Thursday, October 7, 2010

A is for Ally

I had a sheltered childhood. My relatively young parents (they were 20 and 22 when I was born) sheltered me from all kinds of things, like
  • violence
  • prejudice
  • hate
  • homophobia
  • organized religion
I remember an apartment in Evanston, Illinois, in the 1960's that was often full of adult friends with guitars and go-go boots, people who were black and white, couples who were same gender, and singles who were falling in love. I remember walking in protest marches against the war in Viet Nam, being early adopters of recycling efforts, and knowing that I might see the American Bald Eagle become extinct.

I remember my first understanding of human reproductive systems came in a lesson from an innocent question.

"Mommy, why do Jane and Wanda have to adopt a baby? Why can't they just have one. Wanda already has a daughter, doesn't she? Why can't she just have another one?"

My parents, although not affiliated religiously, practiced a radical hospitality that completely embraced the Baptismal promise to "Respect the dignity of every human being." It was clear to me that this was expected of me and my sister, too. There were no "buts." Humans are humans and all should be treated with respect and dignity.

I remember taking some heat as a mother when people would teasingly ask my primary school-aged sons, "So, do you have a girl friend yet?" And when they shyly answered in the negative, I would often counter with, "Do you have a boyfriend?"  As people assumed that I was making a joke I would explain very seriously that "I don't want my sons to ever have to come out to me or my husband. I want them to know that we love them unconditionally, just as they are."

Several years ago when I was a parish youth minister the phrase "That's so gay" came into vogue as a negative commentary. That became a quick course of study grounded in the Baptismal Covenant and revealing statistics about the number of humans in any random gathering who may identify as GLBT persons. Obviously the phrase was not welcome on the premises nor was it tolerated at any of our community events.

In the midst of the recent heart-breaking rash of teen suicides allegedly due to bullying of LGBTQQI persons, I can no longer sit silent. My own personal sphere of influence thought modeling accepting and affirming behavior is one thing. Attending weddings of LGBTQQI friends is supportive. But sitting silently and politely keeping my opinion to myself is contributing to the deaths of humans enduring misery and inequality who have been treated miserably by other humans.


I want to be an Ally. I hope you will join me. Please keep reading. Below is an explanatory paragraph that I found helpful. To read the full article by Gareth Higgins click here. It is truly an amazing column. I also highly recommend visiting the YouTube website for the "It Gets Better" project. Here's one of my favorites.

L(esbian)G(ay)B(isexual)T(rans)Q(ueer)Q(uestioning)I(ntersex) is a pretty good start; but another category has been privileged to join: A(lly): which, although its status is ambiguous in the cohort to which it wishes to orient itself, to my mind means anyone who cares enough to commit themselves to be educated about the structures of injustice faced by people whom the dominant culture defines as sexual minorities.  Ally can be a patronizing concept, of course; but I think that the more people who don’t identity themselves (or ourselves) as LGBTQQI consider the A label, the sooner we will experience conversation about sexuality as something that is good for us all, rather than merely stigmatizing socially constructed minorities.


Adam Johnston said...

Hey Bronwyn, I read this post today, and was really touched. It is such a tragedy that articles and movements like this are necessary. But thank you for this, I think people need to see these things a little more often. I'm not sure if you've heard, but there is a Nation-Wide campaign to wear purple on Oct 20th to raise awareness for this issue!

Bronwyn said...

Thank you, Adam.
I'm all over the PURPLE on 10/20/10!