As I was walking into work this morning, I parked across from a man who had a Human Rights Campaign (HRC) equality sticker on the bumper of his car. When he got out of the vehicle, I noticed this gentleman was around 70-years old, and was also wearing an HRC equality hat. Very cool, I thought, I love the old gays. Although it took years for me to actually put the sticker on my car (mental block, Southern Indiana, fear, military kid, shame, pride), moments like this made me feel a sense of camaraderie within the community. Amity. Connect. Support.
We walked into the building together, and as we shared the same sidewalk he said to me, “Nice sticker on your car.”
I responded with, “You too, sir. And the hat is a nice touch. Happy PRIDE.”
He smiled, and responded, “My wife and I have found it to be important that we show pride and support for all those around us.”
Let’s pause there for a moment. Remember, I live in Bloomington, Indiana. This man was 70+ years old. A rush of appreciation came over me, and it hit me that this moment was one to let soak in. Cue word vomit. I stopped walking, and asked, “If you can get it, and have complete understanding, and while coupled with your wife, why can’t everyone else share this same understanding?” My question to him was noted with a bit of a voice crack, to which we both chuckled. My new friend then went on to share the story of a former co-worker of his wife who sparked this belief and hope, and also provoked them to march for many years in the Chicago PRIDE parade. All I could say was, “thank you.” We separated with name-introductions, and I muttered, “Thanks for making my day, Steve,” as we parted ways down the hallway. Thanks for making my month, was possibly more appropriate.
I have a student who frequently comes into my office, and we sit for quite some time, sharing stories of equality, right’s-issues, and “ah-ha” moments. I like to say we bring out the passion in one other, and it is daily that we share an article or link to something inspiring, frustrating, challenging, and/or eye-opening. This student isn’t gay, but they care about the LGBT community. In fact, this student cares about all marginalized communities. Like Steve. I have previously shared the story of a former student who called me out of the blue, and said, “Michael, I’m an ally,” after an ‘ah-ha’ moment of support for the LGBT community. We need more ah-ha moments. We need more, “I’m an ally” (of whatever), moments. We need more learning, growing, challenging, and supporting. We need more.
I was talking with a friend recently and we shared similar sentiments around the idea of being “pro-LGBT,” as either an ally or community member. At times, it feels being pro-LGBT has become so drenched in pop-culture that we have lost some of the actual active advocacy it requires to truly make change (“Legalize Gay,” “Jesus is My Homeboy,” etc., as anecdotal examples of beliefs impacted by satire). The reverse could also be part of the problem. Are we easy to become complacent in our quest for equal rights that we just assume others will be the advocates or ambassadors for that voice? Or, are we creating arrangements for ourselves that we forget the issue still exists, no matter how we’ve navigated the struggle (whatever issue, whatever struggle)?
June is here, which means, “PRIDE,” for many individuals around the world. Consequently, summer and “PRIDE” can also mean disconnect, resentment, struggle, confusion, and frustration. I have previously posted about my desire for others to live more, “out.” Though I won’t go much deeper into revisiting this challenge, I will encourage you to read the post. Be out. Be out with whatever you see needs support. Favorite a tweet, share a video, challenge ignorance. Hell, ask people about their bumper sticker. Appreciate bumper stickers. Appreciate dissonance, but stand for what you know is just. Volunteer. Don’t just participate in the party-element, the satire, or the parody – get out there and make an active change by using an active voice. Step up.
In this new week and new month, I commit to living more prideful – prideful of who I am and where I come from, who I’m meant to be. And I ask you to take this same vow. This may mean as an ally (to something, anything) or simply as someone who gives a damn. That’s okay too. Be proud. Give many damns. This world needs more allies, and its constituents need more belief, more hope, more support. Be that support. Believe. Hope. Care.
How will you continue to live in 2014?