In the fight to Approve R-74, everyone's support matters
by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
Remember when, not so long ago, it was Us vs. Them? Homos didn't have breeders as friends. We were free to live our 'lifestyle' any way we pleased just as long as we didn't 'shove it in their faces.' And while I would like to say that I am talking about a time that was long ago and far away, I couldn't, could I? That's because that little walk down hate's memory lane was not so long ago, and it was only as far away as Eastern Washington.
Something, somewhere along the line, changed and we Gays decided we didn't want to 'stay in our place' and started coming out on TV, in politics, and as young as 13. We evolved and so, too, did America - however begrudgingly. In fact, we evolved so much that our state's Catholic governor, Christine Gregoire, called on Washington lawmakers to pass a marriage equality bill, and so they did. We evolved so much that for the first time ever, a sitting U.S. president - America's first-ever Black president, to be exact - came out in support of marriage equality and then, months later, asked the voters in four states facing marriage equality ballot initiatives to vote for the freedom to marry. The proverbial tide has turned. The hypothetical American People have embraced us. And all because Lady Gaga told them we were 'Born This Way.'
There are those words again: We, They, Us, Them. This time, however, 'they' turned out to be allies and 'we' turned out to be friends. Make no mistake about it folks, the LGBT movement is gaining speed, propelled by the addition of millions of straight allies into our ranks, effectively helping to swell the minority to be equal to, or greater than, the historically bigoted majority.
A NEW DYNAMIC
State by state, city by city - and, one day soon, neighborhood by Gayborhood - what has taken place in progressive cities like Seattle, where volunteers, activists, and pro-marriage campaign staffers are straight, will take place all over this nation of ours. Because as slow as the process might seem, it has begun and, accelerated in particular by American youth - who on the whole seem to have a much better understanding of the LGBT community than their parents - does not show any signs of slowing down.
And while we all would like to breathe a collective sigh of relief and say, 'Finally!' - it is important that we all breathe a collective sigh of relief and say, 'Thank you!' instead. Because what our straight brothers and sisters have done is brave and they deserve to be thanked for doing it. Young men who once kept their mouths shut when their friends in the locker room pushed the Gay kid around, because they knew that otherwise they would be accused of the same heinous lifestyle and therefore suffer the same wrath, are now speaking up. Women who once stayed silent when the office Lesbian was sexually harassed or worse because, well, she should just feel lucky to have a job, are now speaking out. And they are not alone. Straight allies everywhere are speaking out and it is making a big and lasting impact.
But if you tell them they are heroes they won't accept it. Instead, more often than not they respond, 'It's the right thing to do.'
UNIONS GET ON BOARD
For straight ally Jasmine Marwaha, a community organizer with UNITE HERE Local 8, the union's alliance with the LGBT community is 'an extension of our core mission to advocate on behalf of hospitality workers in Washington state, many of whom identify as LGBT.'
She told SGN, 'We stand in solidarity with all communities who are fighting for equality. As part of the labor community, I know that voices have power, and we want to add as many voices calling for justice and equality for the LGBT community as possible.'
The local unions have done just that - and they have also backed up those voices with donations to the Approve Referendum 74 campaign.
Straight ally Jessica Gavre, legislative assistant to State Rep. (and out Lesbian) Laurie Jinkins, it was her own marriage to her husband that solidified her support to same-sex couples who want the freedom to marry.
'A little over a year ago my husband and I were married, and through the process of planning and celebrating our wedding it became very clear to me how important it is for our marriage to be recognized,' Gavre told SGN. 'For me to be to call my partner my husband and have people understand what that means was really important.'
'We have many Gay and Lesbian friends who are in long-term committed relationships, and their relationships are no different from ours,' she said, adding, 'They are based on the same values of love, commitment, and community.'
'I want every couple in Washington state to have the right to a relationship that is recognized and protected like mine is,' Gavre said.
INSPIRED BY D.C. TRIP
For straight ally Daniel Hanks, it was a trip to the nation's capital in July that changed his point of view. While looking at the monuments on the National Mall, he was overcome with the feeling that there was a lot of cleanup that still needed to be done in regard to social justice. When he returned to Seattle he told SGN, 'I immediately got to work as a straight ally.'
'My life completely changed over the next four months because I finally understood what it meant to be accountable,' he said. 'I began to take responsibility for my decisions while accepting my mistakes and learning from them. I quit making excuses, blaming others, and being a victim. I began questioning everything that was taught to me by someone else or the institutions in my life - family, school, religion, government. I started experiencing my life without hate, bias, and judgment. It was then that I started to become free from all fear and discover who I really am.'
Hanks currently serves as the Outreach Director Allied Communities at Social Outreach Seattle (SOSea), a nonprofit that I founded and created earlier this year. 'I take pride in finding fun creative ways to encourage my fellow straight allies to 'come out' and be vocal in their support of marriage equality,' said Hanks.
Before his trip to D.C., the 25-year-old had never had much - if any at all - passion for politics and hadn't even registered to vote.
'I don't know that guy anymore and neither will you,' he said. 'I'm a straight ally who has fully embraced the fact that I will do all that is within my power to fight for the equality of all people.
'Marriage equality will ultimately be achieved when all straight allies have come out to support the LGBT community,' reasons Hanks. 'Most importantly, we must remember to love in all contexts. Love connects everyone because it exists in everyone. Love is - and always will be - the answer.'
Hanks said people just need to 'love the fear out of hate.'
IT'S ONLY HUMAN
Another straight ally to the LGBT community, local filmmaker Dru Dinero, says, 'Quite frankly, I understand that there is a need for the term 'straight ally.'
'The need for a term to define those who are sympathetic towards a disadvantaged group of people is necessary for identifying purposes,' said Dinero, 'but nothing else is truer than the term 'human.'
'I've been an active voice in the movement for LGBT equality for some time now,' said the 23-year-old Dinero. 'While it is true that I have several friends who identify as LGBT, this issue is a matter that extends farther than friendship.'
Dinero explains that, to him, it is not enough to say, 'I am your friend, and I accept you for who you are.'
'Unfortunately the regressive people of our times and of history are very active in the world and politics,' he said. 'The inequality is ghastly. As a person who has full rights as a citizen of the U.S., it is my obligation to come to the defense when my brothers and sisters are being harmed whether it is from an outside force, or their own country.'
SILENCE = COMPLICITY
Dinero told SGN he could not sit idly while people have been beaten, assaulted, and worse because of who they are and without rights. 'Inaction is the same as negative action at this point,' he said. 'The world simply cannot afford it. Peace and love simply cannot afford it. Every day, I learn more and more that defending LGBT rights is the right thing to do because I am a citizen of this planet. And if one of us hurts, then we all hurt.'
'This issue isn't about the individuals. It's a humanity issue,' said Dinero. 'And for me to sleep comfortably at night, I need to know that I've done all I can to ensure the happiness of my fellow man. Hopefully through our struggles, achievements, and milestones forward, one day we may reach that goal of unconditional peace and love.'
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