Are You An LGBT Ally? I Was 11 When I Had My First Fight About Queer Rights

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June is LGBT Pride month. I don’t identify as LGBT but I have a ton of friends who do. I don’t think that’s by accident. There is nothing I despise more in this world than a bully. People who arbitrarily hate other people, who demean and degrade them without sense are bullies. I’d be naive saying that I’ve never been dismissive or needlessly mean to someone in my life but I am only human.

I didn’t know hating gay people was “a thing” until I was eleven. It broke my heart. In sixth grade everyone was into Missy Elliot’s song “Get Ur Freak On,” because it was a good motherfucking song. But, no, not Martha, she didn’t like it because, “Missy Elliot is a lesbian.” She said that and I replied with, “So?”

Martha said, cringing, “That’s disgusting. Gay people are disgusting.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. You can just say that? You can just say an entire group of people you haven’t met, people who are humans just like us, you can just dismiss their entire experience? That’s allowed? I thought we had historically moved passed that.

No one in the room defended me. Or her. “Do you just hate gay people?” I asked. “Yes,” Martha said. Without hesitation. Without thought. Without consideration or empathy. She said she hated gay people. No one would dare say that about Blacks or Jews or any race. No one would dare to be so explicitly wrong. “That’s discrimination,” I yelled. “You’re prejudiced!” I shouted. She made a face and walked away. She left a sour taste in mouth ever since.

I am sure a lot of people decided I must be a lesbian because I wasn’t afraid to hang out with the “gay kid” and because I defended gay rights in school. I didn’t care. It was worth it to me. Look, religion is important to a lot of people. I am an atheist. You and I may not be cut from the same cloth but we are both human beings. I had to read The Bible cover to cover for a literary class, both the New and Old testament. Those books are filled with a lot of love and a lot of hate for seemingly amoral acts and certain groups of people, and for shell fish even.

It’s fascinating to me that throughout history there are so many instances where people have decided at their convenience to reinterpret the Bible. You want the lord to be cool with divorce? Create a new sect. You  believe your relationship to God is personal and you don’t need a Priest? Create Protestantism. It’s fine to do that. It is. Because I am an atheist, I believe people’s destinies and spirituality are theres to shape.

So why have we had so many people using the religious texts to pick and choose hate over love? Religion certainly isn’t to blame, it’s people who would rather cast a stone than show compassion. A lot of the LGBT people I know are religious and spiritual in spite of the fact that many of their faiths would not recognize them as good people. That sucks.

I take ignorance personally. Maybe I shouldn’t but I do. In the United States we have so many resources. Free resources. We have the internet. We can be so connected to people who live millions of miles away from us, yet many of us still stay in our bubbles. Being empathetic to groups of people different to you doesn’t mean you have to like everyone of those people you meet. I don’t like every woman, every PoC or every LGBT person or every religious person I meet. But I think they deserve empathy, compassion and basic civil rights. No one is meant to be BFFs with all 7 billion people on Earth.

I believe every single person has the right to pursue happiness. Why is it so hard for some people to do the same? I mean, once you get passed race, sexual orientation, religion and gender there are plenty of legitimate reasons to throw shade or toss some side eye at someone.

June is ride Month. Wave those flags. Sashay in them rainbows. Watch RuPaul’s Drag Race. Read books by famous LGBT  authors like, Gloria Steinem, James Baldwin and Oscar Wilde. Watch all those movies about Harvey Milk and Allen Ginsberg. Watch the complete series of Queer as Folk or The L Word. Volunteer at an LGBT nonprofit. Make a new LGBT friend. Do your part on someone else’s behalf because maybe one day you will need them to do the same for you.

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