Post Classifieds

Coming out: an LGBT ally's story

By William S.
On March 9, 2013

  • Picture courtesy of GSU View

A week or two into my first term (Spring 2011) at Governors State University, a group called H.O.M.E had a table set up in the atrium. There were two white older men at the table, and signs with the word "Homosexuality" big and bold.  I assumed the dudes at the table were gay. I went up to the balcony to read. About a half an hour later I heard a woman screaming and a security guard with a deep voice asking her to calm down. Two points that hadn't been connected were connected by overhearing the altercation; that table wasn't what I thought it was. I packed up my book and stomped downstairs to see what this table was about.  The first sign I saw was titled "The Uncensored Truth About Homosexuals!"

As a human I was livid. Truth? As a philosopher I was appalled.

My brain started planning a counter protest for the next day. I would have started stirring things up then but I had to run to class. In class, I asked my fellow students if they had seen the two men at the table. Nobody had. By the time class was over the two guys were gone. I did some Googling when I got home and found out that the acronym stood for Heterosexuals Organized for a Moral Environment. The counter protest that I had planned for the next day was going to use the slogan "The Uncensored Truth about Truth." I planned to start from epistemology and work outward. While I was researching I sent out emails to several school clubs and organizations. I received a couple responses, but nobody had seen the table, although it had been there all week. Nobody was prepared or willing to live out the schools slogan of social justice.

In the following weeks, I asked around. I became aware that the campus was going to have its first annual Gender Matters Conference (2011). I signed up and went. Being self-taught, most of the gender lingo wasn't foreign to me. The week before the conference I grinded my brain through Judith Butlers Gender Trouble, I felt I was good to go. I signed up for a mix of concurrent sessions. I looked for those that spoke about men's issues, feminism and/or class struggle. One of the speakers wasn't able to make the conference, so Dr. Cortese who was moderating the session took the opportunity to present his work on male circumcision. I had already thought of the procedure as butchery, and from my own studies came to the conclusion that the medical justifications were just being used to obfuscate its roots in Old Testament culture. 

The moment that stood out to me was speaking to an Italian woman who had given a presentation entitled "From Corsets to Spanks."  I didn't even know what spanks were.  Little did I know at the time I was echoing Foucaultian critiques when I was telling her about how I saw how bars were structured to develop a certain type of antisocial libidinal discourse.  She told me a story that stuck in my head. She told me that the social joints she goes to men won't dance with her unless they have seen her dance first, because they don't want to dance with someone who doesn't know how to dance. I don't remember the type of dancing she was speaking about, but it's definitely the kind of dance you can't do right on the first try. It requires some skill. You mean there are universes in which heterosexual mating rituals aren't dictated by shallow appeals to ego? I was awestruck.

After the conference, I became aware of the Gay Straight Alliance, and joined. Between then and now I have participated in a whole slew of events: A Halloween Party, A board game event, the second annual Gender Matters Conference, a NOH8 photo shoot, two national coming out day events, a public speaker event with Erin Davies from the Fagbug documentary, and countless bake sales. Along the way I have made many friends, and enemies, in what Gandhi would have called, my experiments with truth. For him truth wasn't something you know, it's something you test.   

Now in 2013, the club is talking about a bunch of fun things for the next term: squirt gun fights, speed dating events, second chance prom, zombies vs. humans, group building exercises with balls of yarn, and other fun things. 

The response I hear the most from people I speak to about the Gay Straight Alliance is that they aren't gay.

My response is; I'm not gay either. I'm an ally.


Two weeks after writing the above article I was walking out of campus, and noticed that H.O.M.E. was back!

I laughed out of anger when I saw their booth (anger is a new emotion for me).

After a 2 days of counter protest, and rallying allies I wrote an account of what happened, which is as follows. 

DAY: 1

On February 14 the Gay Straight Alliance celebrated Valentine's Day. The club watched the Illinois Senate live via a laptop vote on gay marriage. Several of the members were teary- eyed and screamed in celebration when Senate voted to support same- sex marriage.  Today is February 20, and several weeks after writing my original column, we had a meeting like always every Wednesday at 3pm in E2590. On my way off the campus, I noticed some familiar faces.  The two dudes from H.O.M.E. (Heterosexuals Organized for a Moral Environment) were back. I stumbled towards the table and laughed in anger. I engaged the H.O.M.E. representatives in a seemly civilized conversation, until I recognized one gaping flaw in their argument. They were not citing their sources. So I started demanding a citation after every claim. This obviously frustrated the two men at the booth.

