Veronica Grace believes we should all find more visible ways to show we stand up for equality.
When I was in high school there was a girl that everyone knew liked girls. Not that she told anyone, we just knew. I remember being in a small work group with her and two other students, in class one day. I don’t remember what it was that they said, but they began making gay jokes and looking pointedly at her. She was a tough girl, I expected her to say something sharp and tough. I figured they would realize she could kick their asses. Instead she sat there looking frozen, as if she could not move or speak. So I said something to them. I don’t remember what, but I’m certain it was not as witty as what I had imagined her saying. There was a moment’s pause and then the jokers and the girl went on as if nothing had happened.
I didn’t understand at the time why this smart tough girl did not just tell them what they were saying was not acceptable. Several years later in our senior year I was in a sort of club with that girl and we had a group retreat. We all sat around in a circle and talked about things. I don’t remember what we were talking about or anything that anyone else said but I remember vividly that girl began to cry. She apologized for lying to us all and said she was afraid we would hate her. She told us she was gay and when we didn’t freak out about that, she began to share the awful ways in which she had been bullied before she had moved to our town. I began to understand why she had been frozen by the jokes.
I wear rainbows. I’m a straight woman and I wear rainbows. I started wearing rainbows a few years ago when I came across The Rainbow Delegation. There had been several publicized suicides of LGBT youth and the idea was that if those youth had been able to see people in the world around them that would not judge them…then maybe, just maybe, it would have given them hope and they would still be here. So The Rainbow Delegation was giving out free rainbow bracelets to anyone who was an ally. That way anyone who was hiding or afraid could look around and see “that person won’t hate me for who I am.” I am honored to participate in this silent but powerful show of acceptance. I wish there were bracelets to let people know that someone is a person who will not judge them on race/gender identity/religion/lack of religion/mental illness/homelessness/weight/able bodiedness/etc.
I’ve never noticed anyone having a bad reaction to my rainbows, but I have had people I’ve never met before whisper “Nice Bracelet” and smile and continue with the meeting or discussion as if it never happened. The people who have done this have never had rainbows on. After a few times of this happening, I thought about that girl in high school. I realized that as a straight person it was especially important that I show support, and for the same reason it was so important that I be the one to stand up to the jokers in high school. I don’t know how many people assume I identify as lesbian, bisexual or transgender (Well except the lady who hit on me, I’m pretty sure she thought I was some flavor of L, B or T) but I do know that I don’t care. I have no fear of being judged or found out, since I have nothing to be found out for. I have no history of being bullied to keep me quiet. It’s easy for me to not care because it’s not my tender spot.
We need to stand up for people in the areas that are their tender spots. But more than that, it’s important that straight people see straight people standing up for LGBT equality. It’s important that white people see white people stand up for everyone else. It’s important that men see other men stick up for women and that women see other women stick up for men.
Standing up for ourselves and our communities is an extremely personal struggle for most of us. Standing up for other people and other communities makes us all stronger. I saw an insightful video today on Upworthy called One Easy Thing All White People Could Do That Would Make The World A Better Place in which Joy Degruy talks about a trip to the grocery store where her white looking sister in law stands up for her and it makes all the difference. She asks “would it have had the same impact” if she spoke up for herself or would they have brushed her off as “an angry black woman.”
Years ago I was in front of the courthouse in Buffalo, N.Y. My ex and I were waiting for one of the clerk’s offices to open and I was watching people as they walked by or found parking spaces. I saw a small well kept car pull up and begin to park. Behind it a giant raised truck that looked like it had been through a combat zone zoomed in behind the small car and tapped it’s bumper. At this point a large man in torn pants and a dirty shirt got out of the raised truck and a much shorter man in a suit got out of the car. The large man began to use physical intimidation, towering over and screaming at the man who’d gotten out of the car. He was using racial slurs and telling the smaller man that he should go back to his own country. I was stunned. I grew up in California and maybe that sort of thing happens here but I had never witnessed it. Then I watched as no one did anything. I don’t remember making any decision to move or say anything, but suddenly I was walking toward the men and yelling at the large man in my best scolding mom voice. He barely glanced at me, but he looked long enough to see a woman so white she glows who looked about 12 months pregnant. He stopped immediately, angrily got back in his truck and backed it away from the small car. The man in the suit grabbed his briefcase, locked his car and hurried, eyes down, into the courthouse. My husband at the time had a fit. He did not understand how I could get involved like that.
I did not understand how he could just stand there.