If there's one thing that I absolutely cannot stand, it's unfairness. I've always felt that way. I believe in human rights and under those rights, everyone should be treated with the dignity they deserve as human beings. Add to this, my gay and lesbian friends have been as important in my life as my fellow straight friends...and how can you see friends unfairly treated?
My first love, boyfriend and kiss were all with a then-closeted gay man. Since then we have become best friends. I have seen the struggles he has went through and heard the comments being made and the judgments. I knew him before and after and know he's exactly the same person. To me, becoming a straight ally really was about the things that I could do that he couldn’t. Why are we not equal? I didn't choose to be straight just like he didn't choose to be gay. You know deep down how you feel whether it is about who you are attracted to, who you feel most comfortable as in terms of gender identity - you don't choose any of it.
When I got married in 2005 to my husband, he (my gay best friend) was in attendance. Knowing that he could fall in love just like I did yet not be able to take it the next step really bothered me. So I made it one of my main goals in life to make it known that gay people are people too. These are people, brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents, friends, colleagues - just like you - and they deserve every right and liberty as an American that you (as a straight person) have.
I think that once the majority (in this case meaning straight people) start standing up for the minority (in this case meaning GLBTs) that little by little, society will start accepting. And with accepting comes understanding and with understanding comes basic rights.
I am a college educator, and every year I am more convinced of the urgent need to address gender diversity issues in the classroom. I train student teachers, many of whom will have GLBT students in their own classrooms, or students who are children of GLBT parents. I find the biggest problem among my students is not hostility but ignorance; once they are educated on the issues, they are generally supportive, but prior to our class it never occurred to them that this was an appropriate topic for K-12 education.
One semester, after we had discussed gender diversity in class, a freshman student came out to me as transgender. The child of a conservative immigrant family, he had previously had no idea that thousands of other young people shared his experience, much less that there were websites, pamphlets, films, and a whole supportive community out there! Encountering this information was a life-changing experience for him. Now I make it a point to bring up the topic in all my classes that deal with cultural diversity.
Ally. Get used to it. You’ll hear that word a lot, so be ready for it, and don’t shy away from it. Be honest with yourself as to that “why,” so you can be honest with those who ask, and can claim the same honesty from them as your own. Tell you what: I’ll go first.
From pretty young, I was used to growing up with my parents’ friends who were gay. They were around before I knew the word, and before I knew that some people thought this was a bad thing. And they were around for long enough that when I finally wised up to the fact that some people had a problem with them for how they were born, how they lived, and who they loved, I didn’t get why that should be. I still don’t, and I never will.
Sure, I’ve heard the arguments, and I don’t buy a single one of them. And for as many times as I’ve heard them, been dragged into the middle of them, I’ll have that argument each and every time. My family, my friends, the people with whom I’ve grown up, from whom I’ve learned, and yes, even those with whom I’ve fallen in love (you read correctly, but it’s a long story and I’m told I only have 300 words) are not statistics, nor abstractions. This is personal to me. Would you stand idly by while someone slandered, defamed, or disenfranchised your family? Didn’t think so.
I am a Nisei, or second generation Japanese-American, who has some experience in what it is like to be discriminated against. In 1943, during World War II, Americans were taught to distrust and fear Japanese-American citizens as possible traitors to our government. I was 14 years old and recall we were being called terrible names. Soon, along with some 120,000 West Coast Japanese-Americans, we were uprooted and herded into “relocation centers” that were really prison camps until the war ended. After the war it was a hard struggle to be accepted, to rent or buy a home, and to find employment. Even some churches were not welcoming. I learned what it is to be an outcast in our own society just because of my birth status.
While none of my five children are gay, we know first-hand much of what our gay, lesbian, bi, and trans friends continue to face. I have long since become an advocate for them and treasure their warm friendships.