Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Literally Standing as an Ally

Dianna and I (with Fun Laura and Lindsay photobombing)
Last week I met up with two married BYU students who I know through a mutual friend. They’re in a mixed-orientation marriage in which the husband is gay and the wife is straight. They were absolutely delightful and I loved swapping stories with them, learning what brought them to this point in their lives, and their plans for the future. We chatted for 2 ½ hours and they were so engaging that we easily could’ve chatted for longer (but I had hours and hours of homework still to do because grad school is the worst).

That evening the wife texted me a bit to ask some more questions. After talking about gay stuff for a while she texted: “Also, random question, who are your heroes?” I responded, “Well, there are the obvious ones like my parents, but the people in my life who are my heroes are the people who have been there for me in my tough moments.” There are dozens and dozens of people that I could’ve mentioned as examples so I hope no one will feel bummed that I didn’t mention them, but the name that immediately came to mind was Dianna. Let me tell you why she’s my heroine (female hero, not the illicit drug).

Dianna's smile here is definitely forced because she
 was not happy I made her walk down that hill
About three years ago I decided to stop lying about being gay and most of people in my life were unaware of my orientation. Dianna and I had carpooled to a young single adult activity on Mt. Lemmon and as we drove down the mountain we chatted about all kinds of random stuff. I mentioned my friend Laura who we all call Fun Laura. Dianna asked, “Does Fun Laura have a nickname for you?” I replied, “Yep, she calls me Gay Mormon Ben,” to which Dianna responded, “Why does she call you that?” and I said, “Because I am both of those things.” Dianna seemed a little stunned by this revelation. I wrote in my journal about the experience: “I’ve wanted to tell Dianna I’m gay for a long time and I was glad to finally tell her. She was cool about it, but she lamented that she’s had a crush on me and she always has crushes on gay guys.” It’s true, her track record for liking straight guys is pretty bad. 

Dianna had never had a gay friend before and she didn’t really know what to say at first. She didn’t seem interested in having a conversation about it right then because she was pretty caught off guard so I just put on some music and we sang songs for the rest of the drive. I tried to have a conversation with her about my gay Mormon experience a few days later, but she didn’t really know what to say or how to have that conversation. This was all brand new to her. Not long after, we drove to the temple together which is nearly a two hour drive each way. On the drive up she asked me a question about being gay and then we chatted about my experiences the rest of the drive up. When we got back in the car she said she’d been thinking about me the entire time we were in the temple and we talked about gay stuff the whole drive back to Tucson. From that day on Dianna really seemed to understand and she was all in. Her heart grew three sizes that day. (I wrote another great example of how rad Dianna is in this post.)

When I decided to start a support group for gay Mormons in Tucson I didn’t even need to ask Dianna if she would be involved. It was just a given. She was there at the first meeting when it was just me and two other gays. Since then the group grew and grew. My house and Dianna’s house became gay Mormon central. People from the group were always hanging out at Dianna’s house and she hosted numerous Ally Nights. She was always willing to open up her house to the people who needed a place (unless it was late ‘cause Dianna needs her sleep). She and Whitney often lamented that their house was always full of boys, but none of them were straight.

Me, Lindsay, and Dianna. Lindsay's a hero, too.
She is a super ally. I have been so proud of her as she’s told stories of standing up for us and helping others understand. As I was preparing to leave Tucson I was wondering what would happen to the gay group when I was gone. One night it suddenly occurred to me that Dianna would keep it going when I was gone. When I mentioned that to her she said that she’d already decided that she’d run it when I was gone and was just waiting for me to tell her I’d decided that, too. It meant so much to me to know that my gay friends (who feel more like family than friends) will know that they have place where they are loved for who they are, where they can be themselves, and where they will know they have someone they can talk to. That place is Dianna’s house.

On Sunday Dianna posted on the Tucson gay group’s Facebook page: “In Relief Society today we had to stand up, say our name, where we're from, and something interesting about us. I took that opportunity to say I'm an ally and anyone can reach out and talk to me. I hope that helps at least one person in the future.” I’m sure Dianna from five years ago would have been super confused if you had told her all the work she’d be doing with gay Mormons, but as she has learned more about the needs of this community she has done her part to reach out.

Dianna and I have had a pretty rad friendship so far. Multiple visits to amusement parks, a trip to Europe, hundreds of shared meals, many hikes, and loads of TV shows. All of those things make her a good friend. But she’s my hero because she’s been there for me when I needed her and she’s been there for my friends, too. Dianna is as committed to the LDS church and the restored gospel as anyone I know. I believe that her commitment to the gospel has increased her desire to reach out to her gay brothers and sisters and given her the courage to stand up for them.

3 comments:

Amy Smith said...

Dianna is the best!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Brenda said...

You are right Dianna is beautiful and very much a heroine!!

Unknown said...

I love Dianna. She is a great example of someone who is honest and loyal, and committed to the gospel. She has been my hero too!

Rachel