Waymon Hudson

Discussion: Advice and Support for Straight Allies

Filed By Waymon Hudson | June 24, 2010 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Site News, The Movement
Tags: advice column, LGBT civil rights, LGBT rights, Pride, Straight Allies

As Pride celebrations approach around the country (or have just passed depending on where you live) and the community turns a bit more insular to celebrate our community's uniqueness, visibility, and diversity, there is a group we shouldn't forget: our straight allies.

SafeZoneStopSign.jpgIn my recent post about Taking Back Pride by injecting politics and LGBT rights discussions into the celebrations, one commenter asked just that question. I thought I'd open the discussion up to the group to help her. From a wonderful straight ally:

I am a straight woman, married with 4 boys. I am a huge supporter of gay and lesbian rights but sometimes I don't feel that what I am doing is enough. I raise my kids (ages 12, 7, 6, and 3) to be open minded and treat people equally, making sure they have plenty of exposure to my gay and lesbian friends so they never feel uncomfortable around them as adults. My oldest son wants to go to a pride rally the next time I go, so I said I would take him. I have no issues with that. When he was 3, he wanted his ears pierced, my husband (first husband) was saying it wasn't right but I did it anyways, saying if he was a she, you wouldn't have any issues. My current husband and I strive to raise our children as equals, avoiding even saying things like "well, that is for girls". If they want a baby doll, they get one. If they want me to paint their nails, I paint them. That is that.

My question is, what more can I do? Where can a straight woman go to plead her case to other straight people who are so closed minded and bigoted? Being around gays and lesbians at pride, etc. is great and I have met a lot of really awesome friends. I feel that there is something more I can be doing. Let me know.

First, I think what our friend is doing is wonderful. Not only is she making sure her children are surrounded by people from our community, but she's raising them to buck the rigid gender binary and just be themselves. She's part of the reason that polls show younger generations support LGBT rights and equality.

But she raises a good question and discussion, one that perhaps we don't have publicly enough. What do we need from our straight allies and how can we best support them?

We talk about our own community and what we all need to do, but we will never have the numbers in this country to create the needed change for our community alone. We need allies like her. Not only do we need to thank them and support them, but activate them politically and guide them through our issues.

So what can a wonderful mother who obviously cares about our issues, cares about raising well-rounded children, and wants to make a difference do? And from our other straight allies, what questions do you have?

Let's have the discussion about what we need as a community from our straight allies and what they need from us.

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" . . . the reason that polls show younger generations support LGBT rights and equality."

Polls don't necessarily show that young people "support LGBT Rights" as much as they simply support equality. This is primarily because younger people have abandoned religion and never learned to hate us. Many young people even have parents that have abandoned religion or simply don't take it very seriously.

She's terrific. We need to enroll more people like her. To do that, we should ALL be talking to friends, neighbors, co-workers and even strangers. Those conversations change the minds of two-out-of-three people.

As a Movement we never done that, yet it is the only way to achieve our full equality.

[quote]As a Movement we never done that[/quote]
Yes we have.

Stop telling us we've never done something we've doing for decades.


When? We have some examples of organizations that help facilitate conversations - like PLFAG, and we have individuals that reach out to straight people (you included), but we've never had a campaign to enroll allies.

We've wasted $550 million on HRC and a total of $1.5 billion on all LGBT Advocacy groups during the last 40 years. How much went to enrolling straight supporters of our full equality? None.

So don't suggest we've been doing that. Instead we have been either hoping for a legal or political solution, or making posters and "demanding."

Oh, I'm not suggesting we've been doing that. I'm telling you we've been doing it. It is actually how we've gotten to where we are so far.

The latest example was the Courage Campaign which asked it's members, as a movement, to have conversations with straight people.

Look around! what do you think giving out those shirts that say "straight but not narrow" is about? As much as PFLAG pisses me off at times, you use them as an example of an organization designed to organize and educate and this right after you said that we have not been doing it.
Have you seen all of the GSAs and QSAs running in schools? The S means straight and the A part means alliance. The seems to me to be a program that is designed to enroll and organize straight people as allies and GLSEN (not the S here agian) has been running these for years. My daughter is straight and helped found the GSA at our local HS.
When Speakout speakers go to schools and communities to speak they are speaking to straight people too.
Open your eyes!

