Straight, but not narrow
Kelli Rex SUSO Contest winner, guest columnist
Moving to Mount Pleasant from Columbus, Ohio, was a culture shock in more ways than one.
But it was the overt anti-gay messages—from homophobic sidewalk chalking to editorials questioning the need for diversity programs—that bothered me most on a visceral, human level. I had been sheltered, but not in the way most people think: The issue was nearly a non-issue at my liberal college in a city The New York Times called “ a Midwestern gay mecca” (Murphy).
With a general sense that something was amiss and a largely unfocused plan to “ do something” about it, I joined CMU’ s gay/straight alliance. As my involvement grows, now co- chairing Spectrum’ s Inclusion Committee, I see just how personal this broader social issue has become for me.
French historian Alexis de Tocqueville theorized that acting in one’ s self-interest gives rise to an improved society. But how, exactly, does a straight woman benefit from furthering the LGBTQ cause?
First, I believe in a more just America for me and for my future children without discriminatory laws, policies, and practices making it unsafe to be “ different.” Hate crime legislation, for example, makes our society safer and raises awareness of how we treat each other, in turn enhancing my own safety and treatment as a member of that society.
Researching issues like Don’ t Ask, Don’ t Tell, marriage equality, and employment and housing discrimination have made me a more informed citizen. I now understand a drawback of democracy de Tocqueville also feared: the tyranny of the majority. Realizing that the rights of a minority will be denied when left to a vote of an uneducated or not compassionate majority has fueled my support for top-down gay rights legislation.
Inclusive Worldview I have been fortunate to form friendships with courageous, intelligent, motivated, inspiring LGBTQ individuals. Consequently, I know it is not their sole responsibility to fight for equality and civil rights protection. My involvement demonstrates that it is acceptable, even encouraged, for straight people to support this cause.
Thanks to Spectrum, as well as SafeZone and Ally training through the Office for Institutional Diversity, I have the tools to stand up against heterosexism and homophobia,
including a valuable education in LGBTQ history, issues, terminology, and concepts like gender binary, pansexuality, and the deep significance of male and female pronouns.
As a more educated and active citizen, I have written letters asking that CMU suspend its United Way campaign until the Isabella County chapter stops funding the discriminatory Boy Scouts of America; planned events to increase LGBTQ visibility in mid-Michigan; and finally spoke up when a coworker again referred to a colleague’ s partner as “ her, uh…friend?”
“ Partner,” I said strongly. And I felt strong for saying so.
Perhaps that is the best evidence here for de Tocqueville’ s theory: my feeling of personal accomplishment from working toward a more inclusive society. As a straight ally at CMU, I find peace in knowing my children can look back on the great social revolution of this generation and know I was on the right side.