In April of 1993, I was one of more than 2,000 Unitarian Universalists who, led by our President and Board of Trustees, joined hundreds of thousands of others and marched in Washington, DC, for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Equality.
Since that time, I have repeatedly heard others who were there describe that event. When the person speaking is gay, lesbian or bisexual, the punchline, spoken with something akin to awe, is almost always: "And at least half of the UU's marching were heterosexual!" Many of the heterosexuals tell a different story, more like this: "As we marched, hundreds of people, mostly gay, called to us from the side of the streets and profusely thanked us for our witness. I had never been aware that it mattered so much to gay people that heterosexuals march with them."
My heterosexual friends who march in the P-FFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) contingents in marches always tell similar stories, of being thanked, often by people in tears. Why? What is it that makes those of us who are lesbian, bisexual and gay so surprised, so emotional at the presence of support from our heterosexual allies?
Perhaps it's the deeply engrained, implicit policy of "don't ask, don't tell" that governs most of our lives. That policy keeps us uncertain of our worth, our value, or even our existence, in the heterosexual world. We are so accustomed to looking in the mirror and seeing no reflection--or a distorted, negative one--that when we see one which is compassionate and supportive, we are overcome with emotion.
Perhaps it's because our lives don't seem to matter to anyone but us. Our jobs, no matter how well we do them, are often held only at the cost of silence about our home lives. Our children, regardless of the quality of our care for them, may be taken from us at will. Our faith, no matter how deep and sustaining, is called blasphemy. Our military service, far from being a matter of pride to our country, is labeled a threat to national security. Whether we're celebrating our paper anniversary or our golden one, we are still "single" in hospital emergency rooms or on tax forms.
When we don't see ourselves and our lives reflected back to us accurately in the non-gay world, we begin to believe that our lives are marginal, freakshows, of no interest to anyone but ourselves. If we are going to know that we matter, that our lives have meaning not just for us but for the world, we need to know that it is noticed when we are beautiful, when we are kind, when we are abused, or when we are marginalized. In short, I want heterosexuals to become our allies, and to become activists for our equality.
I don't want activism by heterosexual allies as a replacement for activism by gay, lesbian bisexual and transgendered people on our own behalf, but in addition to that activism. I don't look to heterosexual people to do anything for us, but to do it with us. I want the world to know that our issues are human issues, that our lives matter, no more and no less than anyone else's.
I want hundreds of educated heterosexuals to show up at their town square every time homophobia is promoted in City Council meetings. I want dozens of heterosexuals to write well thought out letters to their local newspapers each time homophobic language or behavior occurs. I want scores of compassionate heterosexuals to speak up each time scripture is used as a hammer to beat on those who are "an abomination".
Next time there's a March on Washington for Gay, Lesbian and Bi Equality, I want every single one of the millions of marchers to say, in a tone akin to awe, "And at least half of the people marching were heterosexual!"
I am proud to serve as advisory co-Chair for And Justice for All, a new national group created to mobilize heterosexual advocacy for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality.