by Kirstin Cronn-Mills
Owldolatrous Press is proud to introduce Guest Contributor, author Kirstin Cronn-Mills. Kirstin has written two young adult novels with LGBT themes and characters: The Sky Always Hears Me and the Hills Don't Mind and Beautiful Music for Ugly Children. She writes and teaches in southern Minnesota, where she lives with her family.
Even when it’s not National Coming Out Month, I think about coming out. A lot. I’m the faculty advisor for the little tiny Pride group on my two-year college campus in southern Minnesota. Coming out there (and staying out) can be tough, the same as it is in many conservative, rural places. One of our members can’t tell anyone that she comes to the meetings because she’s afraid it will get back to her parents. They live in a small town close to our little city, and it could definitely happen. Her hour with us each week is a tiny slice of time where she can claim the gay part of her life without fear or shame. I’m grateful we can hold that space for her.
Each Thursday afternoon, after our Pride meeting is finished, I go back to my office and think some more about the process of coming out. I’m an ally (a queer heterosexual, as Kate Bornstein calls me), so I’ve never had to come out sexually—our entire culture supports me in my choice of a male partner. For me, it’s easy to slip back into complacency, because my relationship choice is supported 24/7. But I have friends and family that don’t have that luxury. When I think about their obstacles—and how that student relaxes for the hour she’s with our Pride group—I am reminded that I need to come out as ally in as many venues as I can, and I have to stay out with no reservations. If I am doing my job as a human, I need to be the fiercest ally possible.
It’s actually the question I want to ask every straight person on the planet: are you an ally to the LGBTQ community (or any other combination of the letters)? If not, what the hell is wrong with you? Get your ass out here. It’s an intense, protective thing for me, because I love so many people within that acronym. Besides that, I literally cannot find a valid reason not to be an ally. I realize people have tons of objections (religious, mainly), but I’ve yet to find one that really holds water. Sometimes I hear straight people say similar things to what MLK, Jr. heard when the Birmingham Campaign was going on in 1963: You don’t really need us white folk to support you, you just need to wait your turn. Hang out in jail and be patient, Martin. Equality is coming. We’ll let you know when you can come out. Um, no, straight people. No more of that talk. Get your ass in gear and start a sit-in. Equality depends on all of us.
But let me recognize it up front: coming out as an ally is a lot easier than coming out as a lesbian, gay, bi, trans, or queer person. There are fewer implications for housing, jobs, families, and civil rights, to name only a few things. But to me, that makes it MORE important to come out as allies. Those of us with privilege have the obligation to encourage and create equality and fairness for those who don’t have the rights we do. We’re the ones who can make and apply the pressure on governments, organizations, and individuals. We can make a difference, and we have a human obligation to do so. We need to be LOUD when we do it. And we need to drag along all the other straight people.
My young adult novel Beautiful Music for Ugly Children is currently bouncing around in the world, and it’s got a hell of an ally in it. His name is John Burrows, and he’s the mentor for my main character—a guy named Gabe, who’s just starting his journey as a trans man. I created John so he’d support Gabe at every turn, and I did it because I wanted a character to run around and say what the hell is wrong with you? Get your ass out here when someone didn’t support Gabe. I relished the chance to put a fierce ally in a trans person’s life. My hope is that straight people who read the book will think, “Oh, hey, I could do that for someone.” And then another trans individual will have an ally. And the cycle of goodness continues.
My home state of Minnesota is facing a same-sex marriage constitutional amendment challenge, so the election also makes me think about coming out—and “voting out.” As much as the LGBTQ community can affect the vote, they can’t carry it, just because there are more straight and cis people in our state. So, non-ally straight Minnesotans—what the hell is wrong with you? Get your ass out here and vote. Don’t make our state codify hate within its constitution. What’s that you say? We don’t have hate in Minnesota? Wrong—it’s alive and well, whether you know it or not. In my town, a woman had her nose broken for explaining the amendment to a bunch of guys who stopped her while she was walking home. She thought they wanted to know the “Vote No” position. They just wanted to punish her for wearing a VOTE NO t-shirt. Sometimes it’s the allies who need an ally.
I don’t know how this woman feels now that her ally status cost her a pair of glasses and her nose. She could change her mind, but I’m betting she doesn’t. If she was wearing the t-shirt, she’s a pretty staunch friend. Taking time to explain the amendment to strangers also tells me she’s not afraid of standing up for what she believes in. I’m just sorry it earned her a broken nose.
I guess I can’t imagine NOT being an ally. I’d miss out on knowing my cousin, my husband’s cousin, my son’s most favorite uncle. I’d miss out on having Harvey Milk as one of my heroes. I’d have missed out on having written Beautiful Music, and I’d miss out on knowing all the folks who helped me write it. I’d miss out on all my Pride students. These people enrich me on so many levels, it breaks my heart to think I might never have found them. Besides that, sexuality and gender expression are a part of us, not the all of us. Excluding someone from my life based on who makes their heart go pitty-pat or what pronoun they prefer is pretty dang dumb. That’s like excluding someone from your life because you use Tide and they use Cheer. You both have clean clothes. Awesome.
So here’s my request for National Coming Out Month—if you have straight people in your life who aren’t allies, tell them to shape up! Tell them to come out and stay out—out in ideology, presence, and loving action. If they don’t jump on the ally bandwagon, at least make them give you a reasoned, logical, well-supported answer for why they’re not up there. Make them own it. Try this argument on the folks who have faith objections: want to be true to your God? Care for others. The end. I know in my heart that Jesus would be an ally. I know it.
And if a person says they can’t be an ally to the LGBTQ crowd, ask them to be an ally to someone else. Everyone needs someone in their corner. Humans are humans, friends. It’s our job in this world to take care of each other. We are all connected. And if a person feels they can’t be an ally at all, ask them to at least not be a bully.
Allies don’t have to wave the rainbow flag or identify as a queer heterosexual, but they need to be there when the going gets tough. Like I’ve said, my ally-ness is fierce—if someone messes with my loved ones, they mess with me. I’m not that physically strong, but I can write and speak like a mofo, and I will bury you. So I’m not asking you—I’m telling you—please hold a safe space for someone to be themselves, even if it’s just for an hour a week. It’s your job as a human.