Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Is it more important that gays and allies stand together unified without feeling compelled to say "I'm straight, but...", or is it a stronger message to say "You don’t have to be gay to support gay rights"? -- Australia Scott.


I think either way is effective.  During the African American civil rights movements, I think it created powerful messages to see people of different races standing together to support each other.  I was not around obviously, but I can imagine it must have been very energizing and amazing to see such powerful figures as Martin Luther King Jr. and the Kennedy’s standing together, it must have been inspiring to people of all races.  I think that in order to make people understand, you need people of different backgrounds to come together for one cause that both sides believe will enhance the value of the community. 

I think things have changed a little in the case of the LGBT and Straight Allies.  I believe that some people feel the need to let others know that they are straight for several reasons.  For some, it is simply because it makes them feel comfortable.  You have to understand, that a lot of these allies are new.  They are in the movement because they have close friends or family in the LGBT and they want to fight for those they love.  Since it is their first time in anything of this sort, most feel awkward, so identifying themselves might help get them past this stage and allow them to communicate openly.  Most are not very knowledgeable about the community and they just want to help.  So the first few meetings are an eye opening experience for them, and it takes a while to learn the different language and allow themselves to open up and take it all in.  The important thing is that they are actually there to help out in any way possible. 

There are also those who believe that allies shouldn’t identify themselves either.  Some believe it is a powerful message to just show up with an anonymous persona and help out with a cause.  It is like a random act of kindness, and they want to help, but they also want to remain unknown.

In my opinion it does not really matter which approach people take, because in the end they are all there to do the same thing, help out in any way.  Even a little help from someone goes a long way, no matter if or how they identify themselves 


Australia Scott said...

I was looking forward to seeing what you'd say. I was not disappointed.

I'll admit, I'm alittle too quick to get irritated at people who go "I'm straight but...". I mean, you make two good points here, though one not explicitly. In the black civil rights movement, you really couldn't pass yourself off as another race if you wanted. It was always about people in the majority or privileged group standing with the oppressed, saying that the appearance of some universal race divide was just false. In the same way, straight allies are showing those raised with the cultural notions of "those deviant gays" that their beliefs may not be universal, and god help them, possibly mistaken. If a homophobe sees a a group of gay or unidentified LGBT supporters, he or she could just disregard them. But to see other straight people take the opposite point of view, now that's eye opening.

I also don't give credit to how scary it can be to be an ally. I'm bisexual myself, and that ability to wear the cloak of straight privilege kept me in the closet far too long. Sure, now I'm out and am working to make up for that, but the point stands. For a straight ally, the risks far outweigh the potential rewards. They gain nothing for themselves by standing up, but stand to be accused of being gay themselves (a horrid crime in some places), or lose respect from their peers simply for being a "fag lover".

So yes, I have been known to be angry when they give themselves this safety net of "I swear I'm not gay!", rather than the riskier move of staying silent. But just being an uncloseted ally is a bold move in its own right, maybe bolder than your average coming out. Its putting your neck on the line for the good of others.

So for the second time in as many years, a Shepard has jarred me out of a comfortable position. Thank you. And thank your mother for accidentally setting me on a course from silent watcher to activist. I have yet to meet a kinder gentler woman. :-)

Ben said...

Hi All!
I'm really writing this to Logan. I'm sure you get this a lot, but I JUST heard about your brother's story for the first time last night, and seriously, I cried for about two hours watching both the Laramie Project and The Matthew Shepard Story on youtube. As a guy who has been in the closet for almost 4 yrs (I'm 20) now, and only one younger friend from church knowing (and he practically disowned me because he had the same feelings but couldn't deal with them and the faith component), because of all that, Matthew's story spoke to me so loudly! I guess in reality, it'd speak to or not! I guess why I'm posting a comment...I feel like in the past 48 hours I've inundated myself with Matthew's story, and I've read lots of follow-on articles and read a lot of what your parents, especially Judy, have had to say about Matt. But I guess what I was hoping maybe you could respond to, Logan, (and in someways I feel like maybe 'this' isn't out there for a reason) was what you remember of Matt as your older brother. Your feelings about him before the attack, and afterwards. I just feel like you could almost write an entire book about it all! But I guess I just feel like I've gotten the perspective of parents, but nothing compares to life with a brother. This whole tragedy makes me so so very sad! It's definitely encouraged me to become a greater advocate for the basic civil rights of GLBTs. I look forward to reading your blogs to come!
(And Logan, I can completely understand if talking about Matt in a more intimate way outside of how he is the cause of your motivation and advocacy is something you don't want to do for the'd be a huge burden emotionally to do! I wish I could give you a hug!)