In the shadow of this week’s loss on DADT in Washington, D.C., an email arrived in my inbox from someone whom I first met when I took my first baby steps of activism at Equality Camp in January 2009. As I moved my way quickly through post Prop 8 Town Halls and the first Camp Courage, she was there. We share a last name and joked how while we weren’t actually related by blood, we still were family.
Sara Beth Brooks seemed to be everywhere – any rally, event or gathering along the path towards LGBT civil rights – a stalwart supporter of the LGBT cause and, so I thought, a bisexual woman. Her email surprised me, because in it she stated that rather than being represented by one of the usual letters in the LGBT acronym she was, in fact, “asexual”.
The realization that amidst the community in which I have only truly strengthened and expanded my own presence in the last several years, that there are those whose experience of discrimination might very well be even worse because they’re invisible; and knowing that at least some of those people had been tireless supporters for equal rights in a community that hasn’t really given them the time of day … well … it made me think.
The stories I learned to tell through Camp Courage – stories of how I as a gay woman came to my activism and why it’s important to me – were attached to a sense of belonging. While I consider my being gay merely one facet of me (much as I also am Jewish, a woman and a dog owner) each of these do represent my belonging somewhere. I began to ponder on how when I first came out I didn’t feel as though I fit anywhere in the gay community as the lesbians I seemed to encounter didn’t “match” my own experience or life. Over time, I found my place and then in exploring the community further found that regardless of the outer trappings – whether butch, boi, femme or what have you – our stories, our experiences, or sense of being ostracized were decidedly similar.
What then of those whose sense of connection is thwarted because they belong neither here nor there? What of those who may appear to be one thing, but don’t feel they fit in that place? As humans we are, by nature kinesthetic creatures – socially-oriented, hierarchically-based pack animals. We know of ourselves in relation to others. We gain a sense of belonging and place based on where we fit. How difficult to find your narrative when you have no starting point.
When I received Sara Beth’s first email, I did nothing – not because I didn’t care, but because I didn’t get it. When she followed up today with another note that included a link to a video (embedded below), one phrase stood out. One phrase rang off the screen.
“I’ve been your ally for years — please be my ally now.”
I realized that in order to continue the truth of my own story, I had to raise my voice on her behalf. Sara Beth and those like her may seem to lack a narrative, but that’s not the case. Their story has a starting point in their collective isolation, because in that solidarity they create a sense of place; and by speaking out and giving voice to their sense of being left out they allow their story to begin.