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Sexes and Allies

I recently received an email inviting me to join NMU ALLIES. ALLIES is a group on campus that shows support for a subset of the population. Specifically, the Bee Gees, the Elles, and the Tease.

My initial thoughts: "Cool! Some of my co-workers are members and have a decal displayed on their office windows. Maybe I should do the same." Then I continued reading and something made me pause.

Decals are issued ONLY to individual members, not departments or offices, so that GLBT people can be assured of support and confidentiality from the person displaying the decal.

Support and confidentiality? That's part of my job. For everybody. It doesn't matter which combination of colors, ethnicities, beliefs, sexual preferences, and gender identities come to me for help. If the help they are requesting falls within my job duties, I will help them. If not, I will direct them to somebody who can.

I'm left wondering why I should display a decal advertising that I'll treat a subset of the population the same as everybody else? I've asked around a bit, and received great answers like, "It really helps!" and "That's just how things are now." Thanks.

Furthermore, why don't other subsets of the population need me to display a decal? Gamers? They've always been outcasts. Straight white people who shave their heads and hate differences? They're not welcome when they come to town. Italians? They face ridicule and stereotypes just for having cool names and awesome food. There are so many different people that there wouldn't be enough window space if everybody had a decal, so why does this one group need one?

Can anybody give me a logical explanation?


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 29th, 2013 02:12 am (UTC)
I would imagine it has less to do with you and more to do with an individual's level of comfort. If they don't know you from Adam, then there may be no reason for them to suspect that you do, in fact, possess professionalism and ethical upstanding-ness.. (I'm sure there's a better term than that made-up one, but whatever. I like it.) For the more timid, it's basically a security blanket. Also, it's the added bonus of showing others that you, personally support the cause, perhaps making others realize that it is not, in fact, wrong.

But I totally think you should display a sticker assuring gamers that you won't discriminate against them or treat them in any other unprofessional manner and subsequently support their caus. 'Cause that would be awesome. We should get someone to design one...
Aug. 29th, 2013 06:01 pm (UTC)
I don't know who, but somebody put a "Gamers Welcome Here" sticker on my window.
Erica Marceau
Aug. 29th, 2013 05:06 am (UTC)
One possibility is that the sticker is much like the ribbons people used to wear for various causes. It was less about the cause and more of the person wanting to show how much they cared. The person might not have actually done anything besides wear the ribbon but that was enough in their minds to actually mean something. The sticker can be used in the same way.

Seeing the sticker makes members of the group feel that their differences are validated and that they're not weird. Why you don't see stickers for other groups that have also been the subject of teasing and discrimination is because it's still okay to tease and discriminate against them.
Aug. 29th, 2013 06:25 am (UTC)
I guess I could be snarky here and say that nobody has ever had to say, "Mom, Dad, I think you need to know that I'm Italian."

While plenty of ethnic groups are faced with varying levels of stereotyping and discrimination, they also usually have legal protections against discrimination. You're not likely to see a job hanging a sign that says "HELP WANTED - IRISH NEED NOT APPLY" in this day and age.

Depending on your jurisdiction, LGBT folk may not have the same protections. In some states, you can be fired for being gay. You can lose your apartment if you have a significant other who happens to to be of the same sex as yourself. And even in states that have figured out legal protections for gay people, were are significantly behind the times on rights for transgendered people.

There's still enough cultural opposition to gay people in parts of the U.S. that many remain closeted and won't bring that sort of thing up publicly, so they'd probably rather know that someone they're going to with an issue understands these things. Many are the gay youth who have been thrown out of their homes by their "loving Christian" parents for coming out. Even in New York City in 2013, you can be brutally assaulted -- mere blocks from the Stonewall Inn, no less! -- just for being gay.

Progress has been made; the movement toward marriage equality has been advancing, and discrimination is being more publicly reviled as stupid and backwards. There's even been a faint acknowledgement of transgender issues by Biden -- which is its own area that I'm not qualified to go over much more than the basics about. Even so, there's still a long way to go, including informing allies.

