Welcome to Pride month! I consider myself cisgender and heterosexual. My adjectives are she/her/hers. This is information I don’t typically need to share because I have heterosexual privilege. I’m not proud of it; I didn’t ask for it; it just is. Heterosexuals can exist in daily life with ease, a reality that our society doesn’t share with members of the LGBTQ community. As a LGBTQ ally, I recognize this imbalance, and I strive to work to understand and support people who are different than me in this way. Whenever there is a choice between fear and love, I choose love.
I was born in 1960, so I am considered a Boomer. That year marked the beginning of the ’60s: the decade of love, peace and rock and roll, as well as political assassinations, bra burnings and civil rights protests. It’s not unlike what is happening now with the violent insurrection at the Capitol and the BLM movement toward reckoning with systemic racism. Whenever there is this much unrest, suppression or liberation will prevail. We will have to wait to read the history books of the future to see how this era will be remembered.
I am not in control of the future of this country nor the future of the world. What I do control is me—the way I respond to events, the way I interact with people and the way I choose to act in line with the person I want to be. I may not be responsible for the prejudice and discrimination the LGBTQ community has had to endure, but I am response-. I want to add my voice to their voices in demanding they enjoy the same rights heterosexual, cisgender people enjoy.
From the time I first became aware of gay and lesbian people, I felt a desire to stand up for their rights. At Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) where I did my undergrad in psychology, I was the only heterosexual who joined the gay rights club. Back then, I was only aware of men and women who were attracted to people of their same gender. Just because that wasn’t true for me, and that I didn’t understand, didn’t mean I thought they should be prevented from loving whoever they wanted to love. I still feel that way. Gay people take nothing from me.
Now, the mainstream conversation about rights has opened up to those who question and redefine the limited, one-box-only understanding of sex and gender that I understood in the ’60s. When I was a child, a child with a vagina was labeled a girl and a child with a penis was labeled a boy. There were only two options to choose from, but there wasn’t a choice. Society defined us by our genitals and then our parents were commercially marketed to accordingly.
I was dressed in pink, my brother in blue. He got Tonka trucks and erector sets; I got Barbie dolls and art supplies. It was interesting that, as children, I preferred playing with the trucks and my brother enjoyed my dolls—until we learned certain things were for boys and others for girls. We didn’t question the indoctrination.
My brother and I were only 18 months apart in age; we were each other’s best friend and playmate when we were young. We often played together in the woods behind our house, climbing trees and building forts. It wasn’t until I became interested in boys that I gave up my “tomboy” tendencies.
Today, there are people who identify as trans: people who were assigned the wrong gender at birth. They were born either male or female but know they should have been the opposite. Some go through major reassignment surgery to live in alignment with their true selves. I do not understand this myself because I am cisgender; I was born female and identify as female. It’s a difficult concept to wrap my mind around. The only way I can come close is trying to imagine I am who I am right now, but I have a penis. That would cause me untold grief and challenge going through life with everyone relating to me as a male when I feel like a female. It helps me attempt to see the world through their eyes by making it personal for me.
A bisexual individual is someone who is sexually attracted to both men and women. They are not limited to one gender for sexual partners even though society says that’s the way it’s supposed to be. This is also an experience I have never had. I am as hetero as they come, but I have strong, loving feelings toward many of my female friends. I have no interest in being sexual with them, but I can imagine the love I have for them could be sexual for someone who is bi.
The Q in LGBTQIA+ stands for people who are determining their gender identity or sexual orientation. Biologically, I was a girl and girls liked boys—period. But today, brave people are opening up other possibilities for themselves and others.
This doesn’t mean this is new. These feelings—confusion, judgment, alienation, self-hatred and fear—have been happening since the beginning of time. People have even lost their lives over their sexual orientation and identity. Read about here. One of the most targeted populations right now are Black trans women. Violence against anyone for how they identify in their own skin or who they love is unacceptable. People have a right to live their lives in the way they choose as it relates to something so private as sexual identity and practices, provided there is permission from their partners.
The I in LGBTQIA+ stands for intersex, which is a person born with both male and female biological traits. The A stands for asexual, a person without any feelings or interest in sexual activity, and allies, people like me and probably you if you’re reading this article. Allies are people who stand with the LGBTQIA+ community to advocate for their legal, civil and human rights.
There are currently 46 terms in the English language that describe sexual attraction, behavior and orientation. Just because you don’t understand it, and have never experienced it, doesn’t make it wrong. It’s just different from you. Because you have heterosexual privilege, you get to decide whether you will operate from fear of the different and unknown or love for all things human.
During Pride Month, and every month, I am proud to be an ally for this group of humans who are only asking to have the same rights as everyone else—to be able to be comfortable in their own skin and to love whomever they choose.
I remember the words of civil rights activist, Fannie Lou Hammer: “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.” I live for that day. How about you? What’s it going to be, fear or love?