Act #44: Be an ally.
Once upon a time, I was married to my best friend. We used to talk for hours about Bill Clinton. And the war on poverty. And national service and civic responsibility. And the different places we saw the face of God. We laughed uncontrollably at everything - at ourselves, the Republican platform, mall walkers, the British comedy duo Absolutely Fabulous, the way our dear friend Jennifer clucked when she laughed. We couldn't get enough of each other or the world around us. So we rode gondolas down Venetian canals, ate dim sum in big city Chinatowns, listened to stories from our elders in far eastern corners of the world and in small Appalachian towns, and shared decadent slabs of chocolate cake on sidewalk cafes in Washington, DC. We were selfless, and at times it seemed like we believed in each other even more than we believed in ourselves. We were best friends. We were family.
Seven years into my marriage, my husband came out to me. That was the day I became an ally. People were flabbergasted that I would continue to love and support him even after he chose to leave me. But that's just the thing. He never really had a choice to begin with.
He didn't have a choice growing up with a small town Pentecostal preacher who told him each Sunday who he should be, and who he should love. He didn't have a choice when his mother always voted for the party that stood for family values and against homosexuality. He didn't have a choice when he was brought up believing that the only God he ever knew failed to show mercy and love, equally to all of his children. He didn't have a choice when his high school classmates used words like faggot and queer, and his college friends rallied against gay rights on campus. When his government enacted laws like "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". When a young man was pistol-whipped, tortured, and left to die on a remote fence in rural Laramie, Wyoming.
He didn't really have a choice. Unless of course he was willing to give up his family, his church, his friends. His God. So it was easier not to acknowledge that slowly simmering feeling he had, that he just couldn't quite understand. Nothing that couldn't be cured, prayed on. Loved away. Buried in the deepest most inner part of his soul. So he trusted that his genuine love for his best friend would be enough to sustain a marriage. That maybe together, they had a shot at happiness. And he loved her so. So much that when it became too unbearable, he thought for a split second it might be easier to drive off a rural North Carolina cliff, so he wouldn't have to hurt her, so he wouldn't have to ever face himself.
Seven years into my marriage, I became an ally because I knew that I could no longer sit back and watch others fall into a pattern of existence simply because they too didn't have a choice. I became an ally because I no longer wanted to live in a world where the prospect of driving off a cliff was more appealing than living in a daunting world filled with hate and intolerance. Seven years into my marriage, I divorced my husband, gained a lifelong best friend, and became an ally. Because unlike him, I do have a choice.
For more information on how you can be a straight ally who supports fairness, please visit: http://www.hrc.org/. In Kentucky: http://www.fairness.org/.