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Why Straight Allies Are Critical to the Gay Rights Movement in College

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About a year ago, a friend of mine confided in me that he was having feelings for another man. I was very touched that he felt comfortable enough to share such personal information with me. Upon further reflection, though, I realized such a reaction shouldn't have happened in the first place. We shouldn't be legitimately surprised that someone wants to talk about love. However, members of the Lebsian-Gay-Bisexual-Transexual (LGBT) community often have to live sheltered lives, at least emotionally, due to a fear of facing judgment, and even condemnation, from the backward-thinking folks who believe love is something they should prosecute.

At this point, it's helpful for me to mention I'm not a direct member of the LGBT community. Again, this is something that shouldn't even be necessary to bring up. Labels are still very much a concern in the minds of some. Those same labels, though, can be utilized by us straight people to help our gay friends in their fight for equality. A straight person who supports the LGBT community is known as an "ally." It's my belief that the future of the equal rights movement rests in our hands.

Would segregation have ended if the sit-ins were made up solely of blacks? Would women have gained the right to vote without the backing of male voices? In a perfect world, society would view us all as equal, but unfortunately that's not always the case. A cause can gain immense strength if its supporters are made up of more than just the people its agenda primarily concerns. Whites and blacks unified in protest to show that skin color didn't define a person. Men and women joined forces to bring about the female vote, showing that gender shouldn't limit one's opportunities.

The LGBT equal rights movement is at a critical stage. The recent presidential election also saw gay marriage becoming legal by popular vote in Maine, Maryland, and Washington. There are still a shocking number of people worried that gays will corrupt our good-old American values with their legally recognized love. As allies, we can stand by our gay friends and hopefully strengthen their position. Many who would speak out against gays may also believe that gays are simply pushing their own agenda for selfish reasons. Again, that those darned gays are just out to ruin our freedom. We can show them how foolish they are by standing steady with the members of the LGBT community. Sign petitions, buy a bumper sticker, spread the "Straight but not narrow mindset" -- even the smallest acts can make positive waves within a community. We can show them that this is a case of human rights, plain and simple, with no extra descriptors needed.

People die every day due to pointless violence and starvation, yet there are those who would rather concern themselves with limiting the freedoms of love. We're at a point where we need as much love as we can get in this world, which can at times be so bleak and depressing. An extra pair of smiles at a wedding altar could do wonders.

By Eric Rodgers, Ohio State University