A comment while doing a recent story brought to the surface perhaps how naive I am when it comes to the plight some people have that will benefit from an organization like the Taber Equality Alliance.
There I was meeting for lunch with Michael Rose and Jillian Demontigny to do a story on the fundraiser the organization was doing at Knox United Church, featuring the music stylings of indie-folk duo Andrew Smith and Neil Fraser.
Taber Equality Alliance is continuing to make inroads into the Taber and southern Alberta community to create a safe place in the community for sexual and gender identity minorities and their allies, as the benefit concert is going towards seed funds for the organization to become an official society.
After the interview we each sort of offered our insights to issues afflicting individuals that are defined in these categories in which after hearing some of my viewpoints, Jillian said, ‘Oh, so you would consider yourself an ally?’
The comment sort of took me off guard because of how I view the word ally. It implies there is a war going on between sides, and it brought me to the realization that there is a struggle going on every day.
In North America there are basic human rights being denied under the banner of ‘religious freedom’ and people being beaten at worst for as Rise Against eloquently put in their song Make it Stop (September’s Children), ‘Of the children shamed for those they chose to kiss.’ Elsewhere in the world, sexual and gender identity minorities and their allies are being butchered.
But I guess that is where my naivete came in where the term ‘ally’ was foreign to me. I grew up knowing gay people in high school and today I have two gay friends who came out to me before they came out to their own parents. In my music listening of punk, you have a band I enjoy in Against Me, whose lead singer Laura Jane Grace publicly came out as transgender in 2012, having dealt with gender dysphoria since childhood. I saw the band perform at Punk Rock Bowling in Las Vegas, and I didn’t see hordes of people leaving the grounds because fans had enjoyed Against Me when their lead singer was male and suddenly boycotted the band. People were simply saying, ‘Who gives a sh%t, this music still rocks.’ The punk music community seems to be quite accepting as Against Me’s release of ‘Transgender Dysphoria Blues’ in 2014 is currently the band’s highest charting album to date at No. 23 on the Billboard 200.
It has just never really been that big of a deal for me. Any argument people have it be religious, ‘family values’ based or whatever, I can offer a rational counterpoint where anyone devaluing another person’s life is simply out of fear.
And that naivete made me realize that I will never know the struggle gay, bi-sexual or transgendered people will experience in their lives as they fight for greater acceptance. All I know is that struggle will not be attributed to me. It’s simple. I will treat people with the same dignity and respect I expect from them.
I don’t care if you’re rednecked, white necked or turkey necked. I don’t care if you’re male gender, female gender or transgendered. I don’t care if you’re heterosexual, bisexual, asexual, or homosexual. I don’t care if you’re black, white, brown, yellow, green or anything in-between. Sports jock, science jock or cinema jock. Cultured and refined or wild and undefined…maybe left wing, right wing, chicken wing. White collar, blue collar or no collar, it’s all the same to me. If you treat me with dignity, love and respect, I will offer the same.
When I hear some say homosexuality (which is evident in human and animal species since the dawn of time) is an assault on family values it does not compute for me. I do not view family values as simply the ability to pro-create, but how you handle the life that has been created for you.
Are you respecting your parents? Are you being faithful and loving to your spouse or partner? Are you guiding your child on a loving and thriving path be it an adopted or birth child? Are you being ethical in your business dealings when you earn money in your community? Do you give back to the community in some degree through volunteerism? Are you going to be there for your friends through thick and thin?
The list goes on and on and these ‘family values’ can apply to every single person, regardless of your sexual orientation.
No one is perfect 100 per cent of the time in how they conduct their lives, but if we as a species strive to try and be better than we were the day before, that when we struggle we pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off (which a loving and supportive community can help with this), why should I care if woman loves a woman, a man loves a man or someone changes genders?
The Taber Equality Alliance focuses on a more welcoming and inclusive community through community engagement, partnerships, social groups and advocacy. The group strives to increase awareness of LGBTQ rights issues, but is also simply a place that is safe and welcoming for people to bond in friendship, no matter what your sexual identity is. That is what the TEA benefit concert emphasized, where people from all walks of life gathered together to enjoy some music that involved folk, jazz, blues, swing and funk.
We may have our differences at that event, but there was that commonality of loving music and camaraderie.
It really is quite that simple for me. And maybe I’m over simplifying a complex issue, but I see no blind, irrational hate in my simple view.
If one were to concentrate not on how someone was born, but how the strength of character was formed in everyone’s informative years up until the day they die, would we even need organizations like the Taber Equality Alliance?
Unfortunately, sadly we still do with all the hate that is circulating around. So I may be naive, but I applaud the courage of the members of the Taber Equality Alliance as they look to become a society.
I will maybe never truly understand your struggle as an ally, just know the struggle will not be because of me.
Hopefully, more and more people will have the same attitude down the line as awareness progresses, and organizations like the Taber Equality Alliance will not need to exist.
Instead, we can all just hang out ad enjoy some good music, rather than needing to raise money for an association that hopefully one day will be obsolete in its need.