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Straight Until Proven Gay
by Jamie Sebby
When I was thirteen or so, I tried to tell something to my mom. We were driving home, and I remember the pit in my stomach as I realized that there would never really be a perfect time to say what I wanted to say. I can still see the trees lining the Garden State Parkway, blurring as we drove past. There was no way out.
In the most high school of phrases, I started, “Mom, I think I like two people, at the same time.” She nodded her head, the wheels in her head turning in a predictable direction: how to tell her daughter it’s understandable to have a crush on more than one boy at this age. “Oh yeah? Who?”
I swallowed the lump in my throat. Just rip off the Band Aid.
“Evan,” I said. “And Heather.”
It took her a millisecond to process. She had always known I was different. I think she had held on to the hope that it was something else, anything but this.
“No,” she countered, “You’re not gay. Honey, I don’t have a problem with gay people, but not you.”
It was then that I began to take issue with statements like that. Statements that were so contradictory, they were hurtful. What would be the problem with me being gay if she legitimately “had no problem with gay people”?
The specific situation is moot at this point. I dropped it, and when I kissed Heather and Kat and Julie throughout my years of high school, I did it without telling her. Through college, I identified as bisexual. However, I dated men exclusively. (Two, specifically—one of whom is now my husband, so the issue of my sexuality is not important. I’m Mattsexual.) Even though I had a boyfriend, I joined BGLAD (Bisexuals, Gays, Lesbians and Allies for Diversity) at Boise State, proclaiming my membership of the “B” initial of the acronym.
I know now that the “A” initial was equally, if not more relevant to me. I thought my involvement in LGBT activism was made more understandable, more potent by the fact that I was “one of them”. But just saying I’m part of a community, does not truly make me a part of it. Now, as an ally I see what I can truly accomplish when I apply myself to this cause. Not as one of the victims, but as an advocate for those who were born a specific way. I was born a cisgender, heterosexual (basically, despite a few stolen kisses in high school), white woman. It is my duty to use my place of cultural privilege to help those who are without.
People have to swallow a terrible fear of backlash in order to be true themselves and their loved ones. There are so many reasons to embrace the movement for equality. Listing them all would take hours. For my part, I want my children to grow up in the generation where people are not “straight until proven gay”. I want my children, and all people, to be able to embrace who they are with ease and joy, rather than the pain and adversity of today’s society.
A lot of good points have been made for the difficulties of “coming out” as a straight ally to the LGBT community. As for my part with my family, they know what I do; they know what causes I proudly and loudly stand up to support. At this point, it’s surprising to them if I don’t have something to say about a particular issue. Their views landing somewhere between conservative and ambivalent, I am the black sheep. Every family needs one, and I belong to them.