The New Ally

The last really big blog post I wrote was about something that I felt very passionate about but that made me very unhappy. The unhappiness that surrounded it was multiplied by some people's unwillingness to see beyond the scope of their own experiences. I'm bisexual. Some of my LGBT friends would rather I use the word "pansexual," but Bisexual.org says it's okay for me to keep calling myself "bi," and I'm not at my best around cookware.

When I came out, I was sixteen years old, and it was the year 2000. It's difficult to remember sometimes that there are very motivated, thoughtful, and amazing individuals who were born in that year. Some of whom I had the opportunity to meet at a retreat last Saturday. In Oklahoma, it can still be very difficult to be young and LGBT. In Miami, 15 years ago, I learned that many of my fears were unfounded.

I feared the worst, of course. My friends, mostly boys, would flee from the sight of me. They'd think I was a freak or worse. Being bisexual, by the way, doesn't soften the blow. Then I finally tore off the band-aid, and the response that my friends gave me was amazing. They were supportive, accepted me as I was, and things continued as normal except that I could share some things about me that I hadn't before—like the life-size poster of Leonardo DiCaprio I had up in my bedroom and my secret love for ★NSYNC.

But it wasn't enough. I don't know whether it was my fault or theirs or both of ours, but there was a singular, nagging sense that something had, in fact, changed. That one or more of us was trying to hard to filter through or accept something that was too difficult because, in 2000, there was no template for it. The word "straight ally" was a very new concept. So was the Gay-Straight Alliance, and there wasn't one on my campus at my school because—as far as I knew—I was the only student in the entire school who was openly anything other than straight.

Now it's 2015, and a gay boy's straight best friend is asking the former to the prom.

In Las Vegas, Nevada, "hella str8" Jacob Lescenski had decided to go to stag to his prom. Things hadn't gone as planned for him. "Hella gay" Anthony Martinez was a busy kid, planning school dances. One day, he got on Twitter to lament the fact that he didn't have a date to the prom. So Jacob says, "Why not?" and he has one of his friends help him invite his best friend to the prom.

Boys and girls have been able to go to the prom as friends for a long time. I'm not going to say how long because I'm not entirely sure, but it's definitely been a while. In the 90s, going stag to a prom was definitely a worse fate than at least finding someone—anyone—to go with you. Even Andie Walsh nearly walked away from the prom before finding Duckie to take her hand as they made their way into the ballroom. (That's an allusion to an 80s film, not a reference to a recent news article.)

But, for a very long time, the boy-girl rule remained in place. You didn't have to date, you didn't even have to dance together, but you had to have different parts because eww...or something. The first LGBT prom I attended took place in 2002, the year after my prom, nowhere near a school. It was the one you went to if you were LGBT and unlucky enough to want to dance with someone who shared the same plumbing as you did. That was me, my world, back then. I'm 31 years old now, and prom is way, way behind me.

But then I saw the article about Jacob and Anthony, two guys, best friends, going to prom together because going stag still sucks. I teared up, and I don't tear up easy. It reminded me of being back in high school, wondering what would've been if things I'd been born in a better time. And then I think about all the tears shed by all those old gay men, joyfully weeping at the fact that gay marriage is a fact in their lifetimes. Not a single LGBT person would be where we are today without our straight allies. I hope Jacob can serve as an example to those would-be allies who are still on the fence.

There's still so much work to do. So many people still facing discrimination at school or work, so many families who'd rather throw a child into the street than tolerate their having been born gay, so many states where gay marriage isn't legal, so many countries where it's a crime punishable by death. Across the country we face another wave of transphobic bathroom legislation. The fight is long and hard, but I think I'll always enjoy it when, 15 years later, I read an article that describes some act of humility, affection, love, or otherwise that wouldn't have been imaginable to me 15 years before.

It's a beautiful nostalgia that illuminates the strides we've made, and the peaks we've left to leap.