At this point two campus security guards spoke to the two H.O.M.E. representatives explaining that they were not in the legitimate free speech zone on campus. They bickered back and forth with the security guards. I took this opportunity to start organizing. I called every member from the Gay Straight Alliance, I called friends from the Social Work Student organization, I called other friends, I called the president of the Gay Straight Alliance at a local college, and I sent out several emails.  During the conversation one of the police men showed the H.O.M.E. representatives a copy of our school newspaper with the headline article "What To Do If There Is A Shooting On Campus?" and explained that he was worried about the H.O.M.E. representative's security.

After the policeman failed to convince H.O.M.E. to move their table they left a policeman behind to guard the table.  One of the women from the Gay Straight Alliance came and stood with me to discuss with the H.O.M.E. representatives. She was visibly bothered by their dehumanizing statements and pseudo-science hate-speech.  When she left to head off to class an incredibly smart ally with the temperament of a Zen monk engaged in a viciously logical argument over three hours.

I took this time to organize the people walking by without any emotional connection to H.O.M.E.'s hate mongering. I decided to ask everyone that passed coming and leaving school what they felt about the table. Most didn't understand immediately. They asked "are they for or against homosexuality?" I explained that they were anti-homosexual group based out of Downers Grove, and that I had previously experience their hate speech my first term on campus. The second question most folks asked was "Why are they allowed to be here?" I explained the nature of "free speech zones" on campus. Most people felt disgusted by the closeness of hate speech to their lives.

One student I spoke to said that she sided with H.O.M.E. and told me a story. She was at a beach with her young son, and there was a pair of men also at the beach that were doing what two dudes do when they like each other. She was distraught telling me the story, and terrified by the idea that her son could be infected with homosexuality by watching two dudes express how they feel about each other in public.

I spoke to an Indian student who supported H.O.M.E.'s claims. I tried to impress upon him they are using the same rhetoric that is used to keep untouchables in their place.

Most people I spoke to were as frustrated and angry as I was. It was good to see straight and LGBTQ folks uniting for a common good to voice their frustration together.

DAY: 2

On the second day, I showed up to campus several hours early to start rallying the troops. Many people from the day before saw me and said hello as I was stomping around campus. I stopped at Student Life to find out if there was any information about where H.O.M.E. would be located. I called every GSA member, and chatted back and forth with other members in our Facebook group. In the group they were talking about planning a kiss-in.  We spoke to a lot of people, and handed out flyers. The tone was a lot calmer than the previous day, but there was still heated tension. Many brave individuals argued against H.O.M.E.'s tautological arguments until they were blue in the face.

At the end of the day the partner of one of the GSA members showed up and smooched-face in front of the H.O.M.E. table. Kiss-In accomplished! We celebrated love at the end of two days of hate.

We had an incredible amount of fun hanging out with students and spreading the love.  We made a lot of new friends and allies, even among some folks that supported the dehumanizing H.O.M.E. speech.

After two intense days I was emotionally and physically exhausted. I plopped down in one of the chairs in the atrium and hung out with the other GSA members. As I was driving home that night, I noticed a car was following me for a lot longer then I usually have a car behind me.  I take Stuenkel road towards Monee to Western. It's usually dark and empty till I get to Western. As the blocks went by I noticed myself getting more and more tense; that goose bumps and hair standing on end kind of feeling. I am a horror move veteran; I've seen every bloody chain saw wielding, zombie chewing, mask- wearing, and saw-flinging film worth seeing. There have been very few times have I found myself so scared of the world I live in as I was that night driving down Monee Road last week. Then the car behind me turned right, and a wave of relief settled over me.  

I guess I didn't realize how terrorized I was by H.O.M.E. until it was over.

People react in many different ways to trauma.  Trauma tends to derail the everyday pathology. Some folks enter flight mode and some folk enter fight mode. I've always been on the side of fighting. Nothing else has been ethically tenable to me.

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