In my second year of college I met one of my best friends, Andrea. She was my boss at the restaurant I worked and we soon grew to be very close. We hung out at work, smoked together on breaks, and gossiped about our lives. I noticed that she always spoke about one person in particular, a girl, but I thought maybe it was her roommate or sister. I asked her who the girl was and she responded, “She’s sort of like my roommate.”
I thought her answer was odd, but I dropped it. I suspected she might be gay and the girl was her girlfriend, but had no idea how to bring that up. I was from a small, conservative town where I was never really close with anyone who was gay. I didn’t have any issues with the LGBTQ community, but I didn’t have any experiences with it either.
One day Andrea called me and said, “It’s mine and my girlfriend’s 3 year anniversary! Can you believe it?” I responded with a happy congratulations and hung up the phone. And that’s how Andrea told me she was gay. It was like she figured I already knew; and I guess I did.
Later she told me she responded that her girlfriend was her roommate because I had asked her in front of a few co-workers and she didn’t like talking about her sexuality at work. I thought to myself that her apprehension was silly; we all talk about our relationships at work. Who would care that she’s gay?
But I soon realized that she had every right to worry about such things. Being removed from that community kept me from seeing many injustices associated with it.
There were times when people would scowl while watching her hold her girlfriend’s hand, or whisper and point at them if they kissed. It was infuriating. Andrea didn’t seem too worried about it, though, and told me that some people just don’t understand it yet, and that she’d say something if they ever said anything to her, which they never did.
It was impressive, really, that she could stay so calm when I was so angry that people would judge her without knowing her. I had to understand that she had been going through it for years and I didn’t need to fight her battles for her, especially if they weren’t really battles to begin with. I’ve learned that I can be an advocate and work to create change without yelling at those with closed-minds who react to her. I can help fight this battle with her for the entire LGBTQ community, and I can do it without being aggressive or counter-productive. Since then I’ve learned a few things that I hope all friends and allies of the LGBTQ community will learn.
We Aren’t Done
On June 26th, 2015, the US Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry in all 50 states. I was elated! Finally, this basic human right was granted to the LGBTQ community. A little over a year earlier, Andrea and her now-wife, Sam, travelled to Seattle to get married. They were legally married, but their marriage wasn’t recognized everwhere else. It was great news to hear that now their marriage was recognized. I watched the world rejoice at this huge win for the community and I rejoiced with them. But, the fight still isn’t over.
In many states, the LGBT community is still unprotected against discrimination. Only 19 states have statutes that protect against both sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in employment. Everyone may now be able to get married in our country, but unfortunately for some, they are essentially outing themselves to be discriminated against if they do. The tax codes for same-sex married couples are trying to catch up to the ruling which can cause a lot of complications come tax time for many same-sex newlyweds. The injustices in this country still exist despite this huge leap in equality. Remember that we are not done fighting and there are still necessary changes to be made.
Be an Advocate
Being an advocate for the LGBT community is very important to me. It’s my way of battling those that judge Andrea without being confrontational. The more I read and learn about the issues facing the community that my friends are a part of, the more I feel the need to be an advocate for them. I will be one of the people who create change. I attend rallies for change, read and write articles to promote equality, and have discussions with people about being loving and accepting.
Becoming an advocate for the LGBTQ community can mean many different things. It can mean signing petitions, voting, attending rallies, or simply openly supporting equal rights. Being an advocate is not always an easy thing in certain communities, so being openly supportive can be a brave and amazing thing to do for those still experiencing injustices in our country. Ask yourself what issues you feel most strongly about and what are the big changes you’d like to see in the world in regards to LGBTQ people. Translate that need for change into an active attempt to advocate for your cause. Seek out your LGBTQ friends and ask questions. If you’d like to become more active in the community, there are many ways to do that, and they’ll probably be full of ideas how you can help.
You are Important
Being a friend to the LGBTQ community is so important. Without people like you and I who are open, accepting, and passionate about human rights, the LGBT community wouldn’t be where it is today or where it will be in the next generation. Because of those brave enough to stand up to lawmakers and community members for equal rights, the LGBT community has made progress. Despite the changes we still have to make, it’s important to look back on the changes that our country has made due to the diligence of advocates and activists, and be proud of the progress.
For those who are passionate about equality, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, race, or religion, your actions will lead the way for younger generations to value all humans. What we teach our children and students will greatly affect the views of the next generation. Love and equality for everyone is not only important, it’s necessary to evolve as a country. We must all take on the responsibility of spreading the message of equality to the next generation and talking to our kids about same-sex marriage.
Andrea and I have been close friends for about seven years now. We’ve lived together through college, watched each other make stupid mistakes, had a lot of laughs, and both moved to another state. We’ve grown far past where we were when we first met, but the lessons I’ve learned through being her friend are things I’ll always keep with me. The on-going battle for her full equality, for her rights, for her, her wife, and everyone in the LGBTQ community, is too important, and they can’t win it alone. We all need to fight alongside our LGBTQ friends to ensure justice and human dignity are available to all of us.
CHELSY RANARD is a writer from Montana who is now living in Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree from the University of Montana in 2012.
She is passionate about equal rights and is happiest spending time with her animals, travelling with her fiancé, and trying new beer. Follow her on Twitter!