By Jude Aldrich Allaga

Cartoon by Maurice Gimena

Ironically, the so-called “woke” and “open-minded” generation persists in confining the LGBTQ+ community into a stereotypical box.

Five months ago, English actor Kit Connor confessed on the “Reign With Josh Smith” podcast that they were “perfectly confident and comfortable with my sexuality” and opted to leave themself unlabeled in the public eye. Yet, after immense pressure amid queerbaiting accusations, the “Heartstopper” star took to Twitter his premature coming out stating, “I’m bi,” and  congratulating those who forced an 18-year-old to out themself.

Queerbaiting is the “practice of implying non-heterosexual relationships or attraction to engage or attract an LGBTQ audience.” Connor, who plays “Nick Nelson,” the bisexual rugby jock and the eventual boyfriend of fellow “Heartstopper” star Charlie Spring has been persecuted online for not being open about his sexuality, implying that their role in the show was simply to “lure” LGBTQ audiences.

However, there has been no solid evidence of this apparent “queerbaiting.”

If anything, Connor–alongside the entire cast of Heartstopper–has actively fought in support of the LGBTQ community, as they joined the London Pride Parade in July; rallying against homophobic protesters proved that all impressions of “queerbaiting” were false.

Yet, people still prefer to push this false narrative of “queerbaiting” on the premise of Connor not coming out immediately–it is appalling to see silence perceived as duplicity. Until one learns how to respect the decisions of LGBTQ members, then one cannot label themselves an “ally.”

“Allyship” in essence, is a step towards inclusivity; people who act as “allies” are supporters of a marginalized group–in this case, an ally of the LGBTQ community. stated that having the time, space, and resources to help allows you to become an ally of any societally-challenged group. summarizes the significance of allyship in workplaces pretty well. When minorities are given representation at work, it creates an environment wherein everyone is comfortable enough to contribute. “When allies see something amiss, they say or do something,” as written. Constructive feedback from allies fortifies inclusive leadership and convinces exclusive leaders to think otherwise.

While representation is healthy, the forceful “practice of revealing the homosexuality of a person” or “outing” as defined by Oxford Languages, blatantly isn’t. To put it simply: true allies understand that one’s sexual identity is personal. The supposed supporters of Connor who shamelessly bashed them for not coming out contribute to this toxic culture of outing, potentially jeopardizing not only Connor’s but the mental health of each member of the LGBTQ community.

Arielle P. Schwartz of the National LGBTQ Task Force wrote in her blog that outing has been proven to be linked to suicide. “Often people who are outed feel blindsided and forced to reveal a deeply personal part of their identity without their consent and under someone else’s terms.” As continued by Schwartz, this was the case for Tyler Clementi- a student who took his own life after being outed by classmates online, or Marcus Wayman who committed suicide after a police officer threatened to alert his family on his homosexuality.

But this doesn’t have to be the case with Kit Connor. Lives could be saved if we participated more responsibly as allies. The simplest way is to acknowledge the experiences of the LGBTQ members, knowing, as Schwartz writes, that “coming out is a process and can be a difficult time for someone,” due to possible familial and societal ostracization.

The Trevor Project advocates for the mental health of LGBTQ members, assisting those facing suicidal thoughts due to gender-related discrimination. They offer toll-free suicide prevention hotlines and professional counseling as a form of help; this is true allyship. As opposed to performative allyship, which conforms to the trends of social media and society, true allyship is unconditionally supporting an undecided person on their journey toward self-discovery.

“Heartstopper” revolves around two teenagers falling in love and feeling more comfortable about slowly but surely expressing their sexuality. As Connor faces backlash over baseless queerbaiting accusations, it’s as if he truly were in the shoes of Nick Nelson. Amid faulty allyship, the core message of the show about respect toward LGBTQ gets lost in translation.

In an era of vast misconceptions of the LGBTQ, by actively being conscious of the struggles that they face,  we can rectify society’s skewed sense of allyship one responsible ally at a time.