allies can be superficial in aiding queer people. 

Post-Gay Allyship

The meaning of queerness is shaped by historical and geographical contexts. The post-gay allyship is limited to privileged queer people who can mute their queerness and assimilate into the wider heteronormative society. An instance of this can be seen through diversity and inclusion policies in the corporate world, where allyship is very superficial—wearing a Pride T-Shirt in June or using pronouns to appear inclusive only when queer people are present in a given space. There is no political action based on the social justice framework to address the real gaps such as queer people missing at the top of the hierarchy. The focus is on normalising queerness but without challenging the heterosexual matrix.

When queer people identify with monogamy and ask for same-sex marriage to be legalised they are, in some ways, embracing the very institutions which exclude most queer people. The focus is on assimilation into heteronormative society, which often means giving up on markers of queerness something that comes easily to  ‘straight-passing’ queer folx. The queer movement centers intersectional identities like Dalit queers, Muslim queers, working-class queers, transgender sex workers, and transpersons. In contrast, in the same-sex marriage rights discourse (post-gay) within the queer movement, those with wealth and caste privilege undermine the core principles of the movement or create incongruity. If we look closely, cishet allies make films on same-sex marriages and engage with queer politics at a superficial level without the expectation of challenging these institutions.

Within post-gay allyship, queerness is not considered crucial as part of individual identity. Identity is not seen as ‘political’ in essence. Hence, support for queer politics is minimised and individualised. Some people value relationships with straight people over allyship and are okay with forgetting queerness as part of their identity, also known as ‘queer blindfolding.’ At the same time, queer people, primarily cisgender queer people, might see queerness as inconsequential in shaping their life and politics. This is because they’re privileged in other ways (caste, class, and cis privilege being primary) which make them less vulnerable solely on account of their queerness. Post-gay allyship, then, become more about assimilationist politics.

Political Allyship: “Us versus Them”

The political allyship is centred on the “us versus them” framework, highlighting the differences between queer people and straight allies. This framework is utilised more by queer people with intersectional identities as they’re often the ones who get invisibilised from the broader movement. The discourse on political allyship will have expectations from queer allies that are politicised instead of personalised. The focus is more on informed action and affirmation, which require a systemic understanding of queerphobia and other discriminatory institutions. Political Allyship asks for differences to be affirmed rather than othered.

Political allyship doesn’t look for finding commonalities with allies or a degree of sameness. Instead, it looks for differences to be celebrated. Here, the emphasis is not on ‘trying to be equal to straight people’ through other identity axes like caste, class, or cis-privilege. This also comes in when people performatively ask for pronouns only when other queer or transgender people are present, which again is a nasty form of allyship. Allyship is a more extensive process that requires political support for the queer movement – going to protests, holding discussions with stakeholders, passing the mic, among other actions that lead to sociopolitical gain for the queer people. This is natural as expectations are high from allies when one occupies a more vulnerable social location.

Pieced Together Allyship

Allyship becomes complex to define when queer people have expectations that take cues from both post-gay and political discourses. Here, queer people feel that they cannot put too many expectations on allies before they are educated by a queer person first. There is no depreciation of queerness like post-gay allyship nor exclusive focus on queerness and its political aspects like political allyship. Here, the focus is on allies’ intention and willingness to learn rather than their specific action. The problem with pieced together discourse is that it might not address intersectional queer identities, leading to failed allyship.

Moving beyond Allyship

Allyship is not fixed, and queer people’s expectations of allies vary greatly depending on privileges and socio-cultural contexts. Tashi Choedup, Research Fellow at Anveshi Research Centre for Women’s Studies, believes that we need relationships, not allyship. They should be based on working on a fair and equal world for everyone without any form of discrimination. Allyship should come in the form of unconditional support without any saviour complex, instead of being ‘politically correct’ and having a tokenistic checklist. Allies can help marginalised groups access resources. The support can, at times, come at the cost of assimilation into spaces and cultures that are normative. This goes against the promise of queer politics, where reclamation of spaces was one of the primary agendas.


  • Forbes, T. D., & Ueno, K. (2020). Post-gay, political, and pieced together: Queer expectations of straight allies. Sociological Perspectives, 63(1), 159-176.
  • Ghaziani, A. (2011). Post-gay collective identity construction. Social Problems, 58(1), 99-125.

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Rajeev completed their under graduation in Political Science Hons. from Sri Venkateswara College, University of Delhi in 2020. They graduated with Masters in Women’s Studies from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai in 2022 and were a participant at the International Writing Program’s Summer Institute, University of Iowa for the 2021-22 session. They have been the recipient of Mavelinadu Collective’s grant for non-fiction for the first issue of Debrahminising Gender. Their work can be found in EPW, Women’s Link Journal, Shuddhashar, Gaysi Family, Feminism in India and Hindu College Gazette among others. Their research interests include queer experiences, feminist ethics of care, and masculinities.

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