By Michelle Jones, Elon Staff

Recently, I failed as an ally.

I have been to rallies to protest inequality.  I have passionately defended homosexuality on a first date (c’mon, after the 2nd glass of wine, I knew it wasn’t going anywhere with a guy that only watches Fox News & told me that the “gays” would make things better for themselves if they just weren’t so flamboyant in public).  I’ve had healthy debates about marriage equality with my Catholic parents, even on the way to church and during mass.

Still, I failed.  Gathering around a table that sometimes has enough food to feed 70 people with my large, Italian New York family is a Thanksgiving tradition.  Loud. Opinionated. Italian New York family.  That is highly conservative.  Whom I love.  This Thanksgiving, I was planning on going in to NYC on Black Friday to visit some friends – a gay couple – who had recently moved to Manhattan.  When asked about my plans around the Thanksgiving table, my aunts and uncles did a double-take when I mentioned who I was visiting the next day.  They were shocked with how “casual” and “normal” I made the situation seem.  I was shocked with their reaction.  My parents, egging on the situation, said “don’t start this discussion with Michelle – she’ll never stop talking about it.”  However, I remained silent.  I spoke my opinion and refused to discuss it further, so as not to spoil the holiday.

This was not the first time that I held my tongue.  A couple of times, while watching tv with family, a commercial has come on with a 1second glimpse of two men about to kiss.  The reactions from my family members are along the lines of “I’m fine with homosexuality, but keep it off the tv. We don’t need to see that.”  Obviously they weren’t fine with it.  Yet I remained silent.

I love my family.  I am ok with having differing opinions on most issues.  But their views on homosexuality deeply disappoint me.  And so does my inability to speak up when I feel outnumbered.  With the recent Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration, I find power in his quote:

            In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

I will be a better ally.  I will continue to speak up for my friends, my colleagues, those of you I have not met yet, and those of you whose path I may never cross.  Because it will get better.

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