Friday, April 5, 2013

Ronald Reagan Would Have Supported Marriage Equality?!

So, I opened up the “Gay Voices” section of the Huffington Post in hopes of finding some compelling news to write about, not the most original place to find LGBTQ news, I know, but it’s usually some kind of start. And as the page loaded, I saw a huge banner of Ronald Reagan’s face take up the entire screen, with the bold, capitalized letters above it that read “UNLIKELY ALLY?”
            The caption below provided some clarity: “Ronald Reagan's Daughter Makes Surprising Claim About Her Father And Marriage Equality.” Hmm. With all of the space they devoted to these great graphics and catchy taglines, it was clear someone really wanted people to read this article. But even before clicking on the hyperlink and reading the article, I had some misgivings about this message.
            After talking extensively about allyship in our Peers for Pride class discussions, I feel a bit more critical of what it means to be an ally, in general and in the context of LGBTQ communities. The way I see being an ally, in LGBTQ contexts, is having a deep, wholehearted commitment to dismantling transphobia, homophobia, heterosexism, and cissexism in every form that these oppressions manifest themselves. The oppressions facing LGBTQ folks today are extensive and varying and complex. And yet, if Reagan’s daughter says he probably might have supported marriage equality because he had some lesbian friends, he gets to be an “UNLIKELY ALLY?”
            This is frustrating to me. It’s frustrating that being an ally to LGBTQ communities has become boiled down to how you feel about marriage equality. It seems to me like this gives people an excuse to hope that marriage equality happens and then they can feel like they are really doing their part. This is what seemed to be happening to me with the large amounts of people who changed their Facebook profile picture to the HRC logo. I mean, it is great to see that many people are supportive of marriage equality and I am not trying to discourage people from supporting that. I just want to challenge people to think more deeply about what an ally is, what LGBTQ communities need holistically, and what they can do to help realize all of those needs.
            I don’t believe it’s appropriate to label someone an ally when their daughter says they might have been in favor of marriage equality and their son says they would have been passionately against it, as in the case with Ronald Reagan. In my opinion, being for marriage equality is only the smallest part of the tip of the iceberg when it comes to being an LGBTQ ally and if we can’t even agree on whether Reagan would have done that or not, then I don’t think he deserves the title of “UNLIKELY ALLY?” even with the question mark. There doesn’t seem to be any question about it to me. He wasn’t an ally, likely or unlikely. There shouldn’t be any question about whether or not someone is an ally. An ally takes a very firm, clear and unwavering stance in support of all issues affecting LGBTQ communities—economic justice, racial justice and gender justice for some examples.
            The Huffington Post article said Reagan would have “‘been puzzled’ by the opposition to same-sex marriage.” I think allyship is more than being puzzled. It’s more than changing your Facebook profile picture. It’s more than having gay friends. It's about actively going out every day and having conversations that LGBTQ folks can't always have or get tired of having, doing work with legislation, making your workplace LGBTQ friendly and so many other ways to actively work for change. 

The article: here! 

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