The Not-So-Straight-Story: Gay in America

Life as an open homosexual has changed drastically over the decades. It was not long ago that an open homosexual would be persecuted and harassed regardless of where he or she resided. Being thankful for the age I have grown up in, there is still far to go and it has become a slow process.

As a homosexual, I notice firsthand that our “right to pursue happiness” is inhibited. While some laws have been passed to protect gay rights and defend against hate crimes, local authorities do not enforce the protection as strongly as they should.

Take for example the Matthew Shepard Act. This act was named for a young man who was tortured and left to die for being perceived as gay near Laramie, Wyoming.

It expands the 1969 United States federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The act was first introduced April 31, 2001 but died in the House subcommittee.

It had to be edited and reintroduced nine times over four congresses before President Obama signed the bill into law on October 28, 2009. While some disagree, it was almost a mourning period after each rejection. Just knowing that protecting the LGBT community was too difficult for the government hit home.

President Obama has ordered a look into the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. While nothing has been said, the Joint Chief of Staff stated our citizens should never be forced to “lie about who they are.” An eleven-month review of the policy has been implemented before it can be withdrawn.

With all of this in motion, we still have hate crimes and discrimination flowing through this campus. While my boyfriend and I have walked to the Sugar Bowl, we have had objects thrown at us and slurs shouted. Although I do not hide my sexuality, people tend to react differently when it is in their sight.

We all say, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I think I speak for everyone who is seen as different when I say how deep words can actually cut. Some of my most despairing memories have nothing to do with physical harm, but instead emotional torment caused by people who do not understand life outside of the box.

Before I began dating, I came out to my parents so I could get a feel for what boundaries I must not cross in my home. My older gay friends had guided me in how to handle the outing, and I was very fortunate to be born into an accepting family. Sadly, my friends were not so lucky. One was told by his mother that he was not a member of the family anymore, and another was beaten savagely by his uncle. Imagine that, your family turning on you. I could never fathom a more lonesome feeling.

Sadly, these are still good reactions compared to others. An old friend of mine had to attend the funeral of a 16-year-old girl who was killed by her mother for dating another young woman.

My ex-boyfriend, with whom I was close, was hit by a car and killed not two years ago. Although the church was filled with mourners, I noticed people just off of the property praying. Later, I discovered they were praying for his soul because he led a sacrilegious lifestyle. The religious community has the right to their beliefs. However, their intervention in others’ lives has grown to unbelievable level for a country built on having no set religion.

Stereotypes have also made the homosexual lifestyle a taboo. “Will and Grace” was an extremely modern television show about a few gay men, but how well did it do for the view of gay men? Jack, the flamboyant neighbor who had multiple one-night-stands, was the epitome of how homosexuals do not wish to be seen. Yes, there are gay men who act this way, but how is it different than the straight men who have a different sexual encounter every night?

Stereotypes stem from something real; they are rarely just imagined. Think of the “limp wrist” action people mock to poke fun at gay men. While there are feminine homosexual men who do flick their wrist, not every last gay male does. These kind of rude stereotypes scare people into the closet as they are afraid of being trapped in the societal standard.

Being in the closet is a personal hell and should not be necessary. Self-inflicted injuries, attempted and successful suicides are the result from the internal battle of living in the closet more often than not.

No one is normal. Everyone has experienced some sort of bigotry and discrimination for living their life as they feel best. Whether being homosexual is a choice or not, does not matter. One’s choice in life still does not affect another’s and should not spur hatred.