(Sept. 22, 2012) On Monday evening at Oakton High School, I’m sitting on a panel: Being a Straight Ally for Equality to talk about what it means to advocate for LGBT issues as an openly heterosexual person. The event moderator, Christopher Schaffer, asked me to send him a bio that he could read to introduce me to the audience. This made me stop and think: What could I say about my journey from birth to “straight ally?” Surely none of us are born playing that role. At what point did I become a staunch outspoken activist for LGBT rights?
When I was in 8th grade, my parents split and my sister and I ended up Vinton, VA, with our mom (that’s in Roanoke County.) My first day of school at William Byrd Middle School, in my first period Algebra I class, a boy named Gareth asked me if I was new, where I lived and where I came from. He was part of a close knit group of boys also in that same class who would become my life long friends. I met Gareth, Wayne, Jay, Stu, Monty, Keith and Jeff in August of 1975 and I consider them the family of my heart. Three of them are gay.
Back in high school, gay people did not roam the halls in all their awesome gayness assured of acceptance by understanding teachers, administrators and students. We did not have GLEE, Modern Family or Ellen to model what it meant to be gay in America in the 1970s. Gay students were afraid. They lived in fear of others finding out. My best friend Jeff – to this day I still consider him my best friend – shared that with me when he finally came out to me in our 30s. I couldn’t understand why Jeff didn’t tell me sooner – why he thought it would make a difference in our relationship. But this is something I can never fully understand – I can never truly stand in his shoes and see the world the way he lived it in a hostile, unaccepting, homophobic world of Roanoke in the 1970s.Read More