(Last night, Metro DC PFLAG’s Phil Hicks was honored as the “Best Straight Ally” by readers of the Washington Blade in their annual Best of Gay DC reader’s poll. The note below was written by Phil upon learning that he had been chosen for the honor for the 2nd year in a row.)
I’ve just completed a little exercise that has been extraordinarily eye opening. I’ve looked at the general makeup of my Facebook friends list in much the same way a censusworker might do a demographic table, or a salesman would look at connections for a marketing plan. Where do my friends come from? How did I happen to make their acquaintance? Of course I already knew that many were childhood and/or school friends who I either kept up with over the years or were reconnected with through reunions, functions and of course, the power of Facebook. They are among an eclectic mix of people. I count 121 classmates and childhood friends, 109 are people that have been colleagues and business associates that I now count as friends. In my count I see 28 family members, a few “political” friends that I have for lobbying reasons, and olf course some “like” pages, etc.
It didn’t come as much of a surprise, (given I have two sons who are gay, and with my involvement in PFLAG and other organizations), that I count 112 of the 422, more than 25%, as members of the LGBT community. Those are the ones I know that are out. Sure, there may be more, but there are 112 that are out and proud. Speaking of proud, I’m proud to have them as friends. Those outside of this close knit community may not realize the cohesion and the bonding within this group. Our entire country, our society as a whole, could learn so much from them. From all I’ve seen, there is a camaraderie and loyalty in the LGBT sector that is missing elsewhere. To a certain extent I believe this comes, unfortunately, for a negative reason. Unlike most of us, it’s been necessary for this community to circle the wagons due to the bigotry that has followed them all of these years. That bigotry has led to violence, bullying, unfair treatment in the workplace, and political exclusion. As a result, they protect one another and watch out for their brothers and sisters in an almost familial way.
That is the primary reason I’m so proud to call those 112 my friends. I’ve been allowed inside the circle of wagons. Jack Burns, the outrageous father in law from the Meet the Parents movies would have called it his Circle of Trust. You aren’t just asked to enter the circle; you have to earn a spot. From everything I’ve seen, once you’ve earned that trust, you have friends for life. Who could ask for more? Well, I certainly can’t. How do you go about earning this trust? You talk to them, have a drink with them, eat with them. It’s very difficult. You need to treat them just like you would anybody you’d meet on the street, or in your neighborhood. In other words, you don’t call them names. You don’t treat them differently. You don’t make a face when they introduce their partner, just like you “shouldn’t” make a face if a friend introduces you to an ugly spouse. It’s called manners. Just like your mom taught you. Why do you treat a gay person like any other person? Because they aren’t any different, that’s why! The only difference is that the gay individual is so accustomed to being treated poorly that they actually appreciate the courtesy. What a concept!
Well, there’s a gay newspaper in town, the Washington Blade, and each year they conduct an open contest to determine the reader’s choices of everything between Best Restaurant and Best Nonprofit Organization to individual awards like Best Bartender and Best Realtor. They throw quite a bash each year as well to celebrate the winners of each of these awards. Celebrities and politicians attend as well. It’s a fantastic party, and one I was fortunate enough to attend with my family and invited guests last year. (Yes, people can come with you!) I was able to go last year because I was fortunate enough to have been given the Best Straight Ally award for 2010. It came as a huge surprise when I got that because I didn’t even know about the contest. I was treated like a king at last years’ event. How did I win? Frankly I only won because my kids and the 112 on my Facebook who I proudly call friends beat the drum for me which likely allowed me to beat out some more deserving individuals.
I just found out that the same thing has happened for me this year. Other deserving straight allies could have taken the award this year but thankfully my friends pushed the issue again and I’ll be fortunate to be treated quite well again next week at the Helix Hotel in DC. This is what happens when a kind group of loyal friends let you into their Circle of Trust. There can never be enough straight allies. The LGBT community still has a number of battles left to fight before this society allows complete equality. So I want to ask all of you to accept the challenge of doing enough to knock me off of this pedestal before I begin to think I deserve the award!
In the meantime, I’ll just say thank you from the bottom of my heart to MY 112. I love you all just like family.