You might feel like it is redundant for you to declare yourself as being an LGBTQIA ally publicly on Facebook right now because all you are seeing right now is a sea of red equals signs. Please understand that your support is never small or redundant. Ten years ago, the incredible amount of support that has been publicly shown the queer community (or at least the gay community, which is not exactly the same thing) in the past couple of days was unimaginable. To me, to probably anyone. It unimaginable not because people took it for granted that everyone was an ally, but because there weren’t as many allies because not as many people were talking about these things and there wasn’t such a broad understanding of queer people (or at least gay people, which I reiterate, is just a part of this population, and that is very important for you to understand right now).
I grew up in a town that is not even all that small or terrible, especially by Missouri standards, and I was the only gay guy my age that I knew. I felt alone. You always feel alone when you are the only one of anything you know. Seeing a rainbow sticker on the back of a car was, most of my formative years, the only thing I could see that would remind me that I wasn’t alone, and that there were other people out there who were like me, or who wanted me to know that I am okay the way I am. Before I came out, I would go to school knowing that no one really knew who I was, and feeling certain that if they DID know about my sexuality, they wouldn’t want to be part of my life anymore. I came out to my friends individually, partially because I couldn’t think of a way to do it to them in a group, but mostly because I wanted to minimize my losses: if more than a couple of friends disowned me I could just stop telling them and continue trying to be straight. Seeing someone, anyone, say that they would be an ally would have eased my burden tremendously: I did not even learn the meaning of the word “ally” until college; I could not even conceive of what it might mean.
So you live in New York. So you went to a selective liberal arts college. So you feel like your social networks are an echo chamber. Good for you.
But remember that not everyone, not even every person of all of the people you are connected to on your social networks, is exactly the same as you. Remember that somewhere out there, someone could be scared or confused, just like I was in high school, and the only thing that might reassure them is seeing a sign that says “I am a friend to you, no matter what.” Remember that queer people must constantly ask other people to show us their support. We are not doing this because we are activists; we are doing this because we actually do need you to tell us these things; while you might feel that your support is implicit, we do not. Because we have the experience of growing up in a world where it is not. Know that it takes only one misguided asshole to make you feel less-than, and it sometimes does take a hundred friends to undo that feeling, if it can even be undone. Never forget that queer people, especially young people, are more prone to depression, self-harm, suicide. Remember that one small thing you do can help to save someone’s life.
You could be the one rainbow sticker on the back of a car that is being followed by some terrified, confused teenager; you could be the one small promise of light in someone’s dark world.
Remember that your voice always means something. Deken out.