A straight ally is a heterosexual man or woman who has contributed in some way to fostering equality for all human beings, particularly in regards to battling homophobia, ending discrimination, and supporting marriage equality. A straight ally fights for human rights, particularly those denied gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, with the knowledge that to deny equality to one segment of the population is to diminish all of us as human beings.
It is unwise to divide the world into such limited camps as Super Heroes or Villains, but sometimes these designations can be accurate, especially when the former is a good guy fighting for equality and the latter are those against it. It always amazes me to think of the lengths to which homophobes will go in order to foster their intolerance and quell a group of innocent people. Imagine if the efforts to be so hateful were turned in the opposite direction, if the negative energy was turned into something positive and life-affirming. Think of what might be accomplished if the power of all that hate was harnessed and transformed into a force of good. The result may be someone as exceptional as Scott Herman. Originally a reality star from ‘The Real World Brooklyn’, Mr. Herman is one of the few who made something more out of his life than a quick blip on the MTV screen, and he used that springboard to become a prominent straight ally.
A fitness guru, personal trainer, model, and actor, Scott is conquering the world one hyphenate at a time. With the recent revamping of his website,www.ScottHermanFitness.com, and a new and improved work-out studio, he is poised to explore the next phase of his life, taking with him the fans and following he has gained as a friend to the gay community.
It takes a certain fortitude and bravery to be a straight ally. It takes more than a casual belief that gay people deserve the same rights as everyone else. It takes a commitment, and a great deal of confidence in who you are, to so strongly stand up against what is wrong, yet there are those who do it on a daily basis. What always moves me most about straight allies – especially those who don’t have a close relative who is gay – is the fact that they don’t have to be so supportive. There’s no one forcing them to do this. It’s an active choice, and often a difficult one, especially when so much of society can be against it. Why does it mean so much to him?
“When I was a kid my parents taught me to treat others how I would like them to treat me,” Mr. Herman begins. “But as I grew older and began to go to school I quickly realized that not everyone was taught this simple way of living. I was very quiet as a kid and became a prime target for bullies. In my eyes, whether you are bullied because you are quiet, different or because you are gay, bullying is bullying. As a young man I took action and often got into fights to stand up for myself and others. I looked up to my favorite super-heroes and I wanted to be like them. No-one ever stuck up for me, even when I could clearly see others who “could” do something, do nothing. I decided that if I saw someone being bullied I was going to stick up for them. As a young adult the childish taunts of middle school and high-school were over and I began to see what was happening in society to a group of people who were doing nothing aside from being themselves. It means a lot to me to stand up and be a straight ally because I know how it feels to be singled-out. The only people who should be singled-out are the ones who have evil in their heart, and we have a place for those people to all “hang-out” together.”
One of the threads that unites many straight allies is an inherent generosity of spirit. It’s both something that can be taught, and something intrinsic to their character and make-up. Scott attributes much of this to his parents.
“Growing up my parents were always there for me,” he explains. “I never felt alone. If my Dad ever saw someone in need, he wouldn’t ask them if they needed help. He would just go over to them and do what he could. Simple things like jumping a car, changing a tire, working on a neighbor’s house, or even holding doors. My Dad never expected anything in return and I admired that about him.”
The fight against injustice in the world, and the willingness to take on such a mantle and carry it through to the finish is something learned from example, and at an early age. For Scott, it was something he witnessed at both ends. As he says, “I have witnessed bullying my whole life. The only times I witnessed it being from a “homophobic manner” was when I was on the Real World “Brooklyn”. My roommate Katelynn was a transgendered woman and there were a few times where some people said some disrespectful things to her that I was not happy about and took measures to ensure they would show respect if they were to ever converse with her again.”
It was a distant cry from how he had faced similar situations a few years prior, as he recounts a younger, angrier reaction to bullying. “When I was younger I have to admit that I dealt with bullies with my fists,” he admits. “Nobody would stick up for me and I couldn’t find any other way to make it stop. This resulted in me being in trouble a lot as a kid. In my eyes I was doing what my favorite superheroes did, I was stopping the “bad guys”. But my parents were disappointed in me and I wanted to change that. I needed to find an outlet for my anger and that was when I got into weightlifting at the age of twelve. I learned to just take in the bullying and release it in a positive way with exercise.”
Those years honed his body into a work of art, and while the result may be a superficially-pleasing physique, the origin of his fitness obsession proved life-saving for deeper reasons.
