Saturday, October 11, 2008

Coming Out as a Straight Ally

I grew up in rural Virginia, outside of Richmond. Growing up, my parents always told me that everyone was different, that it was okay to be different. I took these lessons to heart.

For a long time, I didn’t know what it meant to be gay. All I knew was that it had to do with men and women, that it was something bad or scary, and the subject made people very angry at each other. I didn’t think about it much because I didn’t think it affected me, which is why I didn’t know what being gay really meant until I was in high school. When I finally found out, I thought, “That’s it? That’s what people are up in arms about? What’s the big deal?” I thought it was silly that people got so angry about this issue, but again I didn’t think much of it because I didn’t think it affected me. But from then on, as I began to learn more and more about what was happening to LGBT people, I got more and more angry. I couldn’t understand why there was so much hatred directed at them, and I kept thinking that this is exactly how we treated African Americans for years and years.

All through high school I became more and more upset at the way people talked about and treated LGBT people, but I didn’t think it was my place, as a straight person, to speak up. It wasn’t until college that I realized that my help was needed and wanted by the LGBT community. Speaking out and expressing my feelings and beliefs on these issues felt so good! I really felt as though I was doing something important, affecting lives, effecting change. It was empowering! It still is.

It hasn’t always been easy: people still ask me if I’m gay, and some of my extended family members aren’t too happy with me because of my stance on LGBT rights. But being an ally is more than just the right thing to do, it’s part of who I am. Now I work for the PFLAG project Straight for Equality, so I can show other allies how to make their voices heard. I’m a proud, out ally and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

- Julie Handy

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