Going the Distance

By: Camille Fassett

My father jokes that I could run before I could walk.  I am a runner.  I love every piece of it, from the fatigue and side-aches to the calming rhythm that sets in after the second mile.  Running is not always easy, but when I first step off my driveway, there are about ten seconds of free and easy sprint.  It is easy to run for ten, fifteen, twenty seconds, the sprint that feels like flying, but it is difficult to pace myself for a ten or fifteen mile run.  

The LGBT movement gained steam, very suddenly and very quickly.  Precious few social justice movements have seized the spotlight, ballot, and media with the same power, and while that is a catalyst for rapid necessary change, the ten second sprint is over.  17 states have recognized same-sex marriage, celebrities and citizens have found the courage to come out of the closet, and LGBT people are finding more and more representation.  It may seem that our war is won – but although we have won many battles, we have not yet won the war.

Runner’s teaches me that I have worked hard.  Without it, the euphoria and cold water after the run would not feel so good.  Likewise, we must continue to push for change, stretch just another inch, even when it seems impossible.  There will be more elections, more lawsuits, more bills, more backlash.  Just last week, Oklahoma lawmakers suggested that all marriages be outlawed to keep same-sex marriage illegal in response to a judge declaring the current ban unconstitutional.  Many states do not outright protect gay, lesbian, or queer people against discrimination in the workplace, and even more offer no protection of trans* people.

Macklemore performed recently at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.  His value to the LGBT movement is questionable and perhaps an interesting potential blog piece, but he certainly got students at my school talking.  I overheard several classmates voicing frustration about the continual media coverage of same-sex marriage and LGBT representation at media.  I heard one say, “I’m so tired of every news piece being about gay people.  It’s old news and it’s time to move on!”  News about states recognizing laws protecting equality is met with shrugs and sighs in government class.  While I am sure the vast majority of students react with the best intentions, they are woefully incorrect.

For every LGBT person out and proud, there is another one living in fear.  For every child raised by an LGBT couple in a same-sex marriage friendly state, there is another one without a second parent adoption.  There are 33 states in which same-sex marriage is still illegal. This means 33 more battles to win.  Even long after every marriage is state and federally protected, cissexism, transphobia, and homophobia will exist in our country.  Both legal and cultural shifts need to occur, and we are far from reaching our finish line.

Sometimes the simplest actions have the biggest impacts.  Type a quick few sentences about what the LGBT movement means to you or how you have been affected by discrimination.  Volunteer for a nonprofit or LGBT organization even if only occasionally, because in my experience meeting the people at the heart of the movement has inspired me to keep going.  Pay attention to the news, and read between the lines, because hate crimes very much exist.  And most importantly in my opinion, speak up against homophobic and transphobic slurs at all times and among all people.

The first ten seconds are easy.  We are long distance runners now, not the Macklemores or Gagas but the footsoldiers, the fundraisers and voters and bloggers and LGBT persons fighting for our own liberation.  Please do not give up now – view the path in front of you with renewed fervor.  May your footsteps may be confident, kind, and strong.  May you keep running.

How To Be A Better Ally

By: Camille Fassett

In any social justice movement, the vast majority of the unrest comes from the oppressed group. The LGBT movement, like others, began with the brave voices of just a few individuals. It has grown into a global subject, however, and LGBT individuals are no longer the only ones demanding change. Straight cisgender allies are without a doubt essential to reaching equality.
For years before I began to identify myself as LGBT, I identified as a proud ally to the movement. Nonetheless, at times I was also guilty of making the social justice movement about me. The fire and spirit of change is overwhelmingly beautiful, often motivating eager people to become allies. Yet allies must consciously evaluate their role in the movement. These tips, while intended for allies, could be useful for anyone. We can all be more tolerant, thoughtful, and respectful people!

1. Listen. It is easy to wear rainbow face paint at Pride and scream out for equality, but it is difficult to take a step back, stop talking, and listen to the oppressed. I promise, there is more to learn.
2. Speak. Having LGBT friends or attending rallies does not make you a good ally, but refusing to endorse systematic and institutionalized oppression when it is apparent does. Do not use the word “gay” as a synonym for stupid, and if one of your friends does, it is your responsibility to say something. If you are silent in situations of injustice, you are choosing the side of the oppressor.
3. Be aware. If someone tells you which gender pronouns they prefer, respect and honor them. Do not ask uncomfortable questions about anyone’s body or sex life. Do not objectify LGBT people.
4. Apologize. No one is perfect, so if you use the wrong pronoun, simply apologize. If you think you are being a good ally and someone suggests differently, listen instead of reacting defensively, think, and then apologize. Your open mindedness is an inspiration.
5.  Respect.  If you are straight and cisgender, the LGBT movement definitely needs you, but the movement itself is not about you. Being respectful means understanding that you may not automatically be welcome into all LGBT spaces just because you’re an ally.
6. Vote. One of the simplest and most effective ways to show your support is to vote against laws that endorse discrimination. This means voting for gay marriage, yes, but that also means being informed about all propositions before voting – read the fine print. There are all kinds of privilege.
7. Keep reflecting. Oftentimes, allies believe they are not part of the problem. However, they do not have it all figured out and it is vital that everyone individual continues to evaluate his or her own roles in privilege and oppression.
8. Act. Social justice is in the action individuals take. Consider volunteering behind the scenes, perhaps making phone calls, managing rallies, or simply donating.
9. Give. Continue to give your time, support, and resources. Make yourself available to friends, relatives, classmates, etc. Consider offering your home through reliable networks to trans* people looking for safe living situations.
10. Don’t give up! You are not going to a perfect ally. However, by accepting your privilege and working actively to improve the world, you will be a better ally every day.

Thank you for showing your support, allies! We can only do this together.