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Digital Subscriptions > Boston Review > Allies (Fall 2019) > A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE SOCIAL JUSTICE ALLY

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE SOCIAL JUSTICE ALLY

AT THE START of 2019, gay journalist Jonathan Rauch proposed that the term “LGBTQ” be retired as a collective referent for sexual and gender minorities. To replace it, he recommended a single “Q.” Writing in the Atlantic, Rauch argued that the “alphabet soup …has become a synecdoche for the excesses of identity politics—excesses that have helped empower the likes of Donald Trump.” Careful to note that he was not drawing a direct causal line from the term “LGBTQ” to the Trump presidency, Rauch nevertheless claimed that it was just this sort of “balkanization” that fueled the resentment of “ordinary Americans” and alienated “white, straight, male America”, sending them fleeing into Trump’s embrace. While Rauch noted that the “Q” would be derived from “queer”, itself an increasingly common term of inclusion in popular discourse, it would be sheared of the word’s ugly history and more recent “radical baggage.” His solution would make clear “that discrimination against sexual minorities—or for that matter sexual majorities—is not the American way.”

This tossed-off aside about sexual majorities is actually at the heart of Rauch’s argument about what is wrong with LGBTQ: unlike the longer initialism, even white, straight, male Americans can find a place for themselves in “Q”—or, more to the point, not feel excluded from it. Rauch is far from the first to think that a principal failing of LGBTQ is its lack of space for others. Indeed, this is a critique that has long been internalized: in the most common extended version of the term, LGBTQIAA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, Allies, Plus), a space has already been made for “Allies”, who could be any straight person—even white, male, American ones.

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About Boston Review

Allies is the first publication of Boston Review's newly inaugurated Arts in Society department. A radical revisioning of the magazine's poetry and fiction, the department unites them—along with cultural criticism and belles lettres—under a project that explores how the arts can speak directly to the most pressing political and civic concerns of our age, from growing inequality to racial and gender regimes, a disempowered electorate, and a collapsing natural world.