“Fitness gave me a reason to keep going when I was a kid,” Scott says, expounding upon the outlet that would become the driving force in his life. “It didn’t matter what kind of madness was going on at school or anywhere, I always knew I had a place that I could go to and just focus on me. A lot of kids turn to things that could potentially ruin their lives when they are depressed or upset. But fitness is something that “betters” you and it is a gift I hope I can always continue to share with the world.”
That fitness has turned his physical form into an enviable shrine of sorts – a showcase of bodily perfection. He’s done a good amount of modeling, often revealing quite a bit of skin in risqué shots and brazen defiance. There’s a certain tease to it ~ a wink and a nod as he acknowledges his gay fan-base while fighting for their rights ~ and a measureable titillation factor that Mr. Herman judiciously employs. The underwear and skintight clothing that often hug his body, revealing every pronounced curve and developed deltoid, are not that far removed from the wardrobe of the super heroes he emulated as a youth. It is, in a sense, his armor. The sultry come-hither gaze he works for the camera, and the friendly, energetic, tip-filled videos he posts, invite the viewers to watch, to admire, to engage. It is as much about inspiration as it is about aspiration, and such a pretty package has been used to his advantage. Still, it’s one thing to get your foot in the door, quite another to stay in the room ~ and beauty has long been a double-edged sword.
Such a physique is bound to impress, but also to inspire jealousy and envy among some. As a society we tend to celebrate someone else’s success as much as we want to tear them down. Being courageous, and refusing to be anyone other than the person you are, will always bring with it some criticism, sometimes from the very community you want only to help.
According to Scott, “When I first became known as a straight ally I was being bashed from both sides. The straight community would say I was gay and the gay community said I was only doing it for attention and I didn’t really care about them. Granted, the “haters” were a very small percentage of people compared to those who believed I was doing something I believed was right. But at the end of the day, if I really cared what people thought, I wouldn’t be the man I am today. My whole life people told me I would never accomplish my goals. I grew up in a small town where the most excitement we got was six feet of snow. I learned at a young age that if I didn’t believe in myself, nobody else would either. So my beliefs on what I think is right are unshakeable, no matter what people might say.”
As for his minions of gay fans and supporters, it’s a symbiotic relationship. “They have faith in me because they believe my actions come from my heart,” Mr. Herman claims. “Nobody wants to see their loved ones in pain and I will always do what I can to be there for them.”
He goes on to say, “As far as becoming a straight ally, well, as I grew up and started to explore the world I made more and more friends and some of them were gay. I didn’t like the treatment that I saw some of them receive. It was bullying and I will not stand for it. My friends, ALL my friends, know that I will be the first person to step up if needed to protect them.”
As much as bullying is a hot-button issue right now, there remains the question of how best to deal with it. Mr. Herman admits that his experiences being bullied formed the man he has become.
“I don’t believe in telling kids “It gets better”,” he contends. “I believe that the best way to give them hope is to take action and show them that it will get better because there are people out there who will take action to make a difference.”
Still, according to him, there are some concrete ways to combat bullying, even if one is afraid to get directly involved. “Not everyone has the courage to take action when the encounter bulling,” he concedes, “But that doesn’t make them a bad person. If you are ever in a position to stop bullying but are afraid, the easiest thing you can do is call the police. “Doing something” doesn’t mean you have to physically get involved. 99% of the time if you threaten to call the police, bullies will stop and most likely [leave] because they are cowards.”
Mr. Herman goes on step beyond what most of us would do, and attempts to see if from the bully’s point of view: “Everyone has had a moment in their lives where they have felt singled out, ignored, and disrespected just for being themselves. I would ask them why if they didn’t like that feeling, why would they act that way toward someone else? Being gay isn’t a choice. It is in your DNA. Just like blonde hair, blue eyes, white skin, black skin, etc. People shouldn’t be punished for something they have no control over.”
It may be his role as a straight ally that is leaving the most lasting impression, as an act that is both admirable and brave. As someone who has been on the forefront of the movement, blazing the trail is not always easy, but it has its own rewards and glory. Not only altruistic on a global scale, it feeds his soul as much as it helps those of us without such a public platform. At its simplest, it’s just a young man who was raised to respect and honor the rights of everyone. Instilled by his parents, and emboldened by his friends and family, it’s the frame of mind for a super hero. In many ways, he’s one of the first Straight Ally Super Heroes, fighting for justice and equality for all.Back to Blog