A reader wrote the other day and reminded me of something that I usually have to remind others: There are straight people advocating for gay rights too.
His email came up in the context of Russia – and the fact that I was forgetting that straight people attending the Olympics could be just as in danger of running afoul of Russia’s draconian new anti-gay/anti-trans “propaganda” law. After all, the law doesn’t care if you are gay, it only cares if you’re pro-gay.
And while pro-gay could be defined as something as benign as a lesbian Olympian (or guest) kissing her legally-married wife, it’s also likely a crime under the law for a straight person to wear a rainbow pin, or even to give an interview in which they support their gay friends.
I got to thinking about this today when someone sent me this recent article from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, looking at a new generation of straight allies in Putin’s Russia. It’s a wonderful article, and really brings hope to a story that hasn’t had a heck of a lot of hope of late.
It’s an issue that came up for me a good ten or so years ago when I was attending, and working, a Planned Parenthood march in Washington, DC. The march went quite well, we had a ton of people. But one thing bothered me. The speakers kept talking TO women, ABOUT women. As a guy who considered myself an ally, I felt totally left out. Ignored even.
Even just from a self-interest point of view, you’d think straight guys would be somewhat concerned about whether they can access birth control and/or terminate an unwanted pregnancy. 17 year old guys don’t want to be fathers any more than 17 year old girls want to be mothers. It just seemed to me that the women’s movement was missing out on a potentially not-just-sympathetic demographic, but one that had an equal interest in ensuring that we all continue to have a choice. And in any case, I was there, wasn’t I – and to the people giving speeches, I was invisible.
And I think when you work on these issues you sometimes forget your allies because you often feel alone. You often forget that not only are there other people who might be affected by the same problem, but you also forget that sometimes people who aren’t affected by it directly, simply care about you and the issue, and want to help.
Especially in the past few years, it’s been amazing to see the support we’ve had on gay rights from the straight community. I know just in the blogging world, people like Markos and Atrios and Jane Hamsher (not to mention so many others) have all been amazing allies. It’s really been quite touching.
So, I suppose I’ll recommit myself to keeping my eyes open for the allies, and trying to be a better ally as well.