Jack Falahee, who plays the gay character Conner Walsh on ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder, recently shared an impassioned testimony on Twitter about the 2016 election and his own sexuality. The actor set the record straight that he’s straight, which isn’t actually “coming out” as some publications are angling it. Coming out isn’t a thing for straight people, just to be clear. In nothing less than two pages of text, Falahee described how he felt compelled to act after election night, when he watched his gay friend cry and felt bad about it. With a Trump presidency coming to a White House near us, Falahee thought it was important to open up about his own sexuality so that he may be an ally for LGBTQ folks in what are sure to be some dark days ahead. He also included a bulleted list of actions he plans to take in order to be a good ally.
I'm happy that Falahee is feeling so inspired. But I’ve seen these kinds of public declarations of solidarity before, and how they can get old really quickly. In my own personal life, they've come in the form straight, white, able-bodied, and/or cisgender friends whose sudden wave of guilt became the focal point of their activism and the burden of everyone around them to bear. They take up space with their impassioned displays of allyship and somehow still manage to avoid the actual work. You may recall that we've seen this dynamic play out publicly from a source very close to Falahee. For about a week, Matt McGorry, who plays Asher Millstone on HTGAWM alongside Falahee, proudly wore the title of #wokebae, for his rare combination of baby face, man chest, and commitment to gender parity and racial justice. But he wore out his welcome quickly after followers realized he was actually just into cool T-shirts, buzzwords like “intersectional” and “gender equality,” and mansplaining feminism to actual feminists trying to hold him accountable. He was the first woke bae that I was literally begging to take a nap. Adoring responses to Falahee’s dissertation have already started to pour in. And while I, too, find it admirable when privileged individuals use their privilege to make the world a little bit better for those of us who aren't, I don’t have a lot of time to stand still and applaud them. Real allyship is not about earning adoration. It’s about organizing your communities in order to effect change. It’s not brave for Jack to tell LGBTQ folks, “I’m here for you.” It’s brave for him to tell straight people, “I’m here for them, you should be, too. Let’s do the work.” It’s a lesson that Falahee’s castmate still hasn’t learned. So let this be a warning: Stay woke, Jack. But tread light.