I might not be lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer, but I have a coming out story of my own. My journey to outspoken allyship has been tumultuous and terrifying and wonderful and it has considerably shaped my identity. I recognize, of course, that it takes far more bravery to come out as queer than as an ally. Still, we face similar challenges as we announce ourselves to a world that is often less than eager to hear our shaking voices speak out for the first time. I believe that a significant portion of the common ground shared by allies and the LGBTQ community is formed in the places where our footsteps overlap on the long, arduous path to coming out. And so, if you’ll bear with me, I’ll retrace my footsteps.
I grew up in a strictly Catholic home, went to Church every Sunday, and said prayer before the pledge of allegiance every day starting in preschool. Every morning I woke up to the sharp, accusatory voices of blonde Fox News “analysts.” Every afternoon on the ride home from school I listened dutifully to the booming, self-righteous homilies of Rush Limbaugh. In the evening I swallowed the opinions of my parents along with my dinner and never questioned anything they had to say on issues of politics or religion. I adhered strictly to what they told me about homosexuality being unnatural and gay marriages being disrespectful to “real” marriages. It never struck me as odd when they said that my aunt lived with her “best friend” Patricia because “they save money on rent that way.” This all changed once I got to public high school.
For most people, high school is a time when peer pressure reigns supreme. You have to keep your head down, do what everyone else is doing, and hope you make it out alive. For me, however, it was a time of questioning the world, discovering new things, and challenging the norms. I had never met anyone who was anything but heterosexual and Catholic, but when I got to high school, I quickly made friends with people of all religions, political opinions, and sexual orientations. As it turned out, the world is a hell of a lot more interesting than I once thought. This both excited and frightened me. I had never been forced to defend my opinions before, and suddenly I was being engaged in discussions on contentious issues like gay marriage. As I obediently regurgitated the sermons of my parents, the words left my mouth in a voice that was not my own. The arguments I was making no longer made sense to me. But I didn’t yet want to disrupt the haven of indoctrination that was my home, so I decided to become silent on LGBTQ issues entirely. That was until I met Santiago, and he helped me find my voice.
He came out to me in sophomore year. I was surprised by how little it changed the way I thought about him-- my charming, loud, wonderfully weird best friend. Not long after he told me, my parents were having yet another discussion on gay marriage. “Discussion” is a generous term—really it was a sanctimonious celebration of bigotry conducted by two products of their close-minded generation. Anyway, for a while I settled into my standard safety net of silence, daydreaming. Instead of the usual John-Krasinski-on-the-beach scene, however, I dreamt of something new. I imagined Santiago, at the altar with the love of his life, saying vows and preparing for a life of happiness and prosperity with his nameless prince charming. I realized that I had to do whatever I could to make this daydream a reality. So in that moment, I took a vow of my own: to break my silence. That night was the first of many shouting matches I’ve had with my parents over LGBTQ issues. That night, I came out as an ally.
It was scary at first, adjusting my entire view on the world and standing up to my parents, but I’m proud to have made this life-changing journey. I’m proud to identify with a group of people who fight for equality and love in a world where those concepts are so painfully undervalued. I’m Allie, and I’m proud to be an ally.