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Saturday, May 30, 2015

I'm Not Gay But...

Something's been bugging me for awhile.  You know that meme that says, "I'm not gay but..."? There are a bunch of them, actually. They all have rainbow colors and sentiments such as:

"I'm not gay, but I have friends who are..."
"I'm not gay, but I support my LGBT friends."
"I'm not gay, but I believe in equal rights." 

I see them all the time and they make me cringe every single time. 

"But, wait," you say.  "I thought you were an ally!"

I am!  I am - and that's why they bother me.  I used to share and post them whenever they crossed my timeline, too, but one day it hit me - it's like saying, "I'm not one of them, but..."

The wording is derogatory. It's a disclaimer.  It's putting the very people you support at arms length - at a separate counter - at the back of the bus.

Bullshit. Not when we're discussing people I love and care about.

To me, saying, "Okay, first of all, just so everyone's clear, I'm not gay, but, I support gay people" is drastically different from saying, "I'm straight and I support LGBT equality."  

I'm a straight ally. Period.

Not a perfect one, by any means, but, like anything else in life, I'm learning, and I know I've made some mistakes, but I also know I've changed a few hearts and minds along the way. Like everyone else, I'm a work in progress. 

We have our own flag? Who knew!

"But wait," you say again. "Is it necessary to even say straight ally, then?"

Yeah, I think it is. Because I was born at the tail end of the civil rights movement in a town dubbed "Caucasian Falls" (proudly dubbed, mind you) and I remember the talk at the dinner table and I'm ashamed of what side of the argument my parents were often on.  I remember the marches and the riots. And, later, I remember learning about the Freedom Riders.  If you don't know about them, I highly recommend you check out the info and the full length movie here

In a nutshell, the Freedom Riders were a small, brave group who rode buses through the most highly volatile and segregated areas of the U.S.  What made this an unusual act, is that blacks and whites rode together - on the same bus - and (gasp!) even sitting next to each other - as if they were, you know... equal.  An unheard-of idea back in that time.

Had those buses carried blacks only or whites only, they would've gone totally unnoticed. But a handful of white people stepped up and stood behind their belief that: It's not a black thing. It's not a white thing. It's a human thing. It's worth fighting for. (Sound familiar?) And a handful of black people were brave enough to ride on those very same buses, knowing full well when their bus stopped, they would most likely get the worst of any beatings being doled out. It didn't stop them - any of them - black or white. They got dressed up and they got on those buses. (As it turned out there were equal opportunity bigots waiting for them and the whites got beaten too.) 

I'm sure every one of these men and women - black and white - boarded those buses wondering if it'd be the last thing they'd ever do. Brave, brave people. Every one of them.

No matter what the cause, change and awareness doesn't begin to happen until members of the majority add their voice. Doesn't matter the topic. Pick one: Autism Awareness, Breast Cancer, AIDS, Homeless Veterans, Victims of natural disasters like earthquakes and floods, animal abuse... It's not until people OUTSIDE of the issue start to say to their family and friends, "Hey. Are you aware of this? These other (humans / animals / living breathing beings) need help," that things start to change. Little by little other people get on board and suddenly the scales start to level out and then gradually tip in the other direction.

Look at what happened in Ireland last week. I feel relatively safe in saying, without looking it up, that 62% of Ireland isn't gay. (Edited: I got curious. According to this article in The Irish Times and these statistics on Wikipedia, it's anywhere from 4% to 10%). In other words, the majority of YES votes weren't LGBT votes - they were overwhelmingly straight ally votes. Seeing the pictures from Dublin that day, my first thought was, 'I wish I was there'. Not only because I'd love to travel to Ireland to finally meet my beloved co-writer, Helena Stone and her ornry hubby, Dermot, in person, but to actually have been there soaking up all the energy of that moment.

When I was a pre-teen, my mom used to look at me, decked out in my amber sunglasses, peace sign t-shirt and bellbottoms and say she was glad I wasn't born sooner because she knew I'd have been marching right along side Dr. King or those kids at Kent State.  Even as a twelve or thirteen year old, I knew she was right. 

I still have a fascination with Kent State. I was a little kid, but we had close family in Kent and I remember it all as it happened. As an adult, I went there to do a geocache and was approached by a professor who'd been there as a student on that tragic day in 1970. He told me his perspective. He pointed out the bullet hole in the iconic metal sculpture we were standing next to. 

When you are actually standing there and you see how far away the students actually were from the Guard... you can't help but wonder... why were any shots fired? 

I've stood in the exact spot the famous photo of Mary Ann Vecchio kneeling over the body of Jeffrey Miller was taken.  I've driven through the parking lot that requires you to steer around the awkwardly placed memorials of the four students Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young sing about in the song, Ohio and a piece of me wishes I'd have been there.

Four Dead in Ohio

Yep, Mom was right. Had I been old enough, I'd have probably been 'there' - maybe not specifically Kent State or marching with Martin Luther King, but 'somewhere'.

Looking at the pictures from the 1960's, it doesn't even seem right to sit here in comfort behind the safety of my computer and say I'm an ally. I'm not boarding a bus, or protesting in front of the National Guard or taking my life in my hands, but I'd like to think that we've all evolved a bit and those type of protests are no longer necessary. We don't have to yell and scream anymore. We still use our voices, but in a different way. When I hit "publish" these words can literally be heard around the world in seconds.

Looking at what happened here in the 60's and last week in Ireland makes me proud to know that when (not if...when) my friends - all my friends - are treated equally - not just under the law, but socially as well - my straight ass will have been along for the ride - no 'but's' about it.

(Oh, and by the way, the pic of the two guys on the bus? Definitely my next plot bunny, so don't even think about it.)