How many straight people support our full equality? How many in Oklahoma compared to Florida? How many people in our community are asking straight people to support our equality and how many have agreed to that?

If we were enrolling people you'd be able to answer those questions.

Individuals and some smaller organizations understand the value of educating and "coming out." Courage Campaign encourages "talking to others" as a part of their fundraising appeals. Sure, we have a few clever t-shirts.

No, we do not have a campaign to enroll our fellow citizens. We spend almost all of our resources on a an incomplete legal solution, or an elusive political solution and a few bucks on irritating street theater.

Ally here, with some knowledge (medical anyway) from training during AIDS epidemic. Not much real association with groups of people both Het and Gay..
I wanted to become a Louder, Better, Advocate...all just due to seeing a bright rainbow FIGHT OUT LOUD icon...
Took up the cause. Not knowing 'how to help' best..and starting to be more active right when the Proposition 8 Fight was going on. My very first rally was a support NO on 8 Rally. Saw patients and met friends.. Saw banners and realized DADT was a real problem, as well as DOMA..
I found PFLAG.. They are a wonderful NATIONAL site grown from
ALLIES...Parents and Families and Friends of Lesbian and Gays.
They have great education material for those new to the cause, with brochures that teach you how to discuss the issues. How to discuss them with churchgoers, and voters, family and friends.
Then stay affiliated with the most active supportive group in your community.
I would recommend not 'picking' an issue until you have researched problems among your own friends etc.
SF Pride Parade has a larger ALLY group every year. Wanted to walk this year, but hubby just feeling comforable with me being an out ally...so maybe next year!
As for children, hers are quite young, but once they reach middle school and High School, if they are already parents in good standing with the school system, be sure there is a GSA and GLSEN hopefully in your town.

Interesting blog, thanks Waymon. Hope this helps some.
(PS. the LOrion is my tweet too. I facebook under Lee Dorsey, glad to friend new allies!) Other causes, as retired MD, AID/HIV,
Also lifetime Sierra Club/Environmentalist..and new to Progressive causes (Thanks to Keith and Rachel Maddow).

What more can she do? What more can our friends and family do? What can we do?

Honest, I´ve been Gay my whole life and I spent the first 35 years of it being afraid of the person that I knew I was but didn´t think it was acceptable to be...sure, I was in the bars of San Francisco every weekend and loved it but that was the underground, crawling out of bedroom windows at night me...the duplicate, the avoider, the dodger...what I found at 35 was that I NEEDED to become the authentic version of me...that´s worked for me perfectly and now I´m retired and 66 years old...being authentic is the key and thank God our friends/family are now more often getting to know the REALITY of LGBT people...personal integrity helps everyone stand taller and being responsible and accountable allows us to grow into everyday society...imperfect, authentic, and living in REALITY...simply astounding if you are a person like me.

This is a really great reply to, "What more can we do"? I cannot at this time really say that I am authentic but I am trying to do my best. While knowing that I was different at the age of 5 when I first said those words. The answer I got back had to satisfy me from a teenage mother, "You will learn about it in High School". Crapolla by that time hiding from myself was the thing to do. Coming out was not really coming out if I had to hide my shame of Queerdom in the Gay Bars of a different city. Coming out to Parents who disowned me. Siblings who still make rude comments even today 40 years later. This weekend is my first Family Reunion since I fully came out to my neighbors leaving alone family that I have had to disown but still have limited contacts. So what more can we do? Writing letters is one way to the city counsel's and county officials. Personally inviting them to speak at our pride celebrations free from vote getting. Now at 63 I am finally free.

Dear Ally,

I think you are doing wonderfully as concerns our issues. Raising equality minded children and being conversant on our issues is the best thing you can do for our cause of equality. If you know the issues and can talk about them intelligently and logically, that is the most we can ask of you. Don't worry about the religious bigots. They will never accede to logic or reality as they are a lost cause. Just smile and say "You have a right to your beliefs, but scientifically, you're full of shit." and walk away.

