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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 12, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 41
Why I'm a straight ally for equality
Section One
ALL STORIES
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Why I'm a straight ally for equality

by Wendy Wartes - Special to the SGN

'Why do straight allies work hard on equality issues?' That was the question put to me by George Bakan when he saw me last weekend walking with others in the Phinney neighborhood for marriage equality. I can only answer for myself, as my story isn't typical.

When our exchange student, Rus, came out to us back in 1996, I got involved with PFLAG. Having never met someone Gay before, I needed to talk to other parents of Gay teens to get my many questions answered. I quickly found that the people in PFLAG had the same values I did and they became my friends. I looked forward to seeing them every month at meetings. But also, I was trying hard to keep someone else's Gay teen safe while seeing other parents toss their Gay kids out of their houses. That was a shock for me. Rus had filed for asylum in 1998 and there was little I could do to influence the U.S. government to let him stay in the country, other than help him build his asylum case. There were things I could do to influence other parents to accept their Gay kids and provide a safe haven for them in their own homes and communities. The answer was education. PFLAG has a three-part mission: support, education, and advocacy. I knew no parent could support their Gay child without being educated about homosexuality. I also knew no parent would advocate for their child, and more for equality in the laws, without education concerning homosexuality. I was a teacher by profession. I knew I could do something to advance education about homosexuality and wanted the opportunity.

BECOMING AN ACTIVIST
My advocacy took the form, first, of reading extensively, then of going to conferences, and next of getting active in my local PFLAG chapter in Bellevue. I was asked to take over as coordinator for the PFLAG Speakers Bureau. Networking with other LGBT groups followed as I met more people and wanted to help with their causes. So whether volunteering at the Taste of GSBA, raising money during the AIDS Walk, or attending a rally or march or parade, I found myself involved. Perhaps it was a way to stay busy while waiting for immigration to call Rus for his hearing, something to do to feel in some control of the situation with him. But eventually it just became what I did, who I was, a Gay rights activist. It didn't hurt that my husband, Jon, had thrown himself into this work alongside me. He, too, was an educator and saw the worth of being active. He even organized a conference in response to a reparative therapy group's 'Love Won Out' event, calling it 'Love Welcomes All.'

So when I saw, recently, that the Woodlawn Park Methodist Church was having a march for marriage, we went. My dad's father had been the pastor of that church in the 1930s. My mom's father had built the family home two doors down the hill, and my mom met my dad in the church's youth group. It felt like coming home to march with my parents' church. And we, as always, met wonderful people that day and had a wonderful afternoon advocating for those we care about and love.

People tell me sometimes that we made such a difference in my son Rus's life. He did win asylum after a wait of nine years for his hearing, and he's an important part of our family. But I can unequivocally say it was also the other way around. He's the one who made the difference in my life, which now revolves around the Gay community and it feels good and right and where I'm supposed to be.

Wendy Wartes is a superactivist with the Bellevue chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).

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Why I'm a straight ally for equality
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