By Kelsey Gorman (’16)
I knew before coming to UCLA Anderson that I wanted to be involved with the LGBTQ club on campus as an active ally. I grew up up in Los Angeles, where the LGBTQ community was very familiar to me. My mom was an active ally, often volunteering at the LGBTQ resource center. I considered myself an ally, and a supporter of the LGBTQ community, but it wasn’t until later that I made the shift from “sure, of course I support gay rights” to truly educating myself to become an active ally for the entire community.
Right before I entered high school, one of my best friends confided in me that they were gay. I didn’t think much of it as it was one of my closest friends and their sexuality had no bearing on our relationship. I listened and tried to be as supportive as possible throughout the conversation. What I learned later was just how nervous that friend had been to tell me, and it was a few years afterward that they got the courage to tell other friends and family. It was a big lesson for me to see a friend I loved so much be so scared to tell me something about who they were. I knew I wanted to take action toward making my school, my community and the world a place where no one should be scared to tell a friend who it is they choose to love.
In high school, I worked with faculty and other friends to help start the first Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club. Although ours was an open-minded liberal school, we were faced with surprising resistance from parents — even parents I knew well — and the surrounding conservative community. We fought to get approval; by the time I reached my senior year the GSA was one of the larger clubs on campus and we participated annually in the National Day of Silence.
In college I learned more about the LGBTQ community that I had not yet been exposed to. My dorm room neighbor was transgender and in the process of his transition. We established a close relationship and I learned it was okay to ask questions when I wasn’t sure which pronoun to use, what name he preferred or how I could best support him and educate others. I will never know what it feels like to be scared to pull out your ID because the state you live in won't allow you to legally change your gender. I will never experience the fear and helplessness he felt every time someone looked at his license and then at him. The least I could do was stand by my friend, ready to support him. I considered myself an active ally, but that doesn’t mean I always knew the right thing to say.
The world has come a long way, but there is so far left to go. A few years ago I attended my first legal gay marriage and watched two people who have been together for 26 years finally able to use the word “husband.” I was so full of joy when the Supreme Court ruling made same-sex marriage a right, but changes like this are not enough. One needs only to look at the violence that persists against the LGBT community, the staggering statistics of murder and suicide, and the anti-LGBT law recently passed in North Carolina to prove that there is as big a need now than ever for more allies, for more advocates, to use their voices.
Being an active ally means that I am constantly learning, educating myself and asking questions to understand. It’s more than just supporting your LGBTQ friends: it’s about becoming an advocate for those that struggle to receive the same rights I have. It’s about being part of a bigger conversation, about being a strong voice for those who often cannot speak as loudly, or are not heard the way straight allies are. Being a part of Out@Anderson has absolutely been one of my favorite MBA experiences, and I have developed strong friendships that I hope will last a lifetime. I look forward to continuing to be an ally and making even just a small bit of difference to someone and inspiring others to do the same.