I also am an ally. I work the helpline for the LGBT community, am a board member at our local LGBT Center(which just opened in March), act as a go-between for the older lesbian community to the Center, chaperone youth events through GSA's at our schools and advocate whenever I have the opportunity. I have an Equality sticker on my car and will talk to anyone anywhere about equal rights. One of my kids supports my activities and one doesn't want to talk about it. They are adults and have to make their own choices, but I have told them I have to make mine, so they can accept me as is or not. I'm 64, retired, and able to be where my community needs me when there is an event that needs a spokesperson. I love my gay family and do my best to support and promote.

John Rutledge | June 25, 2010 9:02 AM

I take exception to 'younger people have abandoned religion' as being the reason they are supporters. Some are supporters because of their religion. I attend MCC and United Church of Christ churches, where children and their parents know of God who loves us all, just as He/She made us. It is remarkable to find places where your orientation is not an issue and all the colors of the rainbow are cherished. Not all religion equals hate. God is not religion. The sad truth in what you say is most religions do not preach the true gospel of love, or if they do, they do not live it. There is hope though. Many are coming around, and children are being raised in that hope.

MCC is has never taken a formal position on the traditional Christian belief that "homosexuality is wrong." 7% of UCC churches are "open and affirming." In total, about 1% of US Churches are "gay-friendly."

That, compared to the reality that our discrimination and negative branding came from religion, is something, but certainly not significant.

I don't think it will be enough until some Christian denominations begin to officially end the belief and teaching that "homosexuality is wrong." So far, none have.

Those young people who support us now simply have never been infected with those Christian beliefs.

Rick Sours | June 25, 2010 9:26 AM

Emphasis should be on our struggles for full equality and equal rights.

It makes me so happy to see straight allies! I think the best, most effective thing they can do is just talk to other straight people in their lives about gay rights. Start by making it clear that they themselves are straight. Homophobic straight people will listen to other straight people when they will not listen to gays.

How do you support the gay community?

1. Go to Pride, Transgender Memorial Day and other gatherings and take your kids. Be careful about age appropriateness. In some places Pride can still be a little naked. (Do not take them to blatantly sexual celebrations like Southern Decadence) You might want to preview. Be prepared to answer questions. Some Prides have children's sections and the parades are usually safe. Keep an eye on them, however, as deviants can always slip in.

2. When a political issue such as employment or adoption comes up and the right wingers try to disciminate speak up. When a homophobic politico-religionist group says something disgusting, be informed and give the other side. Letters to the Editor in your local paper can be very effective.

3. Attend an open and accepting church or an MCC. A lot of gay people have bought into the idea that God rejects them. They need to be affirmed.

4. Get to know some gay people as friends or co-workers. Invite them to gatherings you have along with your straight friends.

5. Don't talk a lot about being straight. Just float around in the gay community supporting their causes.

6. Vote for gay, gay positive, and progressive candidates. Expose the agendas of conservatives.

7. Support the formation of gay/straight alliances in the schools. A few years ago in a DeKalb County Georgia high school the straight son of a gay father walked out of an assembly when a homophobic speaker (they did not know in advance) made a gay negative remark. A majority of the boys at the assembly followed him.

8. Become informed about what the Bible really says about homosexuality. MCC churches often offer classes and there are several books available although some of the writers tend to be theologically liberal. A recently published one is HOMOSEXIANITY by Rev. R.D. Weekly. This one is written from a conservative point of view by a young black preacher who came out. Insist that the Bible be interpreted rightly with all condemnations of homosexuality being in reference to idol worship. Ask conservatives to find the verses condemning homosexuality that are in the red letters (the words of Christ).

Martin Luther King could not have succeeded without his white allies. Neither can the gay community succeed without its straight allies.

9. Push the idea of equal rights for the GLBT community as covered under the 14th Amendment.

10. Watch out for and strongly oppose the latest efforts at oppression, the expansion and detailing of "freedom of religion" laws which can be interpreted as allowing homophobic professionals such as doctors and pharmacists to refuse to provide AIDS drugs and treat gay people. Pass the word that the 1st Amendment has always been adequate to protect freedom of religion and still is.

