The nice people at The Huffington Post were kind enough to publish my article on their Gay Voices page about why straight allies should be willing to speak out on behalf of LGBT issues. I added it here too in case you missed it. If you don’t agree, that’s fine. I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything. I’m simply sharing my opinion on the matter. I felt like I needed to have my say on the issue, which is why I wrote my novel That You Are Here in the first place. Here’s the link to the article on The Huffington Post’s website. If you have a moment, stop on by the page and share your thoughts on the matter. What’s cool is that now I’m a blogger for The Huffington Post — I have an official blogger’s account and everything.
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An FYI: If you agree with anything anyone on Duck Dynasty has ever said, you will not like this post. If, however, you believe that all human beings are in fact human beings, and that all human beings fall in love, then by all means proceed.
We don’t have to go very far to find examples of those who fight against same-sex marriage with every ounce of energy they have. Politicians, religious organizations, and ordinary citizens can be loud in their opposition to same-sex marriage. Despite this backlash, there has been an increased public acceptance of same-sex marriage, due in no small part to the courage of many in the LGBT community. When you know that your neighbor, your friend, your teacher, your favorite actor, or your favorite musician is gay, suddenly gay people aren’t so different — you realize they’re regular people who do their jobs and fall in love and live their lives like everyone else.
Yet for many there’s still an us-vs.-them attitude toward LGBT issues. “That’s their problem,” many say, or, “That doesn’t affect me.” Or, worse, many just ignore the issue completely. Here’s a post from Unabridged Andra’s blog where she talks about parents not saying much, if anything, to their children about marriage equality. She has a column on her blog called “LGBT Tuesdays” where she works to bring understanding of LGBT issues. What Andra is doing is wonderful, and there should be even more openness toward LGBT issues, especially from those of us who are straight allies.
Like Andra, I’m not a parent, but I was a classroom teacher for over 15 years, and I’ve seen how children are coming out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender at younger ages. The more we can do to let these young people know that they are accepted and appreciated, and the more we can help them feel like they are an integral part of society, the easier it will be for them to grow into complete, productive adults. If LGBT allies don’t speak out when we see bullying taking place, if we don’t speak up when we hear derogatory comments about LGBT people, if we don’t add our voices when the need arises, then we will continue with a culture of bullying, depressed children, and struggling adults.
I’ve seen documentaries about the Freedom Riders, the brave men and women who fought for equal rights during the civil rights movement in the 1960s, and I’m always amazed by the extraordinary lengths they went to — physically and emotionally — to help their cause. I often wonder if I would have that kind of physical courage to help support a cause I believe in. Let me rephrase that: I know for a fact I don’t have that kind of physical courage. But I’ve seen friends struggle with marriage inequality, and I’ve heard their stories about legal issues that can arise because the partners weren’t legally married, and I decided I didn’t want to be a silent voice. I wanted to have my say. But why, you may ask, does a straight woman care about gay marriage? I care for many reasons. I care because my friends should be able to live their best lives without being penalized for who they are. I care because the laws of this country should reflect the rights of all its citizens. And I care because as a classroom teacher I saw too many young people ostracized and bullied because of their sexual orientation.
The late and very great Maya Angelou often said that we are more alike than we are different, and the older I get the more I know that’s true. Once we learn to see the stories of LGBT people not as “their” story but as human stories, then we can see that we are interconnected and our struggles are universal. After all, all people have to learn to feel comfortable in their own skin. We all have parts of ourselves that we need to come to terms with and accept, whether we’re gay or straight. Everyone needs to find their own path in the world, and everyone falls in love. Once we recognize that same-sex marriage isn’t about being gay or lesbian but about being human and wanting to do human things like get married and have a family, then we can see that what we’re really fighting for is everyone’s right to live their best lives.
My point isn’t about trying to change the minds of those who are stubbornly against gay marriage. I’m not naive enough to think that any amount of arguing or finger pointing will prompt anyone to think differently about this important issue. My point is that those of us who are on the side of same-sex marriage should feel comfortable speaking about it. We should be ready to share our views, not with the intention of confrontation but with the intention of being comfortable saying “I’m for same-sex marriage” so that others do not control the conversation. If people against same-sex marriage have no problem speaking their minds, then neither should people on the side of same-sex marriage. The more people who speak out, and the more positive voices that are heard, the more accepted same-sex marriage becomes, and the sooner same-sex marriage will be legal in all 50 states. Yes, more states are allowing same-sex marriage every day, but there are still obstacles to overcome. Sharing our positive voices will help.