Today is National Coming Out Day, and I have chosen to address the issue of inequality for people who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender, not only in America but in many countries of the world…however, I will talk about America here.
America is the greatest democracy in the world – this is true. In America, a person can be free to express himself in terms of religion, speech, voting, citizen participation, and in many other ways. More so than in most other nations. A person can say “I hate the President” and not be arrested (unless the person says “I am going to kill the President”, then that is a different story). A person can rant about other races, other religions, other political viewpoints – and many people do, spewing things that are so hateful, it is shocking.
But a person cannot walk down the street, holding the hand of the one she loves, unless it is a man whose hand she is holding. He cannot get married, unless it is to a woman. Why can’t a person be free to be who she is by sexual orientation? Is it because, having been founded by Puritans, Americans still have some of that repressed sexuality left in us? One would not know this, if one only looked to the media for examples, as we see sex on television, in movies, in our magazines and books, on the Internet, and hear it in our music.
In this day and age – indeed, in any day and age – love is not so common that it should be denied anyone who finds it. Love is so rare that it should be recognized and celebrated, no matter who is the object of affection. After all, it is not the outer shell but the inner beauty with whom we fall in love, is it not?
Let’s address some myths people who are LGBT (from the Human Rights Campaign web site):
It’s a “Choice”
Sexual orientation and gender identity are not choices, any more than being left-handed or having brown eyes or being straight are choices.
It’s a “Lifestyle”
It’s sometimes said that GLBT people live a gay “lifestyle.” The problem with that word is that it can trivialize GLBT people and the struggles they face. Being GLBT is no more a lifestyle than being straight — it’s a life, just like anyone else’s.
Same-Sex Relationships Don’t Last
Same-sex couples can, and do, form lasting, lifelong, committed relationships — just like any other couple. And just like any other couple, sometimes same-sex relationships end. The primary difference is that same-sex couples have few opportunities to marry or enter into civil unions or domestic partnerships.
GLBT People Can’t Have Families
According to the 2000 Census, more than 1 million children — probably many more — are being raised by same-sex couples nationwide. The American Psychological Association and other major medical and scientific researchers have stated that children of gay and lesbian parents are as mentally healthy as children raised by straight parents.
GLBT People Aren’t Happy
In 1994, the American Medical Association released a statement saying, “Most of the emotional disturbance experienced by gay men and lesbians around their sexual identity is not based on physiological causes but rather is due more to a sense of alienation in an unaccepting environment.” What that means is that the discrimination and stress that GLBT people face is the root cause of a great deal of pain for many GLBT people. That pain can be alleviated by knowing that there is a vibrant, growing community of GLBT and straight-supportive Americans who know and care about GLBT people and the issues they face.
GLBT People Can “Change” or be “Cured”
No scientifically valid evidence exists that shows that people can change their sexual orientation, although some people do repress it. The most reputable medical and psychotherapeutic groups say you should not try to change your sexual orientation as the process can actually be damaging.
Did you know:
- Almost 90% of LGBT youth experience harassment in school,
- There are currently thirteen states, as well as the District of Columbia, that have enacted policies to protect against gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination in employment. Seven states, meanwhile, have laws that prohibit employment discrimination solely based on sexual orientation. In thirty states, LGBT citizens can be fired on the basis of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity without any legal recourse.
- Only five states plus DC recognize that love, not gender, is what matters in a marriage.
- More than 14,000 servicemembers have been discharged from the military under the failed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law.
- The government’s failure to recognize LGBT families for immigration purposes tears bi-national couples and families apart
- Twenty-four countries [not including the U.S.] currently allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, according to the Service Members Legal Defense Network. Of these twenty-four countries, twenty-two are part of coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan – meaning that openly gay and lesbian soldiers from Allied Forces are serving alongside U.S. troops, despite the continued U.S. ban.
- Nearly 90 percent of people in the U.S. believe that gay and lesbian workers should have the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts.
- 97 % of students in public high schools report regularly hearing homophobic remarks from their peers.
- 53% of students report hearing homophobic comments made by school staff.
- 11.5% of gay and lesbian youth report being physically attacked by family members.
- 42% of homeless youth self-identify as gay/lesbian.
- 30% of gay and bisexual adolescent males attempt suicide at least once.
Please take today as an opportunity to educate yourself and others regarding some of these issues, and committing to recognizing equality for people of all sexual orientations.