To come to it from the long way around, displaying that sticker is kind of a big deal in that you're not someone who is going to anonymously pass word on that "this student is a faaaaag" or do something unforgivably asinine and attempt to preach at them for violating laws written by sheepherders a few thousand years ago.
Sep. 16th, 2013 02:34 am (UTC)
Thanks for the reply, Anonymous!

Living in a college town where there are active groups to support the gay community, I've always (in my adult life) seen it as something that is accepted, and I always thought gays getting beaten was something that you only hear about in the Laramie Project. However, my personal experience is quite limited, and you are right. I occasionally read the news. People do still get beaten, people do still get kicked out of their homes, and people do still get fired.

I see what you're saying. For example, I don't like most laws, especially ones written by sheepherders in bygone millennia, but strangers don't know that about me. People who see the sticker will instantly understand something about me. They'll know what I am not.
Aug. 29th, 2013 05:54 pm (UTC)
The answer is very clear to me. Find a place that makes stickers. Make your own.
"I support all combination of colors, ethnicities, beliefs, sexual preferences, genders, and gender identifications." Now THAT is a sticker I would proudly display.
Sep. 22nd, 2013 12:27 am (UTC)
Anonymous #2 the 2nd here. I am always amazed that someone raised in a small, isolated area like the U.P. has the kind of tolerance and open-mindedness you're exhibiting here... and someone like me, raised in/near a big city has had to deal with racist, bigoted, gay-hating jerks more than I care to think about. I recently told my spouse that I think I'm bisexual, but that I have no desire to act on it. That was a huge step for me... we've been married for several years. As a teen, I was given a black eye by my stepfather due to my experimental relationship with someone of the same sex.... and I've always wondered, what if? What if that hadn't happened? Would I have felt okay to keep exploring that part of me and would my life be completely different now? I'll never know. It feels good to share this with an old friend. I miss talking to you more than I can say. Thanks.
Sep. 27th, 2013 04:14 am (UTC)
It took thirty-six years to get here. For the first half of my life, gay was a negative slang term. "Oh, that's gay!" It wasn't something I had much exposure to. There was a lesbian violin player in high school, but I don't think we ever spoke. A guy was teased for being gay after he looked unusually happy during the testicular cancer video. Hockey players would occasionally punch my arm and call me a fag. Gay seemed like a bad thing, but I've always preferred to form my own opinions.

I didn't interact with any (known) gay people until I was twenty. I thought it was strange and we weren't close, but I never felt like I should treat them unkindly for being gay. I also had a few female friends who admitted some same-gender sex. I thought it was interesting, but I don't think I mentally associated them with the GLBT crowd.

I didn't know my true attitude towards gay people until a longtime friend of mine came out of the closet on Facebook a few years ago. My initial thoughts were, "Huh, I didn't know that." Then I made some joke about band camp. Our interactions haven't changed. He's the same person I had known all along. That's when I decided that somebody being gay was nothing more than a bit of trivia. Useful information when looking for sexual partners; completely irrelevant otherwise.

However, my negative use of the term "gay" persisted beyond this point. It's a part of gamer culture to talk like that. It's something I'm trying to weed out of my vocabulary, but habits are hard to break. I still interact with people who will say, "Well that's fucking gay!" Language is contagious. People use certain phrases in certain situations, and it spreads. It's not easy to force yourself to stop talking like the people you associate with.

There are actually several words I'm trying to stop using, but that is a topic for another post.

Anyway, thanks for the reply, Anonymous. Surely I miss conversing with you as well. I don't feel like I've done anything that deserves thanks here, but people always seem to appreciate me the most when I'm not trying to do anything specific. I'm glad if I was able to help in some kind of way.

Edited at 2016-08-22 01:29 pm (UTC)
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )



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