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I Am What I Am

By Aless Piper

June 14, 2011

Aless Piper

Aless Piper

When asked if she would help her employer, Otto Frank (father of Anne Frank), and his wife and children hide from the Nazis, Miep Gies did not hesitate. She said "Of course!" Asked why, after the war, she said because it was the right thing to do. She'd have done it again in a heartbeat.

Another question I am frequently asked, in addition to "Isn't AIDS over?" and anything and everything to do with meeting Edward, is why I am so passionate about LGBT rights; but what they really want to know is if I personally identify as LGBT -- and they are always quick to assure me that it's okay if I do.

The last paper I ever wrote about AIDS, this one for Sociology 12, about AIDS in the western world, I included a line similar to: "Straight sex could get safer but gay sex was expected to cease altogether." If you're into animal welfare, I don't question it; but because I'm interested in LGBT rights (read: equal rights), and AIDS, both inexorably linked, in the public mind anyway, to sex, there has to be something there; I have to be a closeted lesbian, or something.

I used to think a lot about quitting with the activism, the blogging, and the petition signing. But I was looking through one of my friend's Facebook profiles recently, and something leapt out at me. She had posted the following words by Pastor Martin Niemoller written during the Nazis' reign of terror:

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

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There is some disagreement over the exact wording, but regardless of the wording you prefer or have learned, the ending is always the same: "Then they came for me / and there was no one left to speak out for me." I am also reminded of Martin Luther King Jr's quote that "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." If we do not stand up in solidarity with our fellow humans, who will?

And so, let this be the start of self acceptance: I am proud to be a straight ally, and HIV/AIDS activist. If you're not cool with that, so be it; don't let the virtual door hit you on the way out. Like Miep Gies, the next time I am asked why I do what I do, I fully intend to say that I do it because it is the right thing to do.

Something moderately unrelated for last: My lovely, darling hairstylist and his husband adopted two adorable children, the youngest of whom is 3, and I am told this little boy loves the color pink. My hairstylist told me this after asking me if I had heard about the pink toenail ad from J Crew (of course I had; I'd even signed a thank you note from Change.org for it) and the resulting kerfuffle from Fox News among other homophobic American institutions. I can't get this idea out of my head: What will this little boy, when he's old enough to read a newspaper or use Google, think of our society in which we have come so close to doing the right thing but ultimately haven't? What will he think of Uganda, where, since 2009, they've been mulling a law that could mean the death penalty or life in prison for LGBT people and persons living with HIV/AIDS?

We, straight, gay, black, white, whatever, whoever you are, can change all of this. We have the power in ways we have never had it before (think Twitter, think Facebook, think citizen-run media ...) to do good, to be the change we wish to see in the world. Will you be that change?

PS: Feel free to e-mail me by clicking the link below. I'm also on Twitter @staybloomin!

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Read more of Flaming Red, Aless Piper' blog, at TheBody.com.

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