Dear straight people,
In the last few years, I’ve come across something that boggles my mind. It’s a concept that confuses my queer little brain, so I think I’m going to