By Timothy Cichon
You don’t have to be an LGBT person to understand the importance of equality. When it comes to supporting LGBT equal rights, active and vocal support from their heterosexual brothers and sisters are key elements to the fight for equality. As a straight brother of the LGBT community, I have found several practical ways to support the equal rights of LGBT persons:
1. Change your daily attitude. A big part of the social stigma against LGBT persons is consistently reinforced in the American vernacular. While teasing and poking fun is a common and sometimes healthy part of relationships, the use of the words “gay,” “homo,” “faggot,” and other terms in pejorative form do nothing but alienate the people these words apply to and reinforce negative stereotypes against them. Instead, when someone else calls me “gay” or says something similar, I simply say “thank you” or reject the compliment with a positive statement. Be creative with how you respond; daily actions can turn the tables of stereotype with your peers. Finally, respect your LGBT family who choose to identify with a particular sex. If she identifies as a woman, refer to her in the proper genitive form. Subtle support goes a long way.
2. Come out. Coming out is a highly personal and sensitive decision, but sometimes coming out is even necessary for atheists and humanists (and important). The social stigma and concerns you may have are valid. However, staying quiet in the face of persecution against non-theists, homosexuals, and transgendered people is a form of acquiescence to those flawed standards. Standing out as a regular example of good atheists/humanists and/or homosexual/transgendered people is what transforms society. Personally, my parents (my father is an evangelical pastor), and my siblings (7 of 9 whom are religious) know where I stand on theism and civil rights. It isn’t always easy, but it is crucial for the success of humanist values. Find support for coming out here.
3. Write your personal success story. I am assisting the LGBT Humanist Council of the American Humanist Association with ”The LGBT Project,” a compilation of personal stories from the LGBT community. I have written my personal story of encouragement and am collecting as many as are available. Whether you’re LGBT, an LGBT ally, or a freethinker/humanist that “came out,” your story is invaluable. Learn the specifics of how you can help with this part of the project here.
4. Take public action. Again, you don’t have to be an LGBT person to make your voice on the issue heard. Go to rallies or Gay Pride Parades in your area. I attended the atheist contingent of the Pride parade in San Francisco on June 26. As religious dogma is often the cause of discrimination against LGBT persons, active, straight, and atheist/agnostic/humanist voices are important to demonstrate that we will not tolerate hatred. Learn about the San Francisco atheist contingent here or search for other events in your area online.
5. Write to your Congresspersons. Right now there are simultaneous bills in the Senate (S. 598) and the House (H.R. 1116) sitting in subcommittees called the “Respect for Marriage Act,” which would repeal the “Defense of Marriage Act” thatnullifies legal LGBT marriages outside of the state in which the marriage is valid. Check the list of congressional supporters, then write both of your Senators and your Representative and tell them to support the respective bills and vote in its favor when the time comes. You can find out who your Congresspersons are here.
Are you interested in supporting beyond what might be practical? The LGBT Project will also feature documented interviews and several speaking tours by Jason Frye, the coordinator of the LGBT Humanist Council. If you’d like to donate to the LGBT Humanist Council, you can do so through the American Humanist Association’s secure site (donations are tax deductible). And email email@example.com for more information on how to support The LGBT Project.
Timothy Cichon is a Sergeant in the United States Army assigned to Fort Hood, Texas. He joined the Army in 2007 (at the age of 17) and deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom for 12 months. The views expressed in this article do not represent the Department of Defense nor the United States Army.