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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Column: Allies can and should fight for equality, too

Regardless of your orientation, LGBTQ rights are worth supporting.

Shannon Greenwood

Feb. 15, 2013

The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.

Four weeks ago, I wrote my first column and it’s been an incredible ride ever since. I don’t even know if anyone is reading any of them, but if you are out there, reader, stick with me. I’ve got something important to say.

In the past couple weeks, I’ve encountered a lot of questions about my involvement with Maneater Forum. Why LGBTQ issues? Why are you the one writing about them? What does this even mean? Since I began writing this column, I’ve had my sexuality questioned in the most backhanded yet incredibly blunt ways. The first time it happened, I was at a loss for words, but after a few more times, I’ve been left with the lingering question of why it even matters.

In our country’s history, many people of diverse backgrounds have fought in a struggle for civil rights and liberties. Yet when we look back at these pivotal moments, we seldom question the motives these people had in getting involved in the first place.

Did you have to be a woman to stand beside Alice Paul, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in their fight for women’s suffrage? Did you have to be black to join Martin Luther King, Jr. on his March on Washington? In the same way, do you have to be gay to join in the fight for LGBTQ equality?

As a society, we need to understand that the answer is no and the explanation is simple. Is your gender questioned if you are a feminist? Is your ethnicity debated if you support racial equality? Obviously not. So why is sexuality even an issue? Since when have we found it necessary to blur the lines of advocacy and activism?

This mentality holds us back and establishes a sense of apprehension in potential allies. If people can’t openly support the LGBTQ community without question, then some may choose not to support the community at all. If we’ve learned anything from our past, it is that integration makes us powerful and the LGBTQ community encompasses far more than what those five letters stand for.

So my advice to those who are hesitant is to start small. When I first arrived on this campus, I didn’t know where to begin, and to this day, I am still learning where to go. I took baby steps. I changed myself first and hoped that same change would affect those around me.

If that doesn’t work, be proactive. Call out people for their discriminatory vocabulary. Immerse yourself in situations you’re not used to and encourage others to do the same. Be open and friendly to everyone you meet, despite whether or not they are affiliated with the LGBTQ community.

I don’t expect everyone to pick up a rainbow flag and lead the next pride parade, but our small actions have ripple effects and they will make a difference. If my sexuality is called into question because I’m writing this column, then so be it. I won’t stop writing and I won’t stop fighting because what I’m working toward is bigger than that.

So, reader, whoever you may be, I want you to seriously consider this. In 50 years, when it is all said and done, will you be able to look back at yourself now and honestly say you were a part of the change, or did you simply just watch it happen?

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