  1. Great post. I don't think in terms of straight, hetero, bi, ..... and whatever other labels you can come up with. I see people and relationships not stereotypes. I've been that way as long as I can remember. And while I know that's not the same for a lot of (most) other people, I can never understand why the needs for labels exists. Thank you for writing this wonderful post.

    1. I think labels will always exist, and I don't think they are necessarily 'bad'. I'm straight, white, middle-aged, overweight, kinda smart, introverted, clumsy... I AM all those things. It's when any of them are made to be "less than". Just because I'm clumsy and you may be a ballerina, doesn't make you better than me. Until the day we are all virtually identical (shudder) we'll have labels, but we need to learn to accept everyone for who they are. You don't have to like everybody, or even approve of how they live their life. You just need to accept that they have every right to "be" - just as much as you do. I think we forget sometimes, we're all on this ride together and none of us get out alive. ;o)

  2. Jaycee ... we were standing exactly the same place ... watching the same scenes ... thinking the same thoughts ... wanting to do the same things!! WOW!! Cosmic clap! There isn't one word I would have changed in this post or in your comment about labels! I am like Helena in that I don't think in terms of labels in my head or heart ... but as you say ... they're not going to go away ... just DON'T be demeaning or disrespectful or hateful. Just allow others to "be" just like you want to just "be". Heartwarming post ... Thank you! Love & understand in Alaska

    1. Woodstock - that's another place I would've loved to have been, much to my mother's dismay. LOL!

  3. :) Wish you used WordPress so I could reblog this.

    1. Wish I used WordPress so it wouldn't have taken me half a day to create. LOL. ;o)

  4. This is fantastic! You are so tight that wording makes a huge difference in perception and meaning! Thank you so much!

  5. So true, I hate those memes too (and the ones that start "I'll probably lose friends for this, but I support gay rights"). I don't believe in whitewashing our identities (queer experience isn't straight experience; black experience isn't white), but embracing and celebrating them as part of one community.

    1. Oh, yeah, I've posted that one before too until it hit me one day what I really felt like I was saying. Same exact scenario. I know it's meant to actually insult the "friends" but it really doesn't.

  6. One of the things I regret in my life is that living in the UK, I was still distanced from what was happening in the States in the 60's & 70's. I heard snippets. I WANTED to experience Woodstock (just out of college and starting my teaching career); I needed to know about how the coloured people were determined to be equal; I listened to Martin Luther King (!) and was aghast that America had not 'accepted' people of colour; I heard (limited) reports on the rise of AIDS; I was shattered when Freddie Mercury DIED of AIDS; and also, NOT forgetting those brave people dying in the Vietnam war, and those unlucky veterans 'coming' home.

    I've lived through the WHOLE LOT of this, and done nothing! And I wish I were braver in my youth, and braver in my old age! BUT, if anyone asks me now what I think - they will get a lecture from me AND/OR support when/if they need it.

    Funnily enough, IN my old age, I quietly find ways and means of supporting all these things - especially LGBTQ equality. I may have come late to the action, but I am (and can be) vociferous about everything!

    1. As you get older you realize: Your voice and your money - that's how you can help. ;o)

  7. Jaycee, I stumbled across this beautiful blog by way of our mutual friend, Edmond Manning's FB page. I actually intended to comment on your post regarding your one year anniversary since quitting smoking.

    I started smoking at age 14 and loved every minute of it - ok, maybe not the cost or the smell on my clothes, car, etc. but the feeling it gave me - for 30 years. Then at the age of 44 I made a promise to my dad. He was beginning to feel the effects of the COPD he suffered from after smoking for over 50 years. He said he didn't want to leave the world believing his daughter would one day suffer the same way he was. So I promised to quit. It was 8 years in April. It was the hardest thing I've ever done. Really. The. Hardest. Thing. So Dear Jaycee, you have my heartfelt congratulations. Give yourself a huge pat on the back followed by a hug and a day (or 2 or 3) filled with all the things you love most.

    Those are the comments I intended to add to your post on Edmond's page. But I somehow clicked on your name and it took me to your page. From there, I found this blog post. (Ok, I admit it. Maybe I was "creeping" a bit on your page - at least that's what my daughter calls it!) Never-the-less, I couldn't be more happy that I creeped.

    This is such a beautifully written post. I love it. Every word. I too am a straight ally of those in the LGBT community. I also am a white ally for all those with beautiful shades of colored skin. And... I have also found myself cringing when I read the meme's that start out with, "I'm not.... But..." I thought perhaps I was being overly critical and perhaps overly sensitive. But the way you explained it was so perfect, "It's putting the very people you support at arms length - at a separate counter - at the back of the bus."

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing such a wonderful piece that calls attention to those who may be well meaning yet end up isolating. And thank you for so articulately saying what others may have thought but never knew how to express.

    Blessing to you and "Happy Anniversary!" :)

    1. Thanks, Michelle! Eight years! HUGE congrats to you for that! I started at 13 and smoked almost 40 years, so we are in the same general boat. Feel free to creep - send me a friend request while you're at it. ;o)

  8. Well, I AM bi and I really don't care how a person phrases it. I'm not black but I support equal rights for all people regardless of skin color. Telling somebody how they have to state their support is, I think, more likely to turn someone off than let them know you appreciate that s/he is an ally.

    1. Hey, Lee - sorry, I somehow missed this comment. Was just closing out tabs and spotted it. Gosh, I certainly wasn't trying to tell anyone else how to state their support. I was just saying what bugs ME and why. As always, to each his/her own. <3

  9. Nowadays homosexuality is normal! Maybe smb can't accept it but if they read they'll be able to change their mind and view! Good luck!)

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