We went to the grocery store to buy tomatoes and bread, and on the way in, my friend and I would check the community bulletin board in the entry.
It would be filled with posters for bingo and ads for babysitting services and used cars. The flyer we tacked up the night before would be gone. So we would put up another.
It was a simple photocopied notice. It told gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals in our small Central Pennsylvania town that we were allies. It said we were there — if they needed to talk or they needed to cry or they were afraid of a stranger or afraid of someone at home. We would be there.
Every day it would be ripped down. Sometimes it would be gone before we came back out of the store.
It didn’t matter. We always had another copy. The support didn’t evaporate because the flyer went in the trash. It made the need painfully obvious.
It didn’t matter that my friend was gay and I was not. We were shoulders to lean on, hands to hold. The support didn’t depend on who needed it or who gave it.
It did matter when we saw progress. Small acceptances. Growth and warmth.
It has mattered when — over 25 years — we have seen larger acceptances. Even amid controversies like the transgender bathroom debates, the very fact that there was a debate meant there were enough allies to amplify the voices of those being told they shouldn’t be who they were.
It mattered more when the victories came. Sometimes they were actions, like affirming gay marriage. This week it was an important inaction as the U.S. Supreme Court opted not to take up the case of six former or current Pennsylvania students challenging their school district’s policy to let transgender students use the restrooms and locker rooms that match the lives they are leading.
“But our work is far from over,” ACLU attorney Ria Tabacco Mar told the Associated Press.
Mar is right.
LGBTQ people still need allies, despite the steps forward. Sometimes because of them — because some people will always see making something equal for everyone as taking something from one person and giving it to another. They don’t understand that equality is like love. No matter how far you spread it, it doesn’t get thinner.
So in some high school, some college, some grocery store where someone is just buying tomatoes and struggling with a regular old life that is being crumpled up like paper because of who they are or who they love, there is still someone who needs a shoulder to lean on and a hand to hold.
I just hope there are enough people putting out the signs that say “I’m here for you.”