Never underestimate strength in numbers.
As a feminist, I’ve learned to count my blessings and as well as my allies. I believe that women who are fighting for equality have an important partner fighting alongside them, and we should recognize this – any progress will help.
I do not necessarily believe that gay rights is a feminist issue. But I do believe that feminism and gay rights go hand in hand.
When asked to describe myself, I would say primarily that I am a LGBT ally before I would say I am a feminist. From early in my childhood, I have been a LGBT ally. At the tender age of seven I was frequently exposed to homosexuality as if it was the most normal thing in the world. Back in my hometown in Arizona I have an “aunt,” an extremely close family friend. I call her “aunt” and she acts as such. She was a fixture in my childhood and I love her to death. She was at every ballet recital, every birthday, came over for dessert on Thanksgiving. That woman bought me Barbies and my first easy-bake oven. She would come pick me up from school every now and then when my parents couldn’t and we would watch her dog when she was out of town. She also happens to be a lesbian.
When I asked my parents for the first time, what does it mean to be gay, they responded with “it means a man loves a man or a woman loves a woman the way Mommy loves Daddy.” That was that. I didn’t care. My parents were always liberal and weren’t concerned about “ruining” me sexually. I saw homosexual affection and immediately returned to obsessing over boys. My aunt had a long-term girlfriend who would come over to dinner frequently, and I saw them holding hands across the table and kissing. I felt happy for them at first, then quickly stopped thinking about it as it didn’t seem weird to me. When they met my boyfriend for the first time, they cornered him and drilled him with questions about his career and the like just like any protective family member would. Those women are incredibly dear to me.
I had a gay teacher in middle school, and what l remember about him was that he actually succeeded in teaching me math. In high school and college, I met friends come out as gay as well as friends who were already aware that they were gay. I have friends who are trans. I have friends who are bisexual. One of my dearest, most beloved friends in the entire world is in a same-sex relationship and has been for years. It’s genuinely a non-issue for me. Which is why I am so unwaveringly, viscerally, and at my very core, a LGBT ally. It’s as ridiculous to me as discrimination against brunettes from marrying other brunettes.
I was sent to Catholic Sunday school as a child just like most of my friends (I believe that my parents genuinely believed that’s what good parents did, and I kept going when I got older mostly for the social aspect). The “gay” thing never came up; I think we were too young to entertain the the church’s stance on gay folks then. Life Teen in high school was a different story. My mother warned me that at that point, they might turn hateful, and start telling me how to think and vote. I told her she was being ridiculous. It was just a harmless youth group, right? I was so stupid, so naive.
They used to do this thing were there would be a “lesson” at every meeting – usually something such as “don’t gossip or bear false witness,” and they would have a little pact on a poster, a promise to avoid doing this, and we would all sign it at the end. One day, in the midst of the Bush/Kerry election, they started telling us that we needed to vote for the right religious candidate. “Don’t vote for anyone who is pro abortion or pro gay marriage” was the theme, and a vow to do so was written on the poster board. Everyone got up on their own time to sign.
I remember thinking, They’re talking about my aunt…these people seemed so nice and understanding…but now they are saying my aunt and her girlfriend shouldn’t be allowed to marry? As usual, Mom was right. I was horrified, to be honest. So I remained seated and didn’t sign the poster. I didn’t want to make a scene, but someone asked me why I didn’t sign the poster, and I quietly told him that it was because I wasn’t against gay marriage. A few people heard me and looked at me as if I would be struck down by lightening then and there. I knew in that moment I no longer had a place in that youth group. I didn’t mention that at the time I was also ambiguous about how I felt about abortion – that seemed too hot to touch without getting burned.
To this day, I’m glad the Church didn’t get a hold of me.
Becoming a self-proclaimed feminist is a far more recent development for me. Within the past two years, honestly – the GOP War on Women from 2011-2012 definitely facilitated the transition. In these past few years, I’ve noticed a trend that the people who are feminist or at least pro gender equality for men and women also tend to be pro gay rights. There’s the obvious connection that they are both liberal ideologies, and they are both ideas that are challenging to the Christian religion status quo. But it’s deeper than that – somewhere having to do with the “gender equality” aspect of feminism.
I’ve had people tell me that lesbian relationships are hot, but male homosexual relationships are wrong or gross. My first thought is because of gender politics – two girls making out is like entertainment for men, whereas a man acting “effeminate” or less than the socially accepted idea of an alpha male challenges masculinity somehow. Misogynists need their men to be manly men, and not homosexual men, which to them is considered “weak” or not masculine enough. Furthermore, the reality is that not all lesbian women are spray-tanned, surgically enhanced porn stars, which makes their relationship no longer entertaining and sexy, but proof that the women are not mere decorations for men to admire and furthermore that alpha male figure is not wanted or important to them. This is threatening to anyone opposed to gender equality by taking away the traditional idea of femininity/how a woman should behave as well as de-emphasizing the importance of men. Sound familiar?
Also, I saw this on Facebook today – also makes another good point about the relationship of feminism and gay rights.
I am in no way trying to say that the struggle faced by the LGBT peoples of the world is a mere facet of the feminist movement. LGBT folks have an uphill sociopolitical battle and are being beaten, spat on, and ridiculed, told they are hell-bent sinners, all for the legal institution of a marital union with someone they love. I will never have to face that sort of thing as a straight person, and I will never really understand the difficulty.
However, I do believe that we (feminists and gay rights activists) are united in our battle. Why? Because both of our struggles are coming from the same mindset. The same outdated point-of-view is being used to keep our due respect from us – mostly the presence of Judeo-Christian fundamentals in our political system and the misogynist patriarchy it encourages. Think about it – Don’t vote for any candidate that is pro abortion or pro gay marraige. These are things that, while seen as “indecent,” also upset the traditional arrangement of dominant men and submissive women. The Bible is a dangerous tool, full of ancient social customs and practices, and its literal translation and application to the modern world does nothing but encourage others to fight against feminists and homosexuals alike. This means we are allies, trying to reach a somewhat common goal. We have to recognize and support each other. Margaret Atwood, in The Handmaid’s Tale, saluted our LGBT allies in the character of Moira, the smart-talking lesbian and close friend to the main character. “Gender treachery” is a crime in the novel, which is a very ambiguous phrase pertaining to homosexual acts and presumably rejection of feminine submission. Feminists and homosexuals alike, in the eyes of the other side, are guilty of “gender treachery,” by upsetting the status quo and challenging dated societal norms.
So, as a feminist, I am going to uphold a promise I made to my LGBT friends before, a promise that I swear on my soul to keep – regardless of the discrimination and hate I may face, I will always defend you. I will not waver. I will stand by you, with no apology, and fight by your side. I do this for my aunt, for my dear friends, for all of you – I am and forever will be your ally.
“Already we were losing the taste for freedom, already we were finding these walls secure. In the upper reaches of the atmosphere you’d come apart, you’d vaporize, there would be no pressure holding you together.”
-Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale