Being a TBLG Ally

Carrie Rheingans

Recently, I was interviewed by Between the Lines, Michigan’s state-wide newspaper for the transgender, bisexual, lesbian and gay (TBLG) communities. I was very honored to have been contacted by Jessica for the interview. We had first met when I was the Fund Development Coordinator for the HIV/AIDS Resource Center in 2007, before I went back to school. We saw each other again when she reported on the Michigan Community Conversation I organized with the Campaign to End AIDS in November 2009 for the White House Office of National AIDS Policy. You can read the full interview here or click on the screenshot of the interview:

Between Ourselves, 4 February 2010

Between Ourselves, 4 February 2010

Being an ally to these communities is important to me for a number of reasons, some of which are mentioned in the interview. As a future public health professional and social worker, it is important to be inclusive of the diversity within sexualities and genders in my work. Sometimes it can be difficult to be an outspoken ally, but I imagine it’s nothing compared to living with an identity that many societies place on the margins (or even under the death penalty). Many of my family members and people in the town where I grew up are not very accepting of a variety of sexualities and genders, which forced many people to hide their true identities out of fear of not fitting in and even physical violence.

The other day, while I was at HARC for my internship, a woman came into my office with tears glistening in her eyes. She looked at me and said “thank you” and started crying. I didn’t know what happened or what to do, so I just stood up and gave her a hug. She said that she was at the office with her son, who had just been diagnosed with HIV. She was scared and didn’t know what it all meant and of course had a ton of questions (can he still hug his nieces and nephews? share the shower at home? yes and yes). She was crying because she didn’t know many people who value and love marginalized people and had just read the above interview in the paper in the HARC lobby. After we chatted a bit, she left with her son, holding his hand with a smile on her face.

This whole experience really took me by surprise at the time. Since I’ve had time to think about it, it has renewed my desire to keep up the good fight and keep working for what I believe in. It’s situations like this that remind me that you never know what effect you can have on someone, and in the words of my sister, to “be nicer than necessary always. Everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.”

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