Dear Heterosexual,

My name is Kim Olver and I am a heterosexual ally for LGBTQ rights. I felt compelled to write this article after reading about all the backlash about Pride Month. I’ll bet if you are one of those people pushing against this, you have stopped reading already. You don’t want to hear anything that doesn’t support your particular brand of intolerance and hate, but I have listened to you.

You say we need a straight pride parade, and it boggles my mind that you can’t see the difference.

Every day, in every part of the globe, there isn’t one heterosexual who has been put down and told, “There is something wrong with you because of your sexuality.” You don’t need to actively work on feeling proud about something that has never been invalidated, criticized, or targeted. You are part of the majority. You have never been shamed for your sexuality.

Perhaps you have been shamed for something else and, therefore, you find it difficult to feel empathy for what an LGBTQ person might experience. Did you have glasses and get called four eyes? Did you have braces and get called tinsel teeth? Were you poor and wore second-hand clothes? Even so, these were temporary conditions and not an integral part of who you are.

As soon as they notice they’re different from others, LGBTQ people have been made to feel like freaks. And then, if they are brave enough to reveal those differences, they often find that shame is just the beginning. Ignorant people will say things: some meant to wound, others out of simply not knowing better. But all of it hurts.

When you have heterosexual children, you don’t need to educate them about potential violence against them because of their sexuality. There have never been conversion camps for heterosexuals. To my knowledge, no one has ever been jailed, murdered or put to death in a government-sponsored capital punishment because they are heterosexual. There’s also never been a heterosexual who had to confess his sexual orientation to friends and family.

Can you imagine a world where it is not acceptable to love members of the opposite sex? The government dictates citizens must marry someone of the same gender. Many heterosexuals would find such a place abhorrent, and they would likely fight against that system. Or maybe they’d go along to get along and keep themselves hidden, but still, they would have clandestine meetings with the people who held their hearts.

You can argue it isn’t natural and that God is against it (and premarital sex, tattoos, eating meat with dairy, divorce, men cutting their hair and masturbation) but Jesus taught people not to judge. Judgement is reserved for God, not man. Remember the passages that said, “Judge not least ye be judged” and “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”? Those things I learned in Sunday school became the foundation of my beliefs and value system.

Perhaps you have a value system that tells you homosexuality is wrong. You can have your own opinion as long as you don’t try to force others to share it. You get to decide the values by which you live your life. You have every right to say what you will and will not do—it is your life. The thing that I have trouble understanding is why people feel such a need to force other people to live by their values. Gay people do nothing to you. They are not rapists, child molesters, or criminals, and they’re not on a mission to convert heterosexuals into homosexuals. They are human beings, like you and me, who want to love and be loved. They are not asking for anything that heterosexuals haven’t always had: the right to love who they love without fear of reprisal, the right to marry the one they love, raise children in a loving home and the right to be listed as the next of kin for their loved one in case of emergency. They want to hold hands in public without worrying if someone is going to say something horrible, or worse, commit violence against them.

People have argued that being gay is a choice. What universe do you live in where someone would choose that lifestyle with all the risk it brings? Who would want to live a life where it’s normal to hide who you are, and coming out and defining yourself is an ordeal? Where they fear that they could be asked to leave their homes, lose their job or be attacked on the street? No one would choose that! Matthew Shepard was killed in this country in 1998 during my lifetime, only 21 years ago, just because he was gay. Being gay is how people are born; it isn’t a choice. Just as you didn’t choose to be attracted to members of the opposite sex, people are born with an attraction for members of the same sex.

I sincerely hope no one you love is a member of the LGBTQ community because if they know how you feel, they may never tell you. They will hide who they are from you and maybe even from themselves. Many children commit suicide over sexual orientation and the lack of acceptance by those that are supposed to love them. I sincerely hope your intolerance is never the catalyst of someone’s death.

I, for one, am very proud to know my LGBTQ friends, particularly the ones who can identify as proud and be honest about who they are. They are some of the bravest, most loving people I know. I wish for them a world where they are free to live their lives in peace, where we all share the same human rights and they can hold their heads high because being different is nothing to be ashamed of. We aren’t all that different anyway. We all want to be safe, important, free, joyful and able to love and be loved by the partner of our choice.

I don’t care who you choose to love. Loving is a brave choice, one that adds more beauty, harmony and connection in the world. I wonder if you have the same degree of pride for anything you have been persecuted for that was not within your control to change. I hope you get that experience so you can have more empathy for people who don’t have the privilege you do.

Thank you for reading,

Kim Olver

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