Marcy Andersen – Continuing a Legacy of LGBT Advocacy

Today Marcy Andersen, the daughter of one of our own Care2 members, shares her story as a straight ally for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights and details why she chose to take part in Sunday’s New York AIDS Walk as an extension of her advocacy. You can catch up with Marcy’s fundraising progress and donate to the NY AIDS Walk by going here.

How did Marcy become a straight ally activist?

Marcy has always had LGBT people in her life given that her family has a long history of being welcoming and affirming to LGBTs. 

Marcy is the fourth generation of outspoken LGBT advocates in her family, starting with her great grandmother Sara Webb. In the 1920s Sara had two close friends who were an out lesbian couple in a long term committed relationship. Marcy’s grandmother, Lucile Webb Bowron, continued this trend, had LGBT friends and even acted as a “beard” for a gay couple she was close friends with. Next to be passed the advocacy torch was Care2 member Alice Bowron. She is Marcy’s mother and a long time supporter of LGBT rights. She developed her own deeply personal connection to the cause when she came out as bisexual while Marcy was a teenager. Even before this, Alice had advocated for LGBT rights.

Clearly Marcy has been inspired to action by the legacy of progressive women in her family.

Marcy notes the connection between homophobia and the spread of HIV
Marcy was in grade school during the media frenzy surrounding Magic Johnson’s public declaration that he was HIV positive.

After her parents divorced, visits with Marcy’s father often included forced attendance at an Evangelical church with members of her father’s family. One Sunday, the pastor began preaching that HIV/AIDS was the result of a person’s sins and was God’s punishment. Marcy remembers being “the angriest I’d ever felt up to then in my life,” wanting to scream at the pastor and feeling helpless having to sit in silence while this went on. Marcy recounts how, in later years, she thought about how many people in that congregation might have been more inclined to have contracted HIV/AIDS directly as a result of the misinformation and fear spread by the pastor.

How did Marcy get involved with fighting homophobia as a young person?
As a teenager Marcy was always involved in gay-straight alliance activities, local May Day parades and Pride parades, while having a great many LGBT friends. Of course her “uncles and aunties” who were lesbians and gay men that were friends of her mothers and the rest of the family were an ever present force. She describes herself as feeling “nonchalant” about having LGBT folks in her daily life because it was natural for her. In fact, it became a friendly joke with Marcy and her circle of LGBT friends that she was the “token straight” among the crowd. At this time, she would also attend dances with her friends at District 202, a local LGBT youth outreach program. Marcy attended the Queer Prom with her friends there and felt very much a part of that network.

Marcy was in early high school when her mother, Alice, came out as bisexual. Alice was relieved to find no opposition from her family who had long since established its LGBT inclusive heritage. As such, Marcy was able to witness firsthand a welcoming family that was totally accepting of her mother’s coming out process.

Marcy’s work on AIDS-related activities starts
After Marcy began attending Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, she was elected to the position of “House Health Representative” in her dormitory. Her duties included ensuring that safer-sex information and safer-sex items such as condoms, dental dams and lube were available within her dormitory. She chose to pay out of pocket to buy safer-sex freebies for parties that she helped organize in her dorm. She would leave them out for people to take, and people always took everything.

Marcy extends her advocacy further
“It’s an example of the mundane,” is how Marcy sums up her latest challenge.

Last year, Marcy had seen a poster in her local drug store advertising the New York AIDS Walk – but she was too late to participate. As though Fate were compelling her involvement, Marcy saw the poster earlier this year and decided that this would be the perfect time to take up the challenge. She had been active with Planned Parenthood in the past (and continues to be), even marching last year with the Planned Parenthood contingent in New York Pride.

A happy coincidence occurred when a woman Marcy had marched with in Pride asked on Facebook if anyone would be interested in taking part in this year’s NY AIDS Walk.

Marcy had already posted on her own Facebook profile about being interested in finding a team to join. Through her Facebook friend, Marcy joined “Team Jazz Hands” and started fundraising. She set an initial fundraising goal of $250. She has now reset her goal to $700 which she hopes to surpass before the June 4 deadline.

For those unfamiliar with the New York AIDS Walk, it is a tri-state regional effort, encompassing New York State, Connecticut and New Jersey. When Marcy went to the fundraising workshop in NYC a few weekends ago, the importance of this cause hit home when the workshop leader, Scott, made an alarming statement.

The workshop was held in the predominantly gay Chelsea neighborhood. Scott said that within the Chelsea zip code area, one in four of the men who practice sex with other men are HIV positive or have AIDS. Marcy’s neighborhood is comprised of many immigrants and people of color. It is difficult to determine the exact percentage of people infected there but it is painfully clear how AIDS is ravaging communities of color, those over 50 and women overall.

Based on the latest statistics, around 15.7 million women have been infected with HIV/AIDS, while there are an estimated 33.4 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. For more information on HIV/AIDS statistics, please click here.

What are Marcy’s main reasons for taking part in NY AIDS Walk 2010?

(1) Marcy attended high school in the early/mid 1990s, when the public push for spreading the message about safer-sex and AIDS education was ongoing and prominent. However, “It’s been downhill ever since.” She believes that “denial” has set in due to the abstinence-only education programs pushed by lawmakers, as well as cutbacks in programs offering thorough, age appropriate safer-sex and needle-exchange supplies. These changes contribute to a public indifference about HIV/AIDS that is costing lives.

(2) Marcy also identifies a personal reason as a second driving force. “As an adult you have to deal with STD-related issues. You realize how easily it could be me [and you ask yourself] what would I want to have available? Would I want to be ostracized? To have to lie about everything?”

Having known Marcy’s mother Alice for quite a while now, and having been recently introduced to Marcy herself, I am struck by how passionate both of them are about the causes they care about. Having exchanged emails with Marcy, it seems completely fitting, then, that her email signature currently reads “YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE! YOU ARE IMPORTANT!” This is the message that Marcy and her mother embody in everything that they do.

Finally, in the fight for LGBT rights, Marcy has just one thing to say to potential straight allies: “Put up, or shut up.”

Take Action!

  • If you would like to donate to the NY AIDS Walk, or just find out more information, please click here.
  • Find out more about current HIV/AIDS statistics here.

66 comments

Kailash Dhaksinamurthi
Kailash D5 years ago

I'm proud to see my daughter (Marcy) be a LGBT advocate. One inaccuracy in the article, however. Not sure how "visits with Marcy's father often included forced attendance at an Evangelical church with members of her father's family." As an agnostic, I don't recall ever attending a church with Marcy--certainly not an evangelical one! My mother and siblings were fundamentalists but I would never force Marcy to go to such churches with them. The thought of inculcating children with homophobic values is quite antithetical to my values. But I am glad this homophobic position and labeling HIV victims as sinners was rejected by Marcy. Sometimes being exposed to such nonsense or contrary views is the catalyst that forms and strengthens our own convictions.

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Nancilee I.
Nancilee I8 years ago

Thank you, Marcy!

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Janice P.
Janice P8 years ago

Good for Marcy.

You see, this is what happens when we have friends and acquaintenaces of all types. We learn that no one is a two-headed monster. We learn that all people are the same in all the ways that really matter. We start to learn the real meaning of being human.

This girl had wonderful parents and influences in her life, which permitted her to learn to look at people as individuals, not as objects. I hope she appreciates them. They gave her a priceless treasure.

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Maureen C.
Maureen C.9 years ago

You are a wonderful beakon. In this day there is still alot of ignorance and need for education.

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Paraskevi A.
Voula Angelakis9 years ago

A green star for Marcy :0) You Rock.

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Jos� Mar�a Olmos Sant

Thanks for the post

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Junaid Saleem
Past Member 9 years ago

Homosexualiy is not a cause...neither is gay pride...homosexuality has been condemned in religions,..it is immorality..it is a vice...it should be a personal thing...it should not be promoted..and neither should people go on a witch hunt

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Linda Mills
Linda Mills9 years ago

ty

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Elsa Ferreira
Elsa Ilieva9 years ago

Proud of you, Marcy! You should be an example to those people who (gay or not) say nobody has to know if I'm gay or not, it's a private matter. As long as one of us is tortured, oppressed, raped, silenced, sentenced to prison or death, it's a public matter and serious threat to human beings.

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Kathy Javens
Kathy Javens9 years ago

you are indeed to be commended for your great work. wonderful article. and with all of the info about hiv-aids out there you would think that even the young people would stand up and take notice. once known as the gay disease, aids has spread to pandemic proportions to all human beings. i wish we could just wipe this thing out. too many deaths. too many.

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