A 2019 Penn State University study discovered something important; it showed that small, loving, everyday gestures significantly impact our feelings of well-being. I guess that makes sense. After all, those gestures give us hope, assurance, and confidence.
Those are the same amazing feelings we get from allies.
I will never forget how absolutely embraced Kelly and I felt by a seemingly small gesture by one of our closest straight allies. Many years ago, we were spending the weekend with a group of friends. Someone we all knew was getting married, and even though she was a friend of all of us, Kelly and I had not been invited to the wedding.
Yes, I think we were both more than a little hurt. Yes, we both downplayed just how much it bothered us. Then, when everyone else got ready to go, we noticed John was still in shorts and a tee shirt. He was boycotting the wedding. He told us, “If you guys aren’t good enough to go, then I’m not good enough.”
I wanted to throw my arms around him, but John’s not the hugging type.
There was also the time I signed our oldest son up for Boy Scouts. It was the same troop I had been in 30 years earlier. He loved that first meeting, the fun, the games they played. He really dug being a part of a group of other little boys.
At the end of that first meeting, Maria, the “Den Mom” for the Cubs asked another dad and me if we’d be assistant Scout Leaders. The other guy immediately accepted. I hesitated, and then came out to her (and by proxy, the other dad) and told her I was barred from stepping up. Back then, the Boy Scouts had a ban on gay leaders. She looked at me and said, “we don’t care, will you help or not?”
And that’s the story of how I became an assistant Cub Scout leader.
But no one was a bigger, tougher, and more dedicated ally to the LGBTQ+ community than QSaltLake’s own late columnist and assistant editor, Bob Henline. Or as I called him, “Pumpkin.”
Bob fought for queer rights tirelessly – even when actual gay people refused to rock the boat. He liked making waves and he loved to make the establishment “leaders” of the LGBTQ+ community squirm with his demands for more aggressive action when they were cautioning baby steps. Nothing like a starter on the straight team saying you’re not doing enough for the people you claim to represent to make a public meeting awkward.
His simple, constant reminder that he loved me and supported me – in everything I did, and just as a person – is validation that I feel deeply even with him no longer here.
Each of these allies proved to me, time and again, just how invaluable having people on your side is. And Kelly and I are incredibly lucky to have so many allies in our corner as dads. Our allies really have run the gamut. Our families of course, but also the Sunday School teachers who worked with the boys on choosing recipients for Mother’s Day gifts.
There were colleagues who held a surprise baby shower for me – chipping in to buy us a car seat! – as well as parents who sent their kids to our house for play dates with our sons. The list, thankfully, is endless.
If I’m being honest, that Penn State study just proved what I already knew. My family and I have been the recipients of small, loving, everyday gestures too often to count. And we’re better people because of that.