A friend of mine, Cheryl, contacted me on Facebook recently upset about a message a friend of hers had sent to her suggesting that she be quiet about her support for LGBT equality. The reason for her friend’s message is not because her friend is anti-gay but because Cheryl is trying to raise money for her medical expenses (she has been suffering from severe medical issues for many years now which has affected her family financially and emotionally), and that means Cheryl is counting on the kindness of friends, family, and strangers. Her friend felt that some people wouldn’t want to donate money to Cheryl if she posts LGBT-related (or other “liberal”) material on Facebook.
Before I get to the message Cheryl’s friend sent her, I think it’s important to understand that her friend lives in Texas, and while anti-human rights people are everywhere, somewhere like Texas is very different from the much more liberal Oregon. The south has a long history limiting people’s rights, and it is no different today with LGBT rights – so Cheryl’s friend’s fear is justified and understandable.
Here is the message:
Cheryl, I hope you do not take this the wrong way, but may I gently suggest that while doing fund-raising you be very careful about what you post? I happen to believe in free speech, equal rights, gun control, a woman’s right to choice, and am sick of this homophobic society. Unfortunately, I often find myself in the minority. Keep in mind that I am stuck in the middle of the Bible Belt where the fundamental, narrow-minded flourish. Sad to say but you don’t want to “turn away” anyone who might be offended. Post flowers and happy-faced stuff! Just some musings from someone living in Red-Neck country.
I want to be clear that the point of this post is not to embarrass or criticize Cheryl’s friend. And I hope that if she reads this, she won’t feel that Cheryl violated her trust. Cheryl confided in me (as friends do), and I offered to write this post because I thought there was value in discussing her friend’s message. So often we are faced with moral dilemmas, and maybe this situation can help others.
I see Cheryl’s friend’s point; I understand her concern. I believe her message to Cheryl was prompted from her understanding of how amazingly horrible some people can be. I don’t doubt for a second that certain people would decide not to donate money for Cheryl’s medical expenses because of their anti-equality views.
But I think there is something to be learned from this situation. And after all, this latest civil rights movement, the movement for LGBT equality, is a learning experience for all of us. Those of us who support equality are not perfect. Our heart may be in the right place, but that does not mean we are always right. The journey to equality is complicated and confusing, and we have to constantly reassess and adjust how we do and think about things.
Cheryl is bisexual but is married to a man, Barry, whom she has two children with. Cheryl falls in that confusing space where she is a member of the LGBT community but also doesn’t appear to be because she lives a heterosexual life. She may be attracted to women as well as men, but she is in a relationship with a man and is, therefore, essentially straight. So I think because it’s so easy to view Cheryl as straight, it’s easy to forget how personal the issue of LGBT rights is to her. Yes, plenty of straight people feel strongly about LGBT rights and are doing anything and everything they can to help us achieve equality, but a straight person will never understand what it feels like to be LGBT, just as a white person will never understand what it feels like to be black, or a man what it feels like to be a woman. Cheryl is hurt more by the suggestion to hide her support for LGBT rights because she is not straight, as it can seem that she is – she is bisexual and, therefore, a member of the gay community.
So while Cheryl’s friend thought she might be offended (“I hope you do not take this the wrong way”), she didn’t understand how much it hurts to essentially be told that you should hide a part of yourself so that people will still be willing to help you.
And this brings me to what I really wanted to write about: While Cheryl desperately needs donations to help her pay for her medical expenses, is it okay to put LGBT equality (and other important human rights issues) on the backburner so she can raise money more easily? Is it ever okay to compromise our morals and ethics? Does the importance of Cheryl’s cause make it okay? I suppose every person has to decide that for themselves, but I personally don’t believe it is ever right to compromise our values in such a way. When we are quiet so as not to “offend” others, I believe it, in a way, tells those anti-equality minded people that there is something wrong with being LGBT. If there wasn’t, why would we ever be quiet about our support?
In addition to that, Cheryl has children whom she has raised to be supporters of equality. What sort of a message would she be sending to her children if she stopped being vocal about LGBT equality in order to raise money? I think we all know at this point that it’s not a good message.
Support for equality in the United States is at an all-time high. Now is not the time to be quiet; now is not the time to compromise. I know it can be so hard to stand up against our opposition, especially when we see how it can hurt us in the short-term, but we will prevail, and I believe it will be better to prevail with our morals and ethics intact.
So don’t be quiet. Speak up. I, for one, am happy to use my website and social media accounts for Oregon Marriage Equality/Gay Marriage Oregon to help out people like Cheryl. Cheryl will not be quiet, and neither will I. And I know many of you reading this are willing to help out others in need as well. So let’s stick together; let’s help each other; let’s make it so that people like Cheryl don’t even have to consider being quiet about equality so that she can pay her medical bills. Let’s not ask her to compromise. As Cheryl said to me, “I am hurting, yes, but I don’t want to give my soul away.”
Please help Cheryl by donating even a dollar or two, or at the very least, please share her fundraiser with your friends and family. Thank you!
The link to Cheryl’s fundraiser.
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