By Jenny Suidan
Just before Pride in 2004, I received a phone call from Between The Lines, telling me that I had been selected as a rising star for being an ally to the LGBT community. I remember this day, because I was trying to schedule my interview over the sounds of friends one room over playing drinking games. I was 19 and on my college summer break. The next day, I was answering a list of questions, and the last, “what made you become an ally?” stuck with me because it always seemed strange to be asked. What made me become an ally? At the time, I said it was my obligation – as a woman, as biracial woman, if this was any other time in history, it would be my fight and I would want someone from the majority to help me fight for my rights. Given this moment in time, where I find myself in the majority, I have always felt obligated to fight. Staying on the sidelines was never an option.
I’ve grown up from this time and generally this sentiment remains true. I think what has always drawn me to the LGBTQ community has been the premium in the community to become self-aware, of learning to love yourself and to be and live your own truth. The community is full of love and acceptance and I have never felt anything less than that, always embraced fully (and usually literally) with wide open arms.
What happened in Orlando has absolutely shattered my heart. For anyone who else who has “grown up in a gay bar” as a friend once told me can attest, gay bars are so much more than a club – which is no surprise to anyone who has lived this truth. For someone to walk in and cause so much damage, destruction and death in what should always be a safe space is truly disgusting, especially for this open, accepting and loving community.
And why? Because the kind of military grade weapon that the killer used was easily accessible to – let’s face it – someone who should have never had access to any kind of weapon, let alone this kind. Or was it because it is a part of our regular political dialogue to denigrate members of the LGBTQ community, to treat them as the boogie man, to minimize their humanity to advance some backwards agendas by legislators and special interests that are full of hate? The tragic truth is both. And yes we can talk about terrorism and its role that it played in this attack. This kind of domestic terrorism is fostered in a world where a presidential candidate can suggest building a wall to keep people out or ban an entire religion of people from entering. It is fostered in a world that wastes its time in state legislatures across about access to bathrooms. This is the hatred that builds like a fire being fanned with oxygen.
It is the task of our elected leaders to hear the voices of the many Americans who support common sense gun reform. It is time for our elected leaders to work for progress, rather than moving our country backwards fighting ignorant battles based on some misunderstanding of who the people of the LGBTQ community are. Our country is better than this and we all deserve to see that manifest. And failing our legislators’ ability to hear these cries and implement real change, we do have the power to vote them out this fall.
My heart continues to ache. The straight community owes you better. And for that know that you will always have my sincerest sympathies and my ongoing commitment to be the unapologetic, unfailing ally that you identified all those years ago.