I was raised in a Christian home where, unless you were Aunt Pepper and Aunt Aimee, gay was wrong. Period. No (other) exceptions. It was against God’s way, against nature, perverse, and unspeakable. That said, all good Christian girls should reach out and be friends with these deviants. It’s a common Christian teaching. I have many friends who still feel this way.
But the summer between my 7th and 8th grade years something happened that would start the ball rolling to change me. I was sent on a school trip to Washington D.C. While there I stumbled into the middle of a Pride parade.
As it would happen, my group was given some free time around the national mall. I got lost… and stumbled out of an ally and into the middle of Pride. A kindly man dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz (not even kidding) recognized me as lost, asked me where I needed to be, and told me the route back to the Lincoln Memorial (our rendezvous point) was right along the parade route. So, I walked with Dorothy, a few hundred of her closest friends, and a middle school friend (whose name I can not recall) through our nation’s capital.
At the end of my first ever Pride parade I realized something. They were not deviant. They certainly weren’t predators. Hell, they weren’t even mean. They HELPED me. They INVITED me IN to their celebration. Openly. Without Judgement. Freely. I bought a pride T-shirt and was sold on a new attitude.
When I got home from the trip and grandma saw the t-shirt, she literally burned it in our living room buck stove. Symbolic, really… because her fire only served to further ignite mine.
I began to question what I had always been taught. What beliefs were MINE and what beliefs were simply learned behaviors? I decided some very important things that summer.
- · Homosexuality is naturally occurring. Happening in every animal species on Earth, regardless of social implications.
- · Homosexuality can NOT be a choice. Because who on EARTH would choose the discrimination and hate that these people have to endure, just to be who they are?
- · It is morally wrong to sit silently and support inequality and injustice.
There is a very famous Holocaust quote that says:
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
For me, becoming an ally was that simple. It might not be MY fight, but sitting by silently made me just as guilty as those actively discriminating this community. Even so, I just considered myself fair- not yet an ally.
In my freshman year of college, an ex-boyfriend from high school came out to me. He told me first. Before closer friends, family, or his first “real” kiss (because trust me, we’d kissed plenty). He looked me up out of nowhere to tell me. We hadn’t spoken in nearly a year. I was not the easy or obvious choice to be the first to hear his secret. I later asked him, “Why me?” And he told me he wasn’t sure. Just simply that he knew I was a safe place to land- somehow. He knew what I did not yet know. That I was, and had been for quite some time, an ally.
During a recent conversation with a good friend I had a life break through. For the first time ever, I figured out WHY I chose to become an ally. I’d like to share this realization out loud. Because it’s a part of my story.
I am a child of a broken home. I was judged for that.
My dad is a drunk. I was judged.
My mom did a lot of drugs. I was judged.
I was raise by grandparents. I was judged.
I was very Christian. I was judged.
I got great grades. I was judged.
I was very thin. I was judged.
I was seemingly good at everything I did. I was judged.
I was a teacher’s pet. I was judged.
I was always early for everything. I was judged.
I could go on, but I think you get the picture.
In that parade, in the dorm rooms of my teenage years, the gay bars of my 20s, and now as a surrogate for gay men, I found something that I found nowhere else in my life. A complete absence of judgement. Pure acceptance. From these people who were so judged, hated, discriminated and oppressed daily, I found a purely safe place.
And apparently, they found one in me as well.