When I began researching issues related to the LGBTQ community, I had no intention of getting to this point. I knew that my background in anthropology would be of great benefit in gaining an understanding, but I never imagined that I would speak at a conference about the relationships between Christianity, Homophobia, and Pop Culture. I never thought I would address auditoriums full of students in Middle and High Schools, and the last thing I imagined was that I would eventually have my own company dedicated to the fight for social equality. When I began, I wanted to be a quiet ally. I wanted to understand what homophobia was, where it came from, what the societal effects were/are, how it was covered in the media, what stereotypes were perpetuated by ingrained cultural values and practices, and how did all of this play out for members of the many sub-cultures affected? While in university, I loved doing research. I wanted to research all of this so that I could speak up with knowledge whenever homophobia reared its ugly head in my presence. I quickly realized that, for me, that wasn’t enough.
I have respect for those who speak up when homophobia presents itself. It takes courage for a person working in a discriminatory atmosphere to speak up and go against the ideological grain in their respective environment. For me, however, that just wasn’t going to work. In the first few months of research and writing, I realized that I had the skills and knowledge needed to inspire change on a grand scale. When I read the story of Matthew Shepard, I was moved to tears. When I read about Gwen Araujo, Angie Zapata, and the many more who lost their lives for no reason other than the hatred and fear of difference, I realized that I had to put those skills and that knowledge to use. I am a caucasian, heterosexual male living in North America, and there is absolutely nothing about me that suggests that I deserve better treatment than any other person.
For me, being an ally means fighting for my brothers, sisters, and those who identify in a wonderful plethora of different and deeply personal ways. It means fighting for my fellow human beings. It means understanding the privilege given to me by my sexual orientation and the colour of my skin, and saying “NO. I do not accept the premise that all people are not deserving of that same privilege.” My personal path as an ally means using the academic strengths that I have worked so hard to develop to fight for those who cannot or will not speak out.
The most important thing about being an ally, and I feel this should be the same for all allies, is inspiring change in the cultural dialog. Homophobia, in fact all discrimination, is dependent upon societal paradigms. Paradigms are dependent upon the cultural discussion. The cultural discussion is dependent upon us. When we change our speech and actions to include all people as equals, we begin to change the hearts and minds of those around us. This means avoiding homophobic jokes, no matter how lighthearted they may seem. It means challenging the double standard when people say “I accept gay people,” and then launch into a conversation about how it is inappropriate for Sesame Street to present Ernie and Bert as a romantically involved couple. Humanity is not black and white, it is a kaleidoscope. To allow ourselves to engage in discriminatory language and behaviour, no matter how subtle, is unacceptable. We all love our children. When we expose them to gratuitous violence and oppressive gender roles, yet shield them from love, what message do we send?
An ally is a person who is not a member of a given minority, but who stands in solidarity with them. Being an ally does not necessitate being on the front lines in the fight for equality, but it does necessitate making your support known in whatever way you feel comfortable. Being an ally has become my life’s work, it is my passion … and I am honoured to have been welcomed into this fight by those who share that passion.