I am a straight ally. You can be one too. It’s easy. A straight ally is a heterosexual person who supports equal human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning people. By equal human rights, I mean the same rights that I, a married Caucasian heterosexual of European descent with a solid upper middle class background, two kids and a dog, expect, and am granted by default.
Because societal prejudice against non-heterosexuals is so prevalent, the bar to being a straight ally is low. At its core, it requires that if a person is lucky enough to have non-heterosexual friends, that she associate with them openly, as she would with any friend.
Several organizations, including GLAAD and We Are Straight Allys, have guidelines on how heterosexuals can support non-heterosexuals. These are mine.
Use your voice. Do not ever stand silent when you hear a gay slur. Whatever the term, it is demeaning, it is hateful, it is not to be tolerated. There are dozens of insulting names. You will recognize them when you hear them. Denounce them. Make your disapproval known.
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Enforce equality. Use whatever setting in which you operate to advocate for the full participation of your LGBTQ friends. Examples include childcare for preschoolers at your church, teaching Sunday School, recommending a person for a job or endorsing a friend as a mentor. When a straight ally, who falls within the societal definition of “normalcy,” supports the efforts of an LGBTQ person, it has a positive effect.
Challenge lies. People who believe homosexuality is immoral bolster their position by alleging falsehoods that equate homosexuality with perversion. Such allegations have been firmly debunked.
The more you qualify as a “regular” American, the more powerful your advocacy will be. My demographic has particular power. I am white. I skew closer to rich than poor. I have two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s. I was raised Catholic but now I go to a Baptist church, so my religion is mainstream at best, nonthreatening at worst. I understand religious prejudice, and can speak to it.
I have proven life experience regarding how gay people affect my heterosexual life. I’ve been married for 28 years. My marriage is not affected by whether gay people could or could not get married. My marriage is my marriage.
I have two children. They are both heterosexual. But they have been cared for by people of all sexualities. They have parents with friends of all sexualities. They are lucky to be loved by so many people.
As a straight ally, I hope to see a world where such a moniker is unnecessary. Until then, I will grieve with my gay friends, celebrate with my gay friends, and provide a heterosexual safe place whenever and wherever I can.
Lynn Trenning is a Charlotte-based writer.