I have a picture from San Francisco “gay pride,” sent to me by the first girl I ever kissed. Our love story began during a make-out party, when I was eighteen years old. I came of age with a group of kids who were comfortable pushing the boundaries out just a little further than the other kids with whom we went to high school. It was how we carved out our identities to discover more of our authentic selves.
I highly recommend teenage rebellion.
On this occasion, my beautiful friend and I confirmed something essential about our nature when our tongues met. We were straight. Without a doubt.
My generation befuddled even the most well-meaning baby-boomers with our proclamations of identity. We were goth, we were “bi,” we were drama geeks. We didn’t want to be cheerleaders. We didn’t want to go to Prom nearly as much as we wanted to go to the Rocky Horror Picture Show after Prom. We welcomed the unfamiliar, and we were better for it. I should have shunned the chain wallet and skipped school less. Other than that, I have few regrets.
I am married to a man and have two beautiful, able-bodied children. I have experienced my own unique brand of injustice and bigotry as a woman rising from poverty in the rural South.
I am an ally. I know I can never fully understand the complex experience of being LGBTQ+. I don’t know the experience of body dysphoria or what it would be like to live in fear of admitting I was madly in love with my (female) best friend, to hate myself because I couldn’t emotionally connect with partners of the opposite gender.
“Sure, there’s a separate set of issues that straight folks will never quite get. You’ll never understand the same kind of pain that I went through coming out to my mom, and the rejection I still feel … or what it felt like when I was conflicted as a teen … and what I still battle as a queer lady attracted to multiple genders,” says Megan, an LGBTQ+ activist. “We need people to understand that this community is their community. Not some other group.”
Why should LGBTQ+ pride matter to a cisgender, straight woman?
- Pride is about equality. LGBTQ+ rights issues are human rights issues. All people should be treated with dignity if we want to live in a just society.
- Pride is a celebration of personal power. If we let other people tell us who we are, we are at risk for being manipulated, controlled and hurt. Being proud of who we are means being empowered to advocate for our own well-being.
- Pride is unity. I have no doubt that someone you love is LGBTQ+. I have been inspired, moved, motivated, supported, comforted, and laughed my ass off with so many wonderful LGBTQ+ people during my life. We took a lot of the same journeys together. We may not have ended up in the same place on the spectrum when we went on the path to discovering ourselves, but we are still kindred. Their fight is my fight.
- Pride is fun! Duh.
- Pride is about visibility. For me, a bittersweet moment comes at every Pride event I have attended. I am overtaken by a feeling of community and a realization that I have spent most of the day in a remarkable bubble of acceptance. A melancholy wish follows, that this feeling could get big enough to cover the whole world. Women should remember that we must stay visible. The fight for our equal rights is not over yet, either.
- Pride is the future. I want my kids to be leaders, not followers. They will gain invaluable insight from the risks they take. They are unique. They should be proud of that and not fearful. I want to raise my kids in solidarity with their community, to prepare them to be people of integrity, good humor and compassion. I want them to be courageous and confront injustice. I want them to know how profoundly they are valued, just as they are.
My family and I walked in the 2015 Columbia, S.C. Pride parade with Auntie Bellum and Girls Rock Columbia. It was a day full of sunshine, and certainly not lacking for rainbows, made more glorious from recent significant political gains in the region.
The damn flag is down and marriage equality is a reality in the Palmetto State. There is good reason for a party.
Even still, legal battles continue for things like property rights, adoption legislation, and protection in the workplace (at the state level.) The 2013 GLSEN National School Climate Survey reports that South Carolina schools are still not safe for most lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender secondary school students.
“Allies can make a huge difference in LGBTQ people’s wellbeing and rights.” says Alexis Stratton, a queer writer, LGBTQ activist, and educator from Columbia. “I think a lot of people don’t realize how incredibly important straight/cis allies are to LGBTQ rights — and also how the liberation of LGBTQ people is part of the liberation of all. In other words, if I’m held to less strict gender-policing standards, so will you be. If I color outside the lines of the gender binary, you, too can color outside of the lines of your own gender canvas, even if that canvas is still a cis one.”
“The best way you can be an ally and sensitive to the needs of the LGBTQ people is to educate yourself and listen when a queer person wants to talk about queer stuff.” says Megan. “That’s a huge need– good allies.” She adds that it is vital to be informed and that the internet is a great resource, citing GLAAD and the Harriet Hancock LGBT Center in South Carolina as two good places to start.
Check out these excellent resources to learn more about being a good ally:
Straight for Equality Guide to Being a Straight Ally
Straight for Equality Guide to Being a Trans Ally
November 20th is Transgender Day of Remembrance. If you are looking for a way to be involved in Columbia, S.C., you can join other friends and allies at Washington Street Methodist Church for a vigil to memorialize transgender individuals that have been the victims of violent crime in the past 12 months. Other TDoR events and locations can be found here.
According to a 2014 analysis of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey by the Williams Institute, 57% of transgender youth attempted suicide after coming out and having communication cut off by family members. Violence against transgender people, especially transgender women of color, happens every day. The statistics are disheartening.
There is work still left to be done. But, there is much you can do.
Be proud, be an informed ally, challenge the status quo, and kiss who you want to!