Sunday, March 27, 2011

"Without community, there is no liberation." - Audre Lorde

A few weeks ago, as I sat on a chair in the social work building, surrounded by a classroom full bright social work students and a handful of my Peers for Pride companions, I was asked a question that brought on a lot of reflection. My two fellow Peers for Priders and I had just finished performing our monologues and it was now time for the audience to ask us questions outside of our monologue character, as our true day to day selves. After some meaningful dialogue with the students, a man in the class asked us to identify our sexual orientation. We all froze and awkwardly looked at each other, each of us begging with our eyes for the other person to answer first. Shane, our instructor/ professor for the class had told us in a previous class that we could answer this question however we felt comfortable, but still no one spoke. My thought process went something like this: I’m straight. SHIT. **blood rushes to my face** WTF should I say? If I say out loud that I’m straight, do I look like the “ally” who is scared of being called a lesbian? I know identifying as straight entitles me to privilege, how do I tread lightly with this? I REALLY don’t want to sound like a jackass today. FML. SOMEONE ELSE ANSWER FIRST! Well… no one else answered. So I stumbled my way through an answer and identified myself as straight. Somehow we all made it out of the room alive. This question got me thinking. I’m an ally. I’m loud and proud. I love this cause and it will always be a part of my soul. When I’m asked why I’m in Peers for Pride, I always have the same answer. I want to be an 80 year old lady, sitting on her porch, drinking a long island ice tea with a little too much vodka, speaking with her grandkids about the crazy things she used to do. I want to tell them about how I helped changed the world for the better. How I stood side by side with an amazing community of LGBTQ folks and fought for their rights. How we educated people through monologues. How we changed lives, how the cause changed our own lives. When my grandkids start assuming their crazy old hippy grandma used to be a lesbian. I want to explain that I wasn’t. I want them to know that we are sometimes handed privilege. As we go through life we’ll always see wrong in the world, but its how we help those being wronged, those without the same privileges we own, that makes you the person you are. I hope they understand that no matter what their relation to the cause is, if they see people that are need help, help them in any way you can. Don’t be scared for standing up for something you believe in. I still have a few years until I get to that long island ice tea, so until then I’m going to keep trying to make more stories to tell them. Through my reflection, I’ve realized that I don’t have to be ashamed of being a straight ally; I’m not the girl that’s scared to be called a lesbian. I'm in a wonderful program called Peers for Pride, I wear my "Don's Say That's So Gay" button proudly, I love my Pride Week t-shirt. I know that as a straight ally I have an opportunity to bring a powerful message into the classrooms we visit. A lot of these students we’ll speak with may identify as straight and I want them to know that it’s ok to be an active ally. A cause this big needs every person, no matter what their sexuality, to get on board. I hope they realize that even though it’s not their civil rights that are being stripped away, I hope they feel inspired enough to get involved. It takes more than the people being wronged to change something this large. I’m far from a perfect ally and my never ending journey to becoming the perfect ally is FAR from over, but I want allies who read this to know to not be ashamed of where they are with their knowledge on LGBTQ issues. I took this class as an opportunity to grow out of my ignorance and I’ve already learned so much. This program has changed my life. For those who want to become an educated and active ally, here are some of my favorite resources that have really helped me: BOOKS: 50 Ways to Support Lesbian and Gay Equality; the Complete Guide to Supporting Family, Friends, and Neighbors- or yourself… is written by Meredith Maran and Angela Watrous Queer Theory, Gender Theory written by Riki Wilchins Becoming a Visible Man written by Jamison Green Stay updated on LGBTQ NEWS that you don’t see in everyday media: If you're a student at the University of Texas at Austin or have the opportunity elsewhere, take a CLASS like “Feminism Now” or “Confronting LGBTQ Oppression.” There is a "pink book" located on the GSC website (there’s a link below) where all LGBTQ courses are listed. Click on the resources link on the left side of the page and then the link "Pink Book" is located on the left. Become involved! Join the Gender and Sexuality Center list serve: The GSC is also another WONDERFUL and SAFE place to meet people, find literature, figure out how to get involved, ask questions, etc. Also, on the GSC website, under resources there is a list of PDF pages for information on how to be an ally like, " Does and Don'ts for Families and Friends" And just remember, as ally’s we will stumble over our words sometimes and we may put our foot in our mouths, but don’t forget to learn and grow from every experience, go in with the right intentions, speak with LGBTQ people and listen to their stories, ask questions, and when you do screw up, own up to your mistakes. We’re all in this together.

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