The margins of society are a rough place for anyone to live. As minorities that are regarded with suspicion and distrust by the wider culture, gay, lesbian, bi and trans people predictably experience higher levels of abuse, discrimination, homelessness, completed and attempted suicide, substance use, and a variety of health conditions. The statistics are all too familiar by now.
But some people don’t believe these facts compel us to identify and address the underlying causes of such inequalities. Instead, they draw completely different conclusions, and focus on the individual rather than the world LGBT people have to live in. It might take the form of “ex-gays” who lament how their lives used to be an unsatisfying blur of drinking, drugs, porn, loveless relationships and casual sex, until God pulled them out of that “lifestyle”. It might be the friends and family members who, out of genuine or feigned concern, warn us that we’ll be unhappy, unfulfilled, and vulnerable to discrimination and diseases if we’re gay. It might be the social conservatives who declare that “if we want to see fewer students commit suicide, we want fewer homosexual students”. We might even inflict it on ourselves, recoiling in fear from the countless stories of how difficult it can be to go through life as a trans person, and deciding we couldn’t possibly be that.
Everyone who does this makes the same mistake: They fail to realize that none of this changes who we are. These external factors do nothing to alter our internal reality, because facts aren’t something that can be argued away. Just because you got tired of living a shallow life of constant partying, that doesn’t make you any less gay (and such a life has no inherent connection to being gay anyway). The prevalence of discrimination, bullying, suicide, or HIV among LGBT people won’t make you any straighter. And even though I’ll likely have even more difficulty finding a job as a trans person, be at a vastly higher risk of assault, and be viewed by many as neither wholly man nor wholly woman, I am still the woman I am.
Do some people genuinely realize that a former sexual or gender identity didn’t encompass the totality of who they are? It’s certainly possible. I’ve been there before. But those who argue that a miserable life should make us any less queer are simply using an appeal to consequences against the very substance of who we are, and it’s just as fallacious as it is in any other circumstance. While some of them have made the choice to ignore who they are inside and live their lives differently for fear of these consequences, they can’t expect that their concerns will be equally compelling to the rest of us. As real as these unfortunate facts of life may be, so is the reality of who I am: My self is the truth. And like any other truth, it’s something I refuse to deny.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.