What Are Straight Allies?
Jun 24, 2004
What are straight allies? What do they look like? How do they act? And more importantly, how many are out there? Itís one thing to be a supportive individual for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights (LGBT) but itís a completely different to be a vocal activist in a small, conservative town. In most schools, it is a common belief that if you do not identify as LGBT, you would be too homophobic to touch this article with a ten-foot pole. Contrary to popular belief, there is a middle ground. I have seen it, and I am a part of it.
My sister came out to me when I was fourteen. Before then, I hadnít considered what it was like to be gay. I didnít understand how difficult it is for students to stay in school while they are being harassed or experiencing feelings of isolation because of their sexuality, whether they are out or not. However, after that critical point in my life, everything changed. I started to notice when my friends and peers were making homophobic remarks. I felt as if they were insulting not only my sister, but also my family and me.
I wanted to help make my school a safe and welcoming community for LGBT youth and faculty and I started by organizing the Day of Silence my sophomore year. Not too many students knew me that well and were unsure of my sexuality. The Day of Silence was met with brutal resistance from the student body, but it persevered to become a complete success. The faculty and the administration were mostly supportive. More importantly, it encouraged people to talk. The participants in the Day of Silence, both LGBT and straight, helped break the stereotypes that many students had believed. For the first time in a long time, we were reminded that everyone in high school is dealing with the same assignments, stresses, and experiences, regardless of their sexual orientation.
After being selected to be the New York State Student Organizer for the Day of Silence National Leadership Team, I was flown to Chicago for a Day of Silence retreat, courtesy of GLSEN. Many of the other state organizers asked me what it was like being a straight ally; many had never met one. I often hear that they are proud to now know an active straight ally.
As a straight ally, I faced nasty looks, rumors and overall confusion from the student body. Some students couldnít understand how a straight student can be so supportive of LGBT rights that he would join a leadership team to make a difference. Every time I answered them the same way. I told them that this is an issue affecting all students in America, not just queer students. This kind of small-minded thought and behavior has only motivated me to work harder and make more of an impact.
Next fall I will be studying international affairs at The George Washington University, located in our nationís capital. There, I plan to keep an active role in advocacy and LGBT rights.
Itís important that straight allies in schools and workplaces across America help bridge the gap between LGBT individuals and straight individuals. We need to work together to dispel myths and stereotypes about each other and to build on our similarities rather than harp on our differences. I am proud to be part of this.