(#25 in a series of people who changed the course of my life)
How lovely it is to know that the burdens we bear are not left for us to carry alone.
This sentiment is how I feel about straight allies who “come out” on behalf of gay and transgender people. Some of them have done so on behalf of a gay or transgender family member or loved one. Others—with no direct connection to anyone gay or transgender—advocate for fair and equal treatment because of their faith or sense of morality.
The gay rights movement has enjoyed some victories of late—though the work remains far from over. These successes are in large part because of the hard work of two generations (and then some) of gays’ and lesbians’ during a time when it was highly unpopular to be out. But I believe the tipping point came when straight people started coming out and standing up for us—to the point that, for example, a super-majority of Americans are in support of marriage equality. (And if we’re only 5% of the population, then that means there are a whole lot of straight people in favor!)
Now I’m not talking about people who say “oh I like you” but privately say things like “hate the sin not the sinner” or close the voting booth curtain and vote against me. I am talking about people who show with their words and their actions that I and others like me deserve to be treated as full and equal citizens of our country and who believe I am just as much a creation of God as anyone else.
Our four grown sons and their mother are allies and have generally always had this kind of sensibility even before I came out. My aunt, my straight siblings, and their significant others are allies. And so are a significant number of friends in my life—too many to picture and name in this post. Specifically, I think of straight folk who stood up for me in the small town I used to live in or at the company I used to work for. For many, it can’t have been an easy thing to do—particularly for those who identify as Christian; but there were many who have–some very matter-of-fact and some rather defiantly.
Some straight allies I know have a journey story that includes doing a complete 180 in their stance—from not at all supporting gays and lesbians to a position where they openly advocate for them. Others have journeys that include severing relationships with people—even faith communities—who continue to demean gay and transgender people and relegate them to “second class citizenship.” A few have even experienced a very real type of rejection and discrimination from their stance by those who disagree with them. And I know of educators whose same compassion and acceptance for me guides them as they interact with gay and transgender students who are at significantly greater risks of bullying and low self-esteem.
These people—these activists in their own right—have influenced me and my own sensibilities around what kind of stand I take for others.
Do I stand up for my transgender sisters and brothers?
What about those whose race or citizenship status is different than mine?
What about women?
Those who are poor?
You see, I have had to take a long look at my own prejudices and the times when, while I was selfishly squawking about my own rights, I turned a deaf ear toward the pleas of others who are marginalized. But I am a better person because of all of these people who have chosen to stand with people like me.
Friend of mine and any of you, anywhere in the world, who have taken a stand for someone who is gay or transgender, I hope you see yourself in this post.
I thank you for bravely stand up for gays and lesbians. For saving lives through compassion and being an example to others. For how you’ve changed the world for so many of us.
And for how you have inspired me to become like you and continue to be the change in our world.