Coming out ally

Commentary: Straight sister gets a taste of rejection

Cagle, second to left, with friends.

I should probably start out with a confession — throughout my youth, my attitude towards the LGBT community was little more than a formulaic result of a traditional Southern Baptist upbringing in small town Hendersonville, N.C., and a unanimously-dedicated Republican family. I subscribed to the seemingly compassionate “hate the sin, love the sinner” theology and carried on in life with little threat to the conservative bubble I lived in.

And then I came to college.

When I transferred to the University of North Carolina-Charlotte in spring 2008, I met a group of people I now affectionately call my “choice family.” By the fortunate happenstance of my class schedule, I encountered students of various backgrounds, hometowns, beliefs and — most interestingly — sexualities, who quickly grew to become my best friends. Needless to say, after spending time with these beautiful people and gaining a deeper understanding of their loving relationships, my opinions, theology and heart began to change.

It wasn’t until last summer that I found the courage to speak out. Despite being an intern for a supposedly liberal though un-affirming and unaccepting campus ministry at UNCC, I could no longer keep my silence. I read every book on ”the Bible and homosexuality” that I could get my hands on and talked to anyone who would listen. I was determined to break the façade that in order to be Christian I had to be anti-gay. So, on Oct. 11, National Coming Out Day, I took the opportunity to “come out” as a gay ally to all my friends and family.

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That’s when the shit hit the fan.

After extensive pushback, page-after-page of concerned Facebook messages, hours of intervention-style conversations and an eventual removal from leadership within my church, I had an epiphany — this experience granted me my first glance, if only a tiny sliver of understanding, of what the coming out experience must be like.

This is why it is so crucial for my fellow straights out there to put away the comfortable heterosexist privilege we enjoy and take a bold stand as an ally to the LGBT community. It’s not enough to believe, we must take action and call others to do the same. Only when we get our asses in gear, working for the advancement of our LGBT brothers and sisters can we begin to fathom the societal and cultural obstacles they are up against. With that understanding, we can finally begin — unified in goal and purpose — to work for a more loving and affirming world. : :

 

Becoming an ally

Interested in becoming a straight ally, but unsure of where to start? Here’s a few tips:

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Get educated :: Take a few minutes to review recent LGBT history in your area. Read up on literature and research that can help you deflect ignorant arguments. Ask your LGBT friends about their current experiences and about what issues matter most to them.

Get prepared :: Harvey Milk once said, “I fully realize that a person who stands for what I stand for, an activist, a gay activist, becomes the target or the potential target for a person who is insecure, terrified, afraid, or very disturbed with themselves.” Count the cost and prepare yourself for accusations and questions that are sure to follow your announcement. The attention you receive from this is a great opportunity to educate!

Get loud :: Tell your friends and family. Start the controversial conversations. Whether your loved ones (or not-so-loved ones) agree with you or not, they will be forced to recognize someone that they know as an ally. Hopefully, the conversations wonderful tools for chipping away at the fear-tactics and stereotypes and making way for better understanding.

Get involved :: Stay tuned in with qnotes’ event calendar (goqnotes.com/qguide/events) or volunteer at the Lesbian & Gay Community Center of Charlotte (gaycharlotte.com). Collective effort goes a long way, and we can use all the help we can get!

 

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Posted by Leah Cagle

Leah Cagle is QNotes' former associate editor for arts and entertainment. You can reach editor Matt Comer via arts@goqnotes.com or editor@goqnotes.com.