Over the years that I’ve written for QSaltLake and worked and fought for this community, the question I hear most frequently is, “Why?” This, our annual Allies issue, seems like the most appropriate place to answer that question.
I’ve always had a basic belief that all people are equal and, as such, are entitled to equal treatment under the law. It was nearly five years ago when that belief became a passion and I took that step from being a supporter to becoming an ally.
I was scrambling to write a column, as my editor had just killed my first one (long story). I ended up at Thanksgiving Point for the “Sacred Ground” event — the conservative response to the Common Ground Initiative that was proposed at the Utah State Legislature. The first thing that hit me was the mass of private security being employed to make sure the protesters were kept off the property. The second, and by far most impacting, was the content of the speeches.
Here we were, in the 21st century, and elected officials, candidates and opinion leaders were openly promoting legal means of discrimination and oppression of a people — based solely on their sexual orientation. I was flabbergasted, to say the least. I’ve traveled the country for years and I’ve seen racism, I’ve seen discrimination, I’ve seen bigotry, but I had never imagined that such blatant ignorance and hatred would not only be promulgated by social and political leaders, but that it would also draw very real public support.
I wrote a column about this travesty and how disappointed I was in our society that we would allow elected officials to perpetuate discrimination and bigotry in this day and age. Again, my editor declined, citing that his readership “doesn’t care about gay issues.” I published the column on my blog where it was discovered by QSaltLake and re-published. The rest, as they say, is history.
In the time I’ve been writing for QSaltLake I have become increasingly active in the struggle for equality in Utah. Equality very quickly changed from an intellectual pursuit to a very personal one. I came to know the people of this community, and came to love them. When you put a face on an issue you tend to lose that distance and objectivity; the love, the triumphs, the defeats, fears and pains all become very personal.
For me, this has become very personal. The people of this community aren’t a faceless group of people being oppressed. You are my friends, people whom I love and respect, and your pain is my pain.
We have a world to change. I’m not going to change it, I hold to no delusions of grandeur about that. I’ve been at this for far too long for that. What I do believe, however, is that the world is going to change. It’s going to change when we teach enough people that together they have the power to change it.
I teach my children. I hope they see from my example that every voice matters. I want them to learn that it is not just their right, but also their responsibility to stand up in the face of injustice, to fight for the betterment of us all. I’m not going to change the world, but maybe one of them will.
Our society has a nasty habit of revolving discrimination. The more we evolve, the more we perpetuate a cycle; there’s always one group of people that finds itself on the outside. This is the cycle we need to break, and what I see in this community gives me hope that when we end the discrimination against our LGBT brothers and sisters, we will not just push it on another group, we will break that cycle.
I’m an ally, not because I believe in gay rights or marriage equality, but because I believe in human rights and full equality.