Today is National Coming Out Day. Nineteen years ago today, half a million people marched on Washington for LGBT equality and Coming Out Day was born.
In her excellent post recognizing Coming Out Day, Pam poses a few questions for straight people: Are you “out” as an ally? Are you able to talk about gay friends or relatives with others? Are you comfortable shooting down homophobes when they spout off during a conversation? Happily, I can answer a resounding yes to all three.
Sometimes people ask me why I’m so passionate about fighting for LGBT equality when I’m not gay. Here’s why:
1) I believe with every ounce of my being in equal rights. I was taught in school from a very early age, as were we all, that America was a place where all people were seen as equal under the law. When I realized this was not true for certain people, simply because of their sexuality, which has no basis for legal discrimination and the prejudice against whom is rooted in a particular and limited religious interpretation that should not have legal standing, it made me fucking mad. And I’ve stayed mad. For my country to fulfill its promise of recognizing its every citizen as equal, it must extend the same rights to the LGBT community that it extends to me. I fight as a patriot.
2) I am motivated in many things by this quote from the Rev Martin Niemöller, a Lutheran minister who lived in Germany during WWII: First they came first for the Communists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me—and by that time no one was left to speak up for me. What I take away from this sentiment is not the fear, as might be assumed, but obligation. I am obliged to speak up for others who find themselves at the mercy of bigotry and oppression, because we are all in this thing together—and we’re stronger when we fight for each other. As a woman who is keenly interested in protecting my reproductive rights, I am as much a target of those who would seek to limit my rights based on their version of morality as are members of the LGBT community. I fight as an ally.
3) There are people who I love very much, my family by design, who are gay. Until they are no longer treated as second-class citizens, I will not rest. I fight as a friend.
Sometimes being a straight ally has meant calling out bosses, coworkers, friends, family who use homophobic epithets. Sometimes it has meant writing to my elected representatives. Sometimes it has meant challenging people’s beliefs, patiently and logically, finding an argument to which they can relate. Sometimes it has meant getting confrontational and angry. It always means being uncompromising, unapologetic, and unafraid—which is the very least I can do on behalf of a community who has shown me such a fine example of all three.