By Joseph McCann | firstname.lastname@example.org
The last ten years have given the LGBT community the most progress it’s ever seen, and it may seem to be getting better.
It’s easy to believe that statement, but this would be wrong. The push back against the progress made is big, and it’s ugly. For the first time in four years, the Harris Poll reported a decline in attitudes toward the LGBT community. Out of the poll’s respondents, 31 percent reported that they’d be “very uncomfortable,” or “somewhat uncomfortable” with having an LGBT family member.
Respondents who said they are allies of the LGBT movement went down 2 percent as well. The numbers from the poll reflect a shift in attitudes, and it isn’t a positive one. But for the LGBT community, positivity is a relative concept. Legislation and initiatives have never been positive for them. In fact, as of June 2016, the LGBT community was more likely to be the targets of hate crimes than any other minority, according to a New York Times article.
According to 2017 FBI statistics, LGBT hate crimes account for almost one out of every six hate crimes in America. However, hate crimes are not the only part of discrimination for the LGBT community.
One in four LGBT people reported some kind of discrimination at some point in 2016, this can be in housing, employment, service at public places, and yes, in hate crimes as well. A gay person can be kicked out of a house they rent, fired from a job, denied a loan, or kicked out of a restaurant- all for being gay. These things are not uncommon and have no limit to who they can happen to, or who they can come from. For LGBT people, it can come from your family, friends, and those you hold most dear. The people who are supposed to love you unconditionally now want absolutely nothing to do with you.
Having the slightest idea of what that would be like, it isn’t a surprise to learn that nearly one-third of all LGBT youth had attempted suicide at some point in the last year, according to a study from the CDC.
Stories about families renouncing their children are more common than one might think, and many people know someone who’s experienced this personally. Numbers and statistics like those above are meaningful, and help to understand the gravity of the situation- but this is a human issue, and humans have names and stories. Let me tell you one.
A good friend of mine, Laura, whose last name I will keep out for anonymity, grew up in New Jersey and is a freshman at Flagler College. Laura is a bisexual woman, and someone told her mother her sexual orientation before Laura had the chance to.
When I asked her about it, she said, “I really didn’t want to come out. I wasn’t really even ready, it was something that was literally forced upon me. I can’t stress how much I wasn’t ready to face that.”
When Laura went home that day, her mother told her to pack her bags, and never come back.
“It wasn’t something I ever wanted to hear, but it happened,” Laura said.
She ended up staying with a friend for a week but came back because her mother asked her to. Laura’s mom wasn’t okay with it, far from, and to this day she chooses to largely ignore Laura’s girlfriend and Laura’s orientation as a whole.
Whatever your personal opinions may be on the matter, remember that these are people’s lives. When our elected officials vote on policy, when you’re voting on candidates, when you’re voting on ballot initiatives, you’re legislating someone’s life. A man can be denied visitation to his dying husband in a hospital, gay teenagers can be denied service at a diner, two wives can be denied the ability to rent a house together, someone can be fired from their job: all of these can happen just because of who you love.
Around the world, some places are better for gay people, and some make the U.S. look like one big gay summer camp. Many European countries have legalized gay marriage, and have societies that are far more welcoming to homosexuality. In fact, the current leader of Ireland is a gay man. However, if we look further to the east in Russia, it’s truly sinister the way the LGBT community has been treated.
In the region of Chechnya, being gay can literally cost people their lives, and if it doesn’t you just might wish it did. There have also been cases of foreign citizens being arrested in Russia on counts of homosexuality–meaning you don’t have to be a citizen of Russia to be subjected to this.
Law enforcement agencies target the LGBT community, raid homes, kidnap people suspected of homosexuality and torture them and sometimes kill them when they’re done. Countries in Eastern Europe, parts of Asia, and the Middle East use torture methods such as electroshock, whipping, public beatings, genital mutilation, starvation, sensory deprivation, and execution to try and get the identities of other LGBT people.
I want everyone to reconsider your views and your values. You don’t have to like it, but I want you to consider people like Laura. I want you to consider the people who live in silence who struggle every day because they don’t know where they’re going to sleep at night, if they’ll be bullied at school, if they’ll be fired from their job, or denounced by their families.
Harvey Milk was the first openly gay elected official in the United States, elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He was shot and killed in his office in 1978 by a fellow city supervisor. Before his assassination, he said, “It takes no compromising to give people their rights. It takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no survey to remove repressions.” Consider the words of Supervisor Milk. It takes nothing from one’s life to grant someone else the chance to have their own.