11. Encourage the positive depiction of gay families and the inclusion of pro-gay books in school and public libraries IN THE SECTIONS WHERE THEY WOULD NORMALLY BELONG. As a straight parent you are a powerful influence and cannot be accused of promoting your own "special interest" group.

12. Insist that your school system have a strong anti-bullying program that SPECIFICALLY includes homophobic bullying.

13. As a parent, support your local Youth Pride or similar group that helps teens going through the coming out process.

14. Again, as a powerful parent, if a teacher or administrator displays homophobia in a public school insist that the teacher be be required to take sensitivity training, placed in a setting where she can do no harm (paper pusher) or terminated. americans have freedom of speech and it must be supported, but homophobia in a school setting where the teacher has the power to ruin a child's life is very similar in effect to forcing oneself on the child sexually. INSIST THAT YOUR SCHOOL SYSTEM ADD GENDER IDENTITY AND SEXUAL ORIENTATION RO ITS ANTI-DISCRIMINATION POLICY IF IT IS NOT ALREADY THERE.

15. Push for local and state hate crime laws that include sexual orientation and gender identity.

"Insist that the Bible be interpreted rightly."

There are 33,000 different interpretations of the Bible. All believing they have the "right" one. It is better to leave religion and personal religious beliefs out of the conversation about our equality.

It isn't necessary to even discuss religion when asking people to support the basic human principal of equality. Those who will NOT support our equality have already put religion before equality. They are about one-third of the adult US population and commonly referred to as "literalists." It's a waste of time to even ask them.

The other two-thirds are willing to embrace equality and simply need to be asked - without any religious talk. They've already become either more casual about their religious beliefs (40%) or they are non-religious (20%).

Inserting religion into the conversation invites disagreement. It is better to just ask them to support the basic human principle of equality. It's a simple yes or no. Leave personal beliefs out of it - ours and theirs.

Regan DuCasse | June 25, 2010 2:00 PM

Oh my God! I remember asking my gay friends that VERY same question!
I've wondered myself if I was doing enough. And certainly asked if I was articulating whatever arguments effectively.
There's always the well meaning person that says the wrong buzz word or something backfires.

I did not want to be THAT person.
As a black woman, I was VERY distressed by just how ignorant black people have been regarding the impetus behind Jim Crow and that the SAME EXACT debates, opinions and rationale colors the prejudice of black people against gays and lesbians.

I could see it was the most cynical way in which the religious right (who never engaged blacks for any other reason but THIS mutual hatred) enjoined blacks to vote against gay equality.

That's why I did so much intense research on the Civil Rights movement and found the exact parallels to prove it. I made NO friends, believe me. I'm considered a 'traitor to your orientation', much the same way a white person who supported integration was treated.

I've never heard much of an equivalent to the slur "nigger lover". But many have tried to call me something of that sort. The anti gay don't seem to be that clever, even in a bad way.
But the nastiness and abandonment sure is the same.
I think I take perverse pleasure in their lack of courage or intelligence.
And eventually, there always comes a point when, because of lacking rational or intelligent ammunition, the folks get strident, and the ugly they have inside reveals itself.

I'm hated because I'm unafraid. And I've said as much. I'm unafraid of God, unafraid of the anti gay, unafraid to be honest and truthful from a wealth of personal experience with gay folks, the anti gay avoid.
Sucks to be a coward. As long as I can access sites like this, and they are many. I think I'll be fine.
As long as I can make friends like Patricia Nell Warren and Tobi Hill-Meyers and so on...I'm in good hands.

Believe me, us straight allies LOVE finding each other where we can.
And that's the one area of recruitment I'll totally cop to pursuing. With FERVOR.

To Andrew W: It is important to INCLUDE religion and faith related issues in matters concerning gay rights for several reasons:
1. Most objections and people who object to gay rights are religious people and are objecting to equal rights for religious reasons. Inserting religion is not the issue. Religion IS the issue.

2. Religion is the basis for morality. Very early in the book of Genesis, Cain gave God the religious question, "Am I my brother's keeper?" People are by nature selfish and take advantage of each other. There is no reason to be moral without belief in some sort of higher power, even if it is just some nebulous "karma".

