I have been an LBGTQ ally for 25+ years. Probably longer. So many of my childhood friends came out when we were in college; it’s safe to say that I’ve been drawn to the energy of gay people since I was a kid. I always felt like I could be myself around them. I never had to pretend to be something I’m not. I can dance and sing with abandon without fear of being seen as silly. And I can throw a little attitude around without being seen as a bossy, bitchy broad.
The people I’ve surrounded myself with over the years have been accepting, open and non-judgmental. I can share my deepest, darkest secrets without being ashamed. And funny? Holy smokes, I’ve found my gay friends to be some of the wittiest, most hilarious people in my life. I think that dealing with pain and hurt growing up often results in a wicked sense of humor. Being on the outside of some social circles yields a biting wit. I’ve experienced that myself. Yet the humanity of people is always present. I’ve cried with friends over the deaths of their loved ones who suffered from AIDS. I’ve bawled with friends while watching The Celluloid Closet. I wept openly as I read And the Band Played On when I realized the depth of the poor treatment the gay community received at the outset of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.
I’m so fortunate to be considered family by my gay friends. I’ve seen gentle spirits and broken hearts. I’ve danced at gay bars. I’ve been a fag hag. I’ve been a fruit fly. I’ve thrown condoms in an Indy Pride parade. I’ve attended gay-themed theater productions. I’ve seen many a drag show. Friends of mine have stood in front of a door-less bathroom at the 501 so I could pee in privacy. I attended my first lesbian wedding in May of 2014.
In June of 2006, I was working at a booth at Indy Pride. I was thoroughly enjoying myself and really getting into the vibe of the day. I had forgotten that my dear friend, Annie, would be stopping by the booth at some point to introduce her future mother-in-law, Jane, to me. Jane was in town for the weekend and Annie was showing her around. I’d heard so many great things about Jane during the wedding planning; I was looking forward to meeting her. I was wearing a baseball cap that said “Cocksucker,” smoking a cigarette and holding a glass penis containing jelly beans as Annie and Jane walked up. I thought for a moment how I looked. I’d never met this 65-year-old woman from Northern Indiana. I realized that my appearance may not be the most appropriate for a good first impression. I wondered if she would judge me or think poorly of me, but she didn’t. She was thrilled to meet me. We laughed and talked for a while until I had to get back to work at the booth. And then Jane and Annie walked around and explored the Indy Pride events on their own. I’d been worried for no reason. Jane showed this “includer” what inclusion meant!
I could write half a dozen more examples of how the LBGTQ community has been part of my life, but it really isn’t about me. It’s about doing what is right. And doing the right thing even in the face of adversity. And being on the right side of history. No one should ever be made to feel that they do not belong. We are all human beings made of bone, blood and emotions. I don’t understand the fear and ignorance behind homophobia. And that’s what it is...just a fear of someone different. A silly, unfounded ignorance of the basic fact that, as humans, we are far more similar than we are different. If I’m going to be a hard ass about it, what someone does in their personal life is no one else’s business. If no one is being hurt and everyone involved is a consenting adult, the matter concerns only the people involved. Love is love is love. So many people in the world are lonely or abandoned, why would anyone begrudge another person’s chance to be wanted, comforted and loved? I choose love.
I share my coaching practice office suite with a friend and colleague who is gay. We both have Open for Service stickers. I relish being part of something bigger than me when I see the “This Business Serves Everyone” sticker outside my office. It doesn’t just mean, “Hey, anyone can come see me.” It means, “You are worthy. I accept you unconditionally. This is a safe space for you. You are included.” I was delighted when I began seeing Open for Service stickers all over the city and state. It reminded me that we are all in this together on this little blue planet. It is a shame that we even need to put the stickers up to tell people that they are welcome at a place of business. It should be understood. The good thing about the stickers is that they are a tangible illustration of acceptance. And they are everywhere. Inclusion is imperative. Equality is essential. As a life and career coach, it’s a privilege to be part of someone’s journey toward fulfillment. I help them become who they were meant to be. I am humbled and honored to be included. I will always return the favor of including others.
Have you gotten your sticker yet? Get them here!