Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Why I Am an Ally

I've been working on this article for several weeks now, hoping to publish it in Smile Politely. But I'm just not happy with it. So while I try to figure out what to do with it, I thought I might as well throw what I have up on my blog, where I have much lower standards. That's what a blog is for, right?

June is Pride Month, so it seems like good timing.


Why I Am an Ally

I’ve known ever since I was a young boy that I was attracted to girls. I love the female form: their curves, their voices, their faces, their hair, even their hands and feet.

I know this is not a courageous thing for a man to admit. It reminds me of the Onion headline: “Area Man Has Naked Lady Fetish.” But it’s something that I’d like to establish up front, because I would like to explain why I am a staunch advocate for gay rights.

As a liberal, there are lots of issues that I can get behind. I could attend anti-war protests. I could rail against genetically modified food. I could get all up in your face about the PATRIOT Act.

Yeah, I care about those things, but they’re not issues that I’m passionate about. The issue the really sticks in my craw, the one that gets my blood pumping, is why homosexuals can’t get married. This despite the fact that there are many other issues that have a much more direct impact on my life. I mean, I never have to worry about the state or society recognizing my relationships. So why do I care so much?

The first time I realized that I did care was when I was in high school. Some friends speculated about whether a classmate of ours was gay or not. We discussed the evidence, which for 16-year-old boys was all assumptions and hearsay. Finally, I said, “So what? Would it change your opinion of him if he was gay?” They said, “Of course it would!”

To back up their position, they explained, “It’s a sin.”

Pul-leeeeze, as Dan Savage would say. These were guys who would have lied, cheated, and stolen if it would have gotten them laid, but now when we start talking about dudes getting with dudes they suddenly become paragons of piety? What I realized from that conversation was that, huh, I guess I did have an opinion about gays, and huh, who knew that my friends were such homophobes?

A few years later, in college, there was a big controversy over a letter written to the school paper. Some deeply homophobic asshat wrote a screed against homosexuality, ending it with his wish that all gays would “move to California, get AIDS, and die.” This letter bothered me. A lot. I couldn’t stop thinking about how offensive it was. I lost sleep and stayed up late writing an impassioned response. Again, I had to ask myself, why did I care so much?

Of course, an obvious reason for my reaction would be that I was a closet-case myself. Who else would be so bothered about an issue that didn’t seem to concern him? It’s a question I’ve asked myself many times, and even did my share of experimentation in college, but I always come back to the same conclusion: I love women.

Over the years I have made many gay friends and got involved in gay causes. I read gay books and go to gay lectures. Two of my favorite writers are David Sedaris and Dan Savage. I can’t explain my interest in gay culture, but it’s there. Despite my enduring interest in the ladies, I am a friend of the Friends of Dorothy.

A while back I was reading a book, Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever by Joel Derfner. It’s a humorous book, but in one serious passage he explains how being gay affects everything he does. This line jumped out at me: “I believe that the desire to love or be loved is the strongest force on earth.”

I agree. I’ve always been a romantic. The one consistent goal I’ve had throughout my life is to find a partner, a snugglebunny, a soul mate. I’ve been lucky enough to experience that connection on a handful of occasions, enough to know that nothing really compares to it. A lot of my single friends are perfectly happy with their independent lifestyle, and I can appreciate that, but it’s not my ultimate goal. The desire to love and be loved is certainly the strongest force in my life.

Coming from that perspective, you can imagine how offensive it is to me that people would seek to suppress in others the need to love and be loved. I consider the desire for companionship as much a part of the human condition as the desire for food, shelter, and safety. We are social pair-bonding animals. To deny someone such a basic need is an affront to whatever god (or natural forces) gave you the capacity to love in the first place.

What’s most frustrating about this is, it is the civil rights issue that is the easiest to solve. It requires no effort or sacrifice whatsoever. You don’t have to stop a war or solve hunger problems or build up an infrastructure. Ending slavery, for example, at least had economic consequences. But there is absolutely no practical impediment to denying gays marriage licenses. There’s no argument against it that makes any logical or legal sense.

All you have to do is recognize love. Anyone who considers herself a romantic, who acknowledges the fundamental need for love in the human heart, should open their mind to it as well.

Where does the love come from?


For resources on how to be an ally yourself, see the UP Center of Champaign County website:

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