3. Many members of the GLBT community have had negative experiences with the church, even to the point of being kicked out. They want to fellowship with Jesus. They want to go to church, but their toes are too bruised. The message that God loves them AS THEY ARE and Jesus died for them is a crucial part of the message of affirming churches. The message brings healing, including, often, the beginning of healing from the substance abuse so common in the GLBT community. If a person knows the love of God, they can withstand any persecution.

4. Christians can reach other Christians, even the right wingers, because they speak the same language. They worship the same God and they know the same scriptures.

I am a literalist. I believe that everything the Bible says happened, really,literally happened. However, in the application of the Bible, it must be taken in its social and historic context and in the context of the rest of the chapter around the "clobber verses". The people whom you are referring to may be literal, but they are not literalists or they would follow ALL the rules of Leviticus, which was done away with by the death of Jesus. These people are FUNDAMENTALISTS. By the way, fundamentalists are evangelicals, at least the protestants are, but not all evangelicals are fundamentalists and most evangelicals resent being grouped with the fundies.

I think you need to separate your two very different goals: enrolling support for our equality and preaching/converting.

In 2010 only one-third of US Adults are anti-gay. The other two-thirds will support our full equality and "religion" does not need to be discussed. In fact, if it is discussed you jeopardize their existing support. Just ask for their "help" and two-out-of-three will say "yes."

If you also want to preach, please keep that separate from enrolling people to support our full equality. Reach and teach, but please don't preach. Preaching alienates people. It's not necessary because equality is a basic human principle, not a biblical one.

Regan DuCasse | June 25, 2010 7:11 PM

A serious person of faith, committed to it knows that the right path is about SERVICE. And dedicating oneself to treating a person correctly from the depths of empathy.

What WE witness, are people trying to rationalize dominance and control and cruelty as the means to an end and CALLING it morality.
Morals are at base, about how you treat another human being.

Being moral, is ethics, with regard to their humanity and knowing their needs being the same as your own and helping those needs to be met.
Kindness and respect and equal treatment are tangible effects of that. God cannot be the intangible impetus for doing the opposite. It makes God in the image of man, and an abusive father figure at that.

Morality is not pointing fingers, finding fault and dehumanizing people you don't even want to listen to. Let alone 'disagree' with.

THOSE are the differences between GOOD people of faith, and bad ones.

And the bad ones tend to be reactionary when you can call them on knowing the difference.

"THOSE are the differences between GOOD people of faith, and bad ones. And the bad ones tend to be reactionary when you can call them on knowing the difference."

Which is another reason to leave religion (or Faith) out of the conversation. It's about our equality, not whether or not we agree with their ideas about religion or even if they're good or bad.

Simply asking people to support our full equality as a yes-or-no proposition will result in the majority agreeing to stand with us. If you engage in religious rightness, you'll lose half of them.

Did somebody throw a monkey wrench into the works here? I thought that the blog by Waymon was about how a straight person could support the LGBT community more openly and teaching her children to live a richer fuller life. The comments have degenerated to Religion and Support by not using religion. KNOCK IT OFF AND GET BACK TO THE SUBJECT AT HAND. As usual it seems the same people are nit picking over the meaning of what "IS" is. Bye the bye the comment on Moral and living morally was a blessing even though it had nothing to do with the subject. I saved that one and sent it on to my so called moral brother....The one wearing the funny feathered hat and cape while carrying the sword at his K of C meetings. Thanks for that Regan DuCasse it makes a lot of sense.

Heck, we can't even figure out what to do ourselves, how are we supposed to direct other people?

Alex as a group is what you probably mean maybe that is what is wrong with helping ourselves. The only thing that I see is for us to do what works on an individual level and if that works then by all means make it a suggestion to the people who want to do something, as our friends, to promote our lives and well being. You can lead by example I think is the best way to put it. If that something is making a scene, writing letters, giving a speech, or even running for a local public office go for it. Visibility is so necessary in our lives coming from the words of Harvey Milk. Nike says "Just Do It".