Recently, a Republican politician came under hot water for liking gay men’s racy Instagram photos. As a result, he was banned from participating in the annual Drag Race and faced criticism from the media and his peers. In response, the politician explained that he was simply trying to encourage these men and promote their confidence. While his intentions may have been well-meaning, the situation highlights the complexities of being an ally to marginalized communities and the harm that can result from fetishizing or objectifying them.

First and foremost, it’s important to acknowledge that liking someone’s Instagram photos is a relatively low-stakes action. It’s not inherently harmful to double-tap a picture that you find attractive or aesthetically pleasing. However, the context of this situation complicates matters. The politician in question was a Republican who had a history of voicing anti-LGBTQ+ views and policies. This made his sudden affinity for gay men’s content seem insincere and opportunistic. It also raises the question of whether his actions were more about sexualizing these men than supporting them.

The harm of fetishizing marginalized communities cannot be overstated. Fetishization reduces people to stereotypes and objects, ignoring their individuality and humanity. It can also perpetuate harmful power dynamics, reinforcing the idea that one group is superior to another. In this case, the politician’s actions could be seen as fetishizing gay men for his own pleasure and ignoring the systemic issues that they face. It’s possible that he was not aware of the implications of his actions, but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t damaging.

Additionally, the idea of “promoting confidence” can be problematic. While it’s important to uplift marginalized communities and celebrate their identities, it’s not the responsibility of others to boost their confidence. This mentality can create a power dynamic where the person who is “encouraging” is seen as a savior or hero, while the marginalized person is reduced to a victim in need of rescuing. It also ignores the agency and autonomy of the marginalized person, suggesting that they are not capable of finding confidence and self-worth on their own. Instead, it’s important to support and amplify voices from these communities, while also respecting their boundaries and individual experiences.

The issue of being an ally to marginalized communities is complex and multifaceted. It requires a continuous effort to learn about and understand the experiences of those whose identities differ from our own. It also requires a willingness to check our own privilege and biases and actively work to dismantle oppressive systems. It’s not enough to simply “like” someone’s photos or acknowledge their existence – we need to actively work towards creating a more equitable and just society.

In the case of the politician who liked gay men’s racy Instagram photos, it’s clear that his actions were misguided and harmful. While he may have had good intentions, he failed to consider the implications of his actions and the larger context in which they occurred. As allies, we must strive to do better. We must listen to and uplift voices from marginalized communities, while also recognizing our own limitations and blind spots. Only through continuous education and reflection can we work towards creating a world where everyone is valued and respected.