Celebrating GLSEN's "Ally Week"

Ally Week was created by students in 2005 to celebrate LGBT allies committed to ensuring safe and effective schools for all and to encourage students to take action. As more people have become aware in recent weeks of efforts like the GSA Network’s nationwide campaign to combat anti-gay bullying, this year’s Ally Week is more important than ever. The more attention we pay to the scourge of bullying, the clearer it becomes that this is a problem we all must work together to solve. The LGBT Community can’t do it alone and doesn’t have to. A few years ago, I was speaking with journalist Karen Ocamb, who is a colleague and friend, but with whom I had not yet shared much personal information. I had been working with her on a long-form piece about Proposition 8 and had to call her several times a day over the course of a few weeks. During one of these conversations, I casually mentioned that hers was now one of the few telephone numbers I actually had memorized, joining my parents and my wife. “Wait … your WIFE?” Karen asked, shocked. My name is Aaron McQuade, and I am GLAAD’s Associate Director of National News. Before coming to GLAAD, I was a reporter, then a producer, and finally a news anchor on SiriusXM’s OutQ, the nation’s only lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) radio network.  I have spent the last five-plus years reporting on, and now monitoring coverage of, LGBT issues. I am fairly well-known and respected within the advocacy community. I am an LGBT rights activist. And I am straight. That’s not to say I haven’t been the victim of homophobia. Our recent (and long overdue) national discussion about bullying left me bombarded with my own memories of 7th through 10th grade. Starting a few weeks into my first year in junior high and lasting until about halfway through my sophomore year in high school, I was regularly shoved into lockers, tripped in hallways, knocked down stairs, and targeted by flying objects and/or food, most often accompanied by a chorus of “f-ggot.” (Sometimes punctuated with the other F word, as in “f-cking f-ggot.”) Did it matter that I wasn’t gay? Not one bit. I also have had strong personal connections to gay people throughout my entire life, many of whom I’ve seen hurt by homophobia. I’ve seen first and second-hand, the kind of harm that this type of bullying can bring. While these personal experiences and connections certainly do color the way I view the LGBT rights movement, I don’t require them - nor should anyone - to fight against injustice. LGBT advocacy is our responsibility. When a person is harassed, assaulted, bullied or denied opportunity because of who they are, then our entire society loses, and not just figuratively. It hurts all of us when a qualified person is forced out of a job and a less qualified person takes his or her place. It hurts all of us when capable men and women are told they can’t protect us all by serving their country. It hurts all of us when young people are so tormented at school that they are denied a good education. It hurts all of us when our society would rather push people away than bring people together. I don’t need to have endured several years of anti-gay bullying to know that society will be better off without that ugliness. I don’t need to have seen loved ones suffer at the hands of homophobia to want to end that suffering. I don’t need to have been personally wronged to want to make things right. Ally Week started in schools and is squarely aimed at bringing people together to stamp out bullying. But just as the LGBT community can’t do it alone, kids can’t do it alone either.  Adults, talk to your friends, neighbors and colleagues about how we all benefit when everyone has the same freedoms and the same opportunities. Show your support for a Gay-Straight Alliance at your local school. Empower your children to stand up for what’s right and to tell an authority figure when they see anti-gay bullying or harassment. Encourage dialogue about equality. Be an ally.