Not sharing anything but our common humanity: Why everyone can strive to be an ally #GotYourBack

I was returning from work, a little tired as I left the bus when an older man approached me wanting to talk. The Latino man in blue jeans with gray hair probably in his 50s kept staring at me. Finally he said "I've seen you on t.v. right?" I have not been on t.v. much and the last time I had been on a show to talk about the impact of bullying on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Although I am really open and my job is based on being able to talk about the topic, I was a little uncomfortable. It was past 6 o'clock in the evening and I hadn't even started the first part of my long commute home. But, I told him "yes, you did" and waited to hear what he had to say. He quickly told me that he agreed with everything I had said on the program and that he didn't understand people who could not accept LGBT people in their families and communities.

We walked to our train together while I listened to him tell me stories about his life and also to my own conscience gently admonishing me for the hesitation I felt when he approached me in the beginning. I firmly believe that there are many allies that know how to fight alongside us in solidarity.

Just as I as a cisgender woman can press the world to pay attention to the wave of violence against transwomen. Just as although I'm not bisexual I can still promote the increased visibility of bisexual people throughout the media and urge people not to ignore their struggles. That is how there are non-LGBT people who are ready to stand beside those of us who are and fight for justice and equality.

Little by little my new friend told me about his life. I found out that he had two nephews in Texas who were gay. It turns out that he had suffered alongside them when his brother in laws threw them out of the house just for being who they were. And that he had not been okay with that. He repeatedly asserted that his religion didn't teach that kind of response or reaction; that he had learned that God was for everyone. To him it seemed unjust that someone would have to pretend or hide themselves instead of being who they really were.

I continued to ask him more about his life, I wanted to know how he had arrived at this way of thinking. He told me about growing up in a town in rural Mexico. He said there everybody knew everybody and that was why they could never disrespect each other over any differences. He then moved to the United States and began to work. He is always on the search of new information and he is always learning. He doesn't stop himself and investigates any type of human reality even those others would think are taboos. He also told me about his older sister who stayed in Mexico, a fierce woman who refused to live her life in fear. He told me that she stood up to Mexican soldiers that were passing through her land looking for criminals.

His stop was nearing and I knew I would have to continue on so I made sure to get his name and number to keep in touch.

We need more of these type of interactions, ones in which our allies approach us. We live through discrimination, we are fired from our jobs, we are rejected and thrown out of our homes, we suffer violence and all of this affects our communities.

Now more than ever we need to learn how to be good allies. Black people in the United States are victims of police violence at a huge rate-every 28 hours a Black person is killed by police or vigilantes. Indigenous people are still fighting in the 21st century for their lands as multinational mining and oil companies try to make inroads. Since the beginning of the year there have already been 7 murders of transgender or gender non-conforming people. The advances for some immigrants that came in the form of the President's Executive Order is threatened by Congress and excludes many LGBT immigrants who do not have children but have been in the shadows for a long time. Globally in our countries of origin there are struggles against violence, unemployment and climate change as well as the struggles of minority communities, many include LGBT people.

I know there are many- family members, friends and neighbors that have overcome their fear of difference. People who have realized that just because someone has a different sexual orientation it does not mean that they are anything but human and that we face similar challenges. Or that because someone may have a gender identity that doesn't fit the one they were born with, one does not have to fear that person.

All of us can do better about uniting our struggles and learning how to be better allies. So many of us are more than just one identity. I'm a lesbian woman, Latina, of the African Diaspora, and a child of immigrants. It is important that all of us like this man who approached me on the bus be good allies and understand that the progress towards universal justice is something that we all need to work for. We need to learn how to fight side by side with people with whom we may not share anything with other than our common humanity,

If you want to be ally, look for ways to include our struggles in your work. You can start by visiting GLAAD's "Got Your Back" campaign.

 

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