When I was visiting my cousins this past weekend I went off on an angry tangent about Ellen Degeneres’ special Relatable. I stopped myself mid-sentence and channeled some Hannah Gadsby, “I’m angry. Little bit lesbian happening right now.” We all laughed but I kept thinking about it. Why did her special piss me off?
Then I figured it out.
She interviewed Ellen Paige and talked about how she admired Ellen P.’s activism and that she (Ellen D.) basically tries to keep her head down. Which is extremely evident in her Netflix special. She references being fired and having her sitcom end and that’s about it. She then acknowledges publicly that she’s trying to keep her head down.
I’m not down with that. Here’s why.
I own a business. It’s my livelihood. It pays my mortgage and feeds my family (not literally, I get taxed, calm it down). If my business goes under my family would be in trouble. I have a business partner and we are in it together for sure. But I market myself as a Queer provider. I’ve put it out there that I am gay that the business is owned by a lesbian and that I want to help the Queer community.
I risk homophobia affecting the business I bring in because I put it out there loud and clear who and what I am. I do this for a reason. I do this because individuals within the Queer community feel comfortable knowing I am one of them.
Because the first few times long term Queer clients found out I had a wife they were pissed I hadn’t told them sooner and relieved that they were truly in a safe space. They knew that even if I had not walked in their shoes I could identify with their narratives.
When they tell me about their parents disowning them I can truly understand that pain as I’ve born witness to it with my wife for eleven years. When I tell them I won’t let them be homeless if their parents kick them out, they believe me, because they know I would give them the shirt off my back if needed.
They know that because I risk my family’s stability by out-ing myself as Queer within my business. They know that because I’ve treated Queer individuals at wicked reduced rates, even pro-bono, and when a transgender or non-binary client calls for an intake I make it happen. I stay late, come early, give up my lunch break, because I make them my priority.
And guess what. I’m not the only one. I know of several Queer provider’s who put it out there and who have faced harassment because of it. I know I have lost clients over the years when they’ve found out I am gay. But I keep going. Because the look of relief and comfort on my Queer client’s faces when they realize I’m one of them…it’s just too good too gut wrenching to give that up just so I can “keep my head down”.
Why do I get pissed about Queer individuals and allies who say they are allies or Queer but then put their heads down? Because our opponents have their heads up. They have their heads up and they are yelling loudly. They are working very publicly against us.
I know the vulnerability and fear that comes with coming out as a business owner and practitioner. I get it. I do it anyway. Because it’s the right thing to do. It’s the right thing to do to make myself vulnerable in order to help advance my community. Because it makes my business not just women owned and operated, but also lesbian owned and operated.
Any Queer owned business is a step forward for our community. It cements us in the tapestry of towns and cities and people’s lives. Any Queer individual not using their platform to advance our community…I don’t have time for that. Yes it’s scary. Yes it’s dangerous. But silence is more dangerous. With silence comes complacency. With complacency we get #45 and the most homophobic transphobic administration of my lifetime.
So step it up Queers and Queer allies. We need your voices. Your talent. We need you to take a stand. We need those equality stickers in your windows. We need the pride flags out front of your businesses. Take a stand.
Because by keeping your heads down you are complicit.