Hi again. Sorry if I end up quoting things wrong; I'm still trying to figure out the inner workings of forums (fora??) here. MCStudent said:
> I've had a handful of closeted students come to me, and hearing their >stories and they fear they have about being outed breaks my heart. I would >love to talk with you sometime about your experience when you were in >school. Views I have aren't exactly popular on this campus, especially not >with the administration, and I'm sure you can identify with that.
Oh, I could write a BOOK on that! I went to a college affiliated (at the time) with the Free Methodist Church. Do not mistake them for United Methodists -- at least SOME UMs are open, but rarely will you find a FM who is accepting of people who are LGBT/otherwise. (Unless it's that "hate the sin, but love the sinner" crap...those of you who grew up in conservative churches will know THAT phrase well....) To be honest, when I was in college, I was really confused about all of this. I was not an ally, at least not in the way I am now. I'd characterize my 20-year-old self at the time as "fascinated." I didn't have the repulsion that my fellow students had toward LGBT people, so maybe I was seen as "safe" by some students who did come out to me, or very nearly so. I finally decided that homosexuality wasn't a sin, but it was just a manifestation of some innate inability to fit in, an outward expression of some "differentness" that had no name, and the people who had it chose homosexuality as the vehicle to express that differentness. Yes, you can throw tomatoes at me -- go ahead. That was a huge leap for me at the time, going from "It's a sin" (a theory I couldn't quite ever embrace) to "It's this other thing but at least it's not a sin."
I am relating this honestly because I think it's important to understand that not all allies were always allies...and this is actually good news because it means that efforts like Equality Ride DO have an impact. If Equality Ride had come to MY campus in 1985...I would have been an ally about 20 years sooner than I was! Remember that in the '80s nobody talked about gay issues the way they are talked about now. The discussions were NOT THERE. At least not in my world. I look back now and am shocked at how naive I was, but then I can use that knowledge and be a kinder, gentler person with my own naively misinformed students today...because I understand where they're coming from. (Even though secretly I think they have no right to be so misinformed in this day and age.)
Here's the other thing. (And I realize I should probably jump over to some other forum for this post...it's way more than just a "Hello, My Name Is..." thing.) My family never talked about my oldest sister's..."thing." Her "problem." They NEVER. TALKED. ABOUT. IT. Can you imagine?! She dropped out of graduate school in Texas and moved back home amidst this heavy shroud of secrecy. I knew something horrible had happened -- I was 12. It was only a year ago, at age 40, that I confessed to her that I had been afraid that she had killed someone in Texas! Oh, not an axe murder or anything, but maybe she had accidentally run over a pedestrian with her car. I was pretty sure it was accidental because she was sweet and kind and would never hurt anyone intentionally. But in my 12-year-old mind, because no one would explain to me what this horrible awful thing was, I had to explain it to myself.
One of my favorite people who ever lived is Fred Rogers. Fred often said, "Whatever is mentionable, is manageable." People, when we do not TALK about things, people dream up all sorts of horrible things. When students at Oral Roberts University never see a gay person, they dream up a gay person -- and that gay person is going to look like a monster, a child predator, an evil person bent on destroying marriage as we know it...you know, all those lies that James Dobson and his ilk put out there. That is why Equality Ride and other forums for open dialog are so terribly important.
The other day at work, I was waiting in line in our dining hall and chatting with a colleague. I can't remember how we got on the topic but I mentioned something about Janet Reno. I said, "Not that I have anything personally against her," and my colleague (a guy, presumably straight), interjected, "Yeah, I think she's a great guy!" and I was just like, silent for a second and gave a weak little laugh. And I regret it...I didn't like what he said, but I should have said, "Ummm, that was...not cool." You know? I've thought about it every day. I wasn't a very good ally. But I learn every day what to do and what not to do.
Too much caffeine = chattiness. I'll rein it in here and take my responses off the air.