Last week I attended the Fresno City College Pride Celebration. Unsurprisingly, I heard a lot of talk about equality, about the need for change, about hate crime statues, about the overcoming of challenges. All those things were great to talk about, but one thing really resonated with me: the call for our allies to step up their game.
(Logo for GSAFE http://www.gsafeweb.org/)
First, let me set the stage. The president of the Veteran’s club was the first on the microphone. “Happy Pride Day!” he called out. The audience cheered and a few hecklers off to the left started doing what hecklers do. Upon his mention of the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the hecklers booed and then jeered even louder. To his credit, he managed to finish his speech, but by then most of the audience’s attention had moved to the side of the stage. A rather loud altercation took place, and ultimately campus security had to diffuse the situation by removing some of the more vocal harassers.
And so it was to a slightly distracted audience (the altercation and campus security intervention taking place for much of its entirety) that Jordan Burns, member of the Diversity Club, gave his speech.
I think a lot of people missed what he said. I also think that his message is one of utmost importance, and so I wanted to share it with you. (It is less than five minutes, please forgive the bad camerawork and try to ignore the off screen dramatics.)
His point, that even homophobic fools can become allies and that the allies of the LGBT community need to step up our game is more than valid. Yes, marriage equality is vital. Yes, hate statues are paramount. But you know what else is just as important? The hearts and minds of the general public.
I am a member of the LGBT community, I am also an ally of the LGBT community. My friends and family who support me, support all of us. But, sometimes that support comes in preaching to the choir, in anonymous donations, in nodding along while someone else makes a point, gives a speech, or calls for change.
Updating my Facebook status isn’t going to save the world.
But you know what might? Calling haters out on their hate.
Bullying, taunting, homophobic slurs in MMOs… as allies to the LGBT community we shouldn’t stand for any of it. Yes, it is hard to clear your throat and shift the spotlight onto yourself. Yes, it is scary to put yourself out there.
You want to know true bravery? Take Benji. She was one of the dynamic dancing queens at last week’s event. Her act immediately followed Jordan’s speech. The hecklers were still there. Their hate speak was still being spouted. Their cat calls and boos were still wafting on the wind.
In front of them, despite them, she danced.
Benji, post performance, with one of the
Rainbow Delegation LGBT Ally bracelets
I talked to her briefly afterwards. Here is a lady who knows herself, who values herself, and who doesn’t let her fear of ridicule, of failing, of being laughed at, of being in the spotlight as someone different, stop her from being true to herself. Last semester Benji organized a Free Hugs campaign as a way to remind her fellow students that everyone is entitled to human contact, to support, to positive energy.
Her bravery is amazing, and it humbles me.
As allies can we do less? It’s easy to say that bullying is bad, to shake our heads in sadness when we hear ignorant people spout ignorant ideas.
But we are allies to an amazing community and we owe it to ourselves, our allies, and to our fellow community members to step up our game. We owe it to people like Jordan who overcame his negative attitudes towards the LGBT community. We owe it to ladies of dignity and grace like Benji who go beyond their comfort zone to attempt to make the world a better place. Like Jordan said, we need to be part of the small battles, to seek justice, to speak up, speak out, and try and stop the hate.
“No person is your friend who demands your silence or denies your right to grow.”