Spirit Day – Oct 19

This Friday marks Spirit Day– a day when allies wear purple to speak out against bullying and support LGBTQ youth. You can learn more by visiting the Spirit Day page at GLAAD.

Why is this important? Well, today I learned that a young girl in a local school took her life and I have to admit that I immediately wondered if she had been bullied. Any reason for suicide is a tragedy, but I wonder what and how our schools have done in responding to bullying. We just learned that a local elementary school had no library books so my hopes are not high. 

So it is important that allies speak out and speak up – to ensure our youth are safe, especially at their schools.

I have another reason, too. Sometimes adults need allies as well. Certainly, we need you to advocate for equality legislation – to be a voice of fairness at your faith community. But sometimes we need more.

As I’ve shared on this blog, I have experienced two recent incidents of cyberbullying/harassment that were certainly unpleasant. I was tremendously frustrate that Facebook – recipient of an ally award from GLAAD – LinkedIn and FourSquare had such lackluster responses to the incident. I don’t believe any of them take it seriously and it makes me worry about the safety of others – how does a woman who has an abusive ex use LinkedIn to get a job or a promotion? These issues aren’t on their radar.

But what made me the most angry and sad and disappointed was the lack of response of my network. In the incident with LinkedIn, I reached out to about a dozen “1st degree contacts” who were in that group and asked them to say something. I picked people I perceived to be allies.

Only one person said anything. One. None of the others even returned my message. They simply ignored it. And I suspect that they would still consider themselves allies to this day.

That’s when I needed allies. I was scared and this guy was allegedly engaging in escalating hostile conduct. He needed to hear his heterosexual, professional peers refute his message – not necessarily tell him off, but simply say that my being a lesbian was not something I needed to hide on LinkedIn.

In the LGBTQ community, we refer to this as “tone down the gay.”  I’ve heard that a dozen times in my workplace and I’m not exactly stereotypically gay. But what it meant  was

  • don’t talk about your partner – at all – because it makes other people uncomfortable and you might offend their religious beliefs.
  • don’t push so hard for domestic partner benefits
  • don’t use the word lesbian because it might offend a donor
  • don’t be shocked when a supervisor sends you a lesbian porn image
  • don’t claim its a gay emergency** when someone goes through your office and steals your belongings
  • don’t make a big deal with a colleague waves his wrist around as a slur about being gay

I could go on and on and on. But what would be a very short list are the moments when someone stood up for me – and all LGBTQ folks – either in the workplace or on social media or sometimes in public.

For me to say it gets better is a bit fuzzy. Yes, I’m an adult and I can stand up for myself. Sometimes. When a harasser has targeted my home and has a criminal history … hmmm. Could use a little support.

I honestly feel like Joel Hanrahan, Jeff Karstens and Clint Hurdle are stronger allies to me than some of my actual friends. So this week I’m going to let my allies do the talking.

Let’s start with:

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