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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Ally Sheedy: On lesbian daughter, mother, being an activist
by Sarah Toce
2011-11-16

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She began her professional dance career with the American Ballet Theatre in New York City at age six; wrote her first book, She Was Nice to Mice at age 12; and starred in the monumentally popular films,; The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo's Fire and WarGames as a young adult.

Brat Pack original Alexandra Elizabeth "Ally" Sheedy may not be a lesbian (sorry, ladies), but her investment in the LGBTQI community goes unmatched—both her mother, civil-rights activist Charlotte Sheedy, and daughter, Rebecca, are gay. Her passion to serve and shine a light on the community she calls home is unflappable.

When I reached out to Ally for an interview about LGBTQI homeless youth and her work surrounding The Ali Forney Center, she responded immediately. Her kind demeanor, generosity and loyalty to the equal rights fight in the United States was evident and I was humbled and honored to engage in a very candid, personal chat with her.

Windy City Times: Gays and lesbians around the world have loved your work since The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo's Fire and, of course, it goes without saying—High Art. Do you feel a sense of social responsibility to speak out regarding gay rights and injustices?

Ally Sheedy: Yes, absolutely. Yes; 100% I do feel like I have a social responsibility. I feel that if you are a well-known person and you have a voice to bring attention to something, it's nothing but honorable to do so. I specifically have my heart in the LGBTQI cause and a lot of it is very personal. I feel obligated to do this work but, at the same time, it's a pleasure.

WCT: Do you feel a sense of loyalty and love permeating from your lesbian fans? I could name three women off the top of my head who've loved you for over 20 years. Being that you are the subject of this attention, do you feel that community around you?

AS: Yes, yes, I absolutely do! I feel like I come from this community because I have a gay mom and a gay daughter. … I've been surrounded by actors my entire life and [many of them are gay]. … This is my world. I feel so much a part of the greater LGBTQI community.

WCT: Now that your daughter has come out to you, it begs the question: How did you handle the news when your mother came out to you?

AS: The thing is that with both my mom and my daughter, [coming out] wasn't really an "event" per say. There's no event where somebody says, "Let me come out to you."… I mean, it does happen with some people where they choose to come out on the Internet—which is their thing. I don't remember a time when I had the thought that, "Oh, my God…my mother is gay!" because it was an ongoing conversation. Just the same, there wasn't a day when I thought, "Oh, now my daughter is gay!" It's just a part of life. It's like, "Here's mom and here's mom's life" and "Here's Rebecca and here's Rebecca's life." I can't imagine things being any different.

WCT: Your mom's work in the civil-rights movement was profound. Do you think her acceptance of all people regardless of race, gender, religion, sexuality, and so on helped mold your ideals regarding the LGBTQI community?

AS: My mom's been such a champion. She's always been really politically conscious and active. That's what I remember growing up. I mean, I remember growing up during the women's liberation movement when people were gay, they were straight, they were this, they were that…there were no stereotypes … so, I never had a moment where people were straight and then they were suddenly gay. It was my world.

WCT: Do you have any advice for parents finding it hard to accept that their sons or daughters might be gay?

AS: My answer to that question is basically, "Do you love that person or not?" It's difficult for me to understand a family member judging or not loving or accepting another family member because they are gay. It's like when a member of the family marries someone who is of another race or religion. It's just not an issue for me. Quite frankly, I take offense at the whole thing and if somebody came to me and said, "Oh, my God. … My daughter is marrying a Jewish man. My life is over," it is no different for me than if someone has a problem with a member of their family being gay or of a different race. It's all the same thing to me so I don't really get where that comes from in somebody. My only response to that question is, "Do you love that person or not?"

WCT: It reminds me of Herman Cain making the statement that he was born Black, but people are not born gay.

AS: It's funny. … This is something I've become more aware of recently. There are two schools of thought on this subject in the LGBTQI community. The question being, "Is being gay a choice or not?" Who cares, really? If you were born with your sexual attraction ingrained in you, then that doesn't really explain bisexuality. Some people even in the community think it's a choice and others think it is not a choice. I say, "So what? Why is it a conversation about being moral?" It doesn't make you morally superior because you were born African-American. He was born Black and his choice was to be Republican.

My daughter really believes that it's not a choice and that you just come out and are either born gay or not. I think that is what she believes. I don't want to put words in her mouth because it just annoys her. Who knows? I mean, my thing is … not being gay … I really don't think that I'm equipped to answer that question and I don't think any straight person is either, to tell you the truth. Where do we get off? What experience do we have that makes our opinion have weight, really? It's like a man saying you can't have an abortion.

WCT: You recently hosted an event in New York City for homeless LGBT youth. We'd love to hear more about the event and your involvement.

AS: I am very fond of this place called The Ali Forney Center. Homeless LGBT youth in New York City is a huge problem. We recently had a rally in Union Square to bring awareness to the cause. Most of my work is with Ali Forney and I also really love the work that The Trevor Project does and like to get involved in the events they do, too.

WCT: Personally, why do you think LGBT youth have it so rough in today's society when, from the outside, many people would believe it's getting easier to come out, join social groups, etc.?

AS: I don't know if the bullying is worse now or if there is more attention being paid to it. I know that the plight of the homeless kids now is awful. Because of television and the Internet, kids are recognizing themselves and that they might be gay earlier than perhaps we would have before all of the social media and everything.

The funding for homeless shelters here in New York has been cut and the problem with that is that there are very few places for a kid who is LGBTQI—especially for a kid who is currently questioning their sexuality and starting to identify themselves—to find a homeless shelter who will take them in. There aren't any beds anyway. Their plight is unique and it's really, really bad. Forty percent of the adults they receive are LGBTQI—huge number—and most of them are on the street.

In the winter they are more likely to suffer from depression, become involved with drugs and enter into prostitution to take care of themselves financially. Winter is especially bad for them and that is why we're trying to pick up the awareness about homeless LGBTQI youth. The Ali Forney Center is trying to make a plea to the older, more established LGBTQI adults in the community to say, "Please take care of these kids."

WCT: We asked Ally's fans to submit questions for this interview. Below are the four we chose to print.

What's in your purse, Ally?

Oh, that is a great question! In my purse I have a wallet, sunglasses, lip balm that I never remember to put on, a little vial of vanilla scented oil—which I also always forget to put on—and that's about it. A bag like everybody else's!

Do you prefer to work in television or film and, out of the two options, do you prefer comedy or drama?

Most of my work has been in movies, however, I started doing some television a bit more regularly with a three-episode arc on a show called Psych where I played a really crazy serial killer and I had a great time on that show. I also got this pilot called Modern Love and hopefully Lifetime will go with it as series and, in that case, I'd be shooting it in New York—which is perfect because I live here. I think I would like to do more work on television. I've really enjoyed it.

Comedy or drama? Actually, I like both. I think I have a good range and can actually do both. Comedy is more fun, what can I say? When a really great part comes along that is emotional and complex, it's great, too. I find that when I am working on a drama it sort of takes over my whole life and that can be exhausting.

Do you have any movies coming out soon?

I did an indie film that John Leguizamo wrote and directed called Ghetto Klown. He's so cool. One of my favorites, Rosie Perez, is in it as well. I just love her. We're hoping it gets distribution and is released soon, but I haven't heard anything about it yet.

Will there ever be The Breakfast Club Part II? If so, would you agree to be a part of it?

There will never be a Breakfast Club Part II. [Director] John Hughes never wanted it to get made. He would never have made it and nobody ever had any rights to be able to do it [without him], so it will never happen.

Find out more about The Ali Forney Center for homeless LGBTQI youth at www.aliforneycenter.org .


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