Out Of My Comfort Zone And Into The OutCenter

Out Of My Comfort Zone And Into The OutCenter

A few things I learned from the research and experience of being an ally to the LGBT community.
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Raised in a relatively liberal household, my parents both taught me to love everyone no matter how they look or sound, and to always get to know a person before I make a judgement on them. I was taught that there were very hateful people in the world and that stereotypes would follow us everywhere, but not to fall into the trap of the societal pressure of judging someone based on something they can’t control. As I got older, I started to experience the hate and the cruelty of the people in my town, especially against the LGBT community. I’ve always considered myself an ally to the LGBT community, and this year pushed me beyond my comfort zone, plunging me into the growing world of the OutCenter.

Being an ally is much more than simply accepting everyone for who they are; it’s pushing yourself to places you don’t see yourself being, and indulging in the community itself. Personally, if it weren’t for my senior service project, I would have never gotten involved in the OutCenter -- a non-profit organization that “ensures lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons and their families are welcome, respected, valued, understood, and afforded the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else” -- or met the influential and inspiring people I have (outcenter.org). Holding a concert to raise money for a local “Pride Prom” organized by the OutCenter is truly what pushed me into more and more research and knowledge about the reality of the LGBT community not only in the nation, but right here in my hometown.

From my research on hate-crimes, I’ve found that people don’t get involved unless something detrimental happens or if they are required to. I am a prime example of this. Sure, I considered myself an ally, but none of these people knew I existed and I never went to any events held for the LGBT community and their allies. So why do we wait for this? Why is it the societal standard to wait until someone is murdered or someone kills themselves to push us to raise awareness? With this, I’m not denying the importance of raising awareness once someone has passed away, but these things should be happening before something horrendous happens to someone. People should be honored every day for the amazing, life-changing things that they do within their communities and the world. Even if someone changes one person’s life, that is influential and should be being done worldwide.

Another thing found from not only my research but from the concert itself, none of these people knew we existed. And they also didn’t know all of these other allies existed. We made it known that the concert would be a safe-zone, a place where every single person no matter gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. was welcome and ensured safety and entertainment. So once the people started to come in, it was interesting to see how many allies were truly here in Berrien County. Along with that, I truly believe that not every ally of the community showed up, and that hundreds more are present in our area.

Being an ally and supporting the people in your community is much more than liking a status on Facebook, or saying hi to someone; it’s about directly putting yourself in their environment and their activities– getting to know them, going to see things they’re in, going to things held by the local organization. If you’re worried about being judged for going to a Gay-Straight Alliance meeting or going to a Pride event, swallow your pride. Going to the Pride Prom encouraged me to get to know new people and learn their stories, and it truly was the best time I’ve had in a long time. Don’t be scared to go out of your comfort zone and become a stronger ally to the communities near you, and always honor someone for doing something influential. Societal standards will follow you everywhere, but if you take a stand and in the wise words of Jack Black in "School of Rock," “Stick it to the man.” You will be that person making a difference in someone’s life. You will be the one making a change and potentially saving someone’s life in the process.

Cover Image Credit: outcenter.org

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37 Things Growing Up in the South Taught You

Where the tea is sweet, but the people are sweeter.
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1. The art of small talking.
2. The importance of calling your momma.
3. The beauty of sweet tea.
4. How to use the term “ma'am” or “sir” (that is, use it as much as possible).
5. Real flowers are way better than fake flowers.
6. Sometimes you only have two seasons instead of four.
7. Fried chicken is the best kind of chicken.
8. When it comes to food, always go for seconds.
9. It is better to overdress for Church than underdress.
10. Word travels fast.
11. Lake days are better than beach days.
12. Handwritten letters never go out of style.
13. If a man doesn’t open the door for you on the first date, dump him.
14. If a man won’t meet your family after four dates, dump him.
15. If your family doesn’t like your boyfriend, dump him.
16. Your occupation doesn’t matter as long as you're happy.
17. But you should always make sure you can support your family.
18. Rocking chairs are by far the best kind of chairs.
19. Cracker Barrel is more than a restaurant, it's a lifestyle.
20. Just 'cause you are from Florida and it is in the south does not make you Southern.
21. High School football is a big deal.
22. If you have a hair dresser for more than three years, never change. Trust her and only her.
23. The kids in your Sunday school class in third grade are also in your graduating class.
24. Makeup doesn’t work in the summer.
25. Laying out is a hobby.
26. Moms get more into high school drama than high schoolers.
27. Sororities are a family affair.
28. You never know how many adults you know 'til its time to get recommendation letters for rush.
29. SEC is the best, no question.
30. You can't go wrong buying a girl Kendra Scotts.
31. People will refer to you by your last name.
32. Biscuits and gravy are bae.
33. Sadie Robertson is a role model.
34. If it is game day you should be dressed nice.
35. If you pass by a child's lemonade stand you better buy lemonade from her. You're supporting capitalism.
36. You are never too old to go home for just a weekend… or just a meal.
37. You can’t imagine living anywhere but the South.



































Cover Image Credit: Grace Valentine

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Louis Walsh Groping Mel B On Live TV Proves Rape Culture Is Alive and Well

Allowing perpetrators to get away with "minor" sexual harassment like this allows the Brock Turners of the world to get away with their crimes, too.

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Recently a clip from an Xtra Factor UK interview from 2014 has resurfaced on Twitter. The clip shows Louis Walsh groping Mel B's butt and, after being called out on it by her, laughing the whole situation off.

You can see his hand slowly travel downward, then tapping her bottom before finally squeezing it while laughing at a conversation going on. Mel B notices it and is visibly uncomfortable. She stops the interview and asks him why he's grabbing her butt, and while he excuses his behavior as "looking out for her" and Simon assures her she's "safe," she insists that it's inappropriate and scoots further away from him.

In turn, he and Simon laugh off the entire exchange, he scoots closer to her, and the interviewer, Sarah Jane Crawford, continues the interview. We never get to see how Mel B's female co-star, Cheryl Cole, reacts to the whole situation.

This exchange was cut from the final clip posted by the X Factor UK, but a Twitter user recorded the exchange, presumably from a recording of the live broadcast, and posted it. It has since divided Twitter users.

Some say Mel B was completely justified while others insist that because Louis Walsh is gay, he meant no harm by his fondling and Mel B calling him out only served to embarrass him.

Good. I hope so.

One Twitter user pointed out that his sexual orientation is irrelevant:

tweet

Nothing rings truer than "sexual assault isn't about sex, it's about asserting power and dominance." It doesn't matter if he didn't intend to derive any kind of pleasure from the encounter. What matters is that, in a sexual situation, Mel B was uncomfortable and it was Louis's fault.

People rushing to Louis's defense is symptomatic of a deeper problem in our culture. They're quick to disbelieve and blame the woman, the victim, instead of the perpetrator.

The eagerness to sweep the instance under the carpet allows perpetrators to feel more confident, knowing they won't be punished for their actions. When a man gets away with groping a woman on live TV, men and women in places of power everywhere will be emboldened to touch and speak to others however they please.

It may sound extreme at first, but this whole situation is rape culture.

These small allowances plant the seeds to turn a blind eye to bigger, more awful situations—until we're at the point where a man can rape an unconscious woman and only get three months of jail time because his bright and promising future shouldn't be marred by "20 minutes of action."

We can't allow instances like this. We have to come down hard on any and all forms of sexual harassment, with the punishment fitting the crime (PSA: sexual harassment is an actual crime, not "something that just happens").

Obviously, Louis Walsh shouldn't be treated like Brock Turner. But his actions should've been punished, probably more than just by simply calling him out on live TV, an exchange ultimately cut from the final posted clip anyway.

If Mel B had waited until they were no longer on live TV and his hand was no longer touching her, it would've been slightly out of place to bring it up. It's much like how when a child does something wrong or dangerous, you point it out right then; you don't wait. She could've still talked to him about it in private, but in addition to having called him out on it right when it was happening.

Not only was Mel B justified in calling out Louis Walsh, but any person in a similar situation is as well.

If you're ever in a situation that's even slightly sexual and you feel uncomfortable, say something. Don't let the other person get away with it. And if they're not ill-intentioned and truly didn't mean to make you uneasy, then they can learn from you voicing your discomfort.

It doesn't matter the situation or who's doing or saying something sexual that makes you feel uncomfortable. The voice of shame and self-blaming will find any way to justify their actions and keep you silent. Don't let it.

No matter how big or small the instance may seem to you, it's worth speaking up about.

Cover Image Credit:

The X Factor UK

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