Tag Archives: Ally Support

Everyone Can Be An Ally

I was born in 1958, to heterosexual parents.  I grew up in a home where gay and straight folks sat side by side at dinner parties.  Friendships formed around personal and intellectual connections.  There was no Great Divide between homosexuals and heterosexuals.

I never gave it a thought, until third grade.

In a kickball game, a girl I’ll call “Susannah” crushed the ball and drove in three runs.  “Cory,” admired even by the fifth graders for his spectacular use of profanity, shouted a new insult.  I asked my mother what it meant; “It’s a rude, ignorant word for a gay man.”  I looked up, puzzled; “What’s gay?”  My parents never categorized people by sexuality, but that day, my vocabulary expanded to include “gay,” “straight,” “lesbian,” “homosexual” and “heterosexual.”

High school was an eye-opener.  The atmosphere radiated an edgy tension, with gang violence always ready to erupt.  The gay boys were targeted continuously.  One day, a girl nudged me as a tall, thin boy walked by, frothy blond hair down his back.  “The jocks beat him up last week,” she whispered.  “He was in the hospital for three days.”  She skipped off to class.  A month later, she again took my elbow.  “Remember the blond guy?  I heard he died.  Beaten to death.  The jocks.”  She smiled sweetly, and shrugged.  “Who cares, one less—“ and she used the word I learned in third grade.

I cried that night.  I had no words to explain my tears for a boy I never knew, the possible victim of a piece of gossip that might not be true.  I promised myself that some day, I would write a book about that boy.  I would not allow my readers to be indifferent.  I would name the book after my high school, and its motto.

Years later, my husband and I were raising our children in Mill Valley, CA, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, and I began to write.  I created gay and lesbian characters.  I surrounded them with supporters who rallied for them, shoulder to shoulder, triumphing over a judgmental world.

I completed the final edits in 2008, and prepared to publish.

A few months later, I voted on the losing side of Prop 8, which banned same-sex marriage. My reaction to the election was odd: I stopped publication of my book.  Something was wrong, and I was still figuring it out three years later, when my family moved to Chapel Hill, NC.  I was pleased to live in a beautiful area, with such respect for education.  Then with a nauseating sense of déjà vu, I found myself voting on the losing side of Amendment 1, which prohibited gay marriages and civil unions.

The next morning, I knew how to fix my novel.  I had portrayed the road to full acceptance for the LGBTQ characters as much too smooth.  I rewrote the story, rebuilt the road, offered avenues for people of differing mindsets to become Allies.  As I promised myself back in 1973, I wrote about that blond boy, whose name I never knew.  I called my novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable.

I hope my book will be read by people who feel ready to question their own beliefs, who want to become more accepting but don’t know how.  There’s a path for everyone to become an Ally.  All you have to do is take the first step.

You’ll find me waiting for you.

“Everyone Can Be An Ally” was first published in September, 2013, by the Chapel Hill News.

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Amy Kaufman Burk is a novelist and blogger. Both of her novels – Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable and Tightwire – have been on Amazon’s Top Rated List for LGBT Literary Fiction. Her blog contains posts about a variety of subjects including LGBTQ+ ally support, gender equality, and a Rolling Stones concert. Amy also enjoys collaborating with educators who include her novels in their curriculum.

Visit Amy’s Author Page — https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

 

 

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Two Weddings And A Novel

I began writing my first novel in 2004, when Gavin Newsom, San Francisco’s Mayor, became a soldier for marriage equality.  For a brief window of time, before lesbian and gay marriages were shut down, same-sex couples obtained licenses and exchanged vows throughout California.  My husband and I were living in Mill Valley, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, and we attended two weddings during that pivotal period.

Hillary and Kathy walked down the aisle wearing classic black suits. My husband sang an a cappella Hebrew prayer. The wedding took place before fifty people, in a restaurant, with many guests participating in the ceremony.  I was honored to officiate, standing under a huppa (a hand-stitched canopy).  Hillary stomped on a glass, and the guests yelled Mazel Tov. People heaped their plates from the buffet, and mingled on the deck.

A few weeks later, Trixie dressed in a traditional wedding gown; her bride, Carla, wore a tux. They were married by a judge, in City Hall, with a sit-down dinner for 200 guests.  They walked down the aisle to The Crystals, “Going To The Chapel.”

Carla led Trixie through the first dance, replete with twirls and dips.  They invited “anyone who is married, who couldn’t marry before” to join them. Five couples walked onto the dance floor, two gay, three lesbian. Nobody dancing, not a single person, grew up expecting to marry.  Not one of them took this moment for granted.  The quality of joy was elemental.

At a certain point, both couples toasted their guests.  Curiously, these women, so different in style, chose the exact same words.  “We want to thank all of you for always treating us like a real couple.”

As a straight woman, I never experienced the casual chipping away at the spirit, being treated as less than a full person, less that a real couple.  Now, two couples, four fine people, stood empowered before their loved ones, celebrating their unions, finally recognized as real.

I drove home invigorated, motivated to publish my book.

Then Prop 8 won, shooting down marriage equality.

My reaction surprised me: I stopped publication of my novel.  I knew the book was missing some vital piece, and I was still sorting it out in the summer of 2011, when my family moved to Chapel Hill, NC.  I was immediately drawn to the lush green, the blend of rural beauty and urban convenience.  The emphasis on education and learning matched my own comfortably nerdy style.

Then, in a sick twist of fate, I found myself voting on the losing side of Amendment 1, which banned same-sex marriage and civil unions.  I took comfort in Chapel Hill’s voting overwhelmingly against Amendment 1. Still, I lay awake seething.

The next morning, I knew how to fix my novel.  I had written the road to acceptance for the LGBTQ characters as downhill and paved.  I dirtied up the road, roughening the terrain.  I changed the viewpoints of several characters to travel different paths to becoming Allies.

I hope my book will be read by potential Allies of the LGBTQIA community.  I hope that my characters model options for questioning one’s beliefs, changing one’s mind, rethinking one’s assumptions. I hope that my readers will respect every individual and couple in my story as “real.”

If my novel helps one person become an Ally, I’ll deem my work successful.

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Novels by Amy Kaufman Burk

Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable

Caroline Black, 15 years old, leaves her college prep academy for the local public high school, which opens her world. Written in reaction to witnessing gay students bullied in high school.

Tightwire

Caroline Black, a rookie psychology intern, goes through one year of training, working with her first patient – a young man who is stormy, seductive, complex and troubled. Written in support of healthy sex and sexuality, in support of same-sex parents, and as a voice against the stigma of therapy.

Amy’s Author Page On Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

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