Jack Falahee Uses Straight Privilege for Activism

“How to Get Away with Murder” star Jack Falahee, who is acclaimed for his portrayal of gay character Connor Walsh, dropped a bombshell on Instagram one week ago: he’s not gay. This is long-anticipated news for his fans — Falahee believed that in keeping his sexuality a secret. over the years, he was “dismantl[ing] the closet” and “fight[ing] for equality.” For the two years that Falahee has been a cast member on “How to Get Away with Murder” (HTGAWM), the one question that most often appeared on all his social media platforms was his sexuality. As a character who played a gay man in a relationship with a HIV-positive man, Falahee’s sexuality was in the spotlight, as many fans of the show believed he would not have been able to play his part so well if he were not a member of the LGBT community.

The statement on Instagram regarding his sexuality was quite an emotional one. As Trump’s America became a reality earlier this month, Falahee saw a close gay friend cry over the success of the bigoted campaign. He could not stay quiet. Soon after the election, Falahee issued a statement discussing how a privileged straight man like him must take an active role to protect the rights of the vulnerable.

In truth, Falahee is quite privileged — being a white, straight, cradle-Catholic man, he is most likely going to be left unscathed by Trump’s policies. But what about the LGBTQ community, people of color, Muslims and Jews? Their fates are uncertain, considering that both Trump and his vice president, Mike Pence, have expressed anti-Islamic, anti-Semitic, homophobic, misogynistic and racist views. The platforms that Trump has raised terrify Falahee. For this reason, he is now using his sexuality and the public eye to raise awareness about the long-ingrained homophobia of the U.S.

In his statement, Falahee noted that his stance on sexuality “has ultimately been unhelpful in the fight for equality,” and that he has “sacrificed [his] ability to support the [LGBTQ] community for a more theoretical discussion about sexuality. Now more than ever, [he] want[s] to offer [his] support to the community as an ally.”

For this reason, Falahee has enumerated five courses of action for all his followers. He believes these steps will edify people of all political backgrounds. His list considers these five ideas to be extremely pertinent to the fight for equality: Educate yourself and others about the political system, engage in local elections, support the LGBTQ community, listen to the other side and donate to organizations that support people threatened by the new president-elect.

The five courses of action that Falahee listed give his audience a concrete way to promote equality and rise against Trump’s bigotry.

Not only does this list acknowledge standing up for what is right, it also urges people to listen to the opposite side and try to understand opinions that they might consider “unfounded” or “unreasonable.” What I really appreciate about Falahee’s list is that he acknowledges that all people should be heard — whether they are liberal or conservative.

However, it is imperative for us to stand up for the most vulnerable members of society, because as history has shown, they are often the targets of horrendous crimes. As Falahee implies, America is made up of people of countless religious and ethnic backgrounds, so we should not make anyone feel as if they are not wanted in this great nation. Instead, we should foster an environment in which people of all backgrounds are valued.

Although Jack Falahee’s Instragam statement started out as a way to expose his sexuality, his consequent comments reminded America that in order to be great again, we must be accepting again.

Sharmin Shanur is a first-year cognitive sciences major. She can be reached at sshanur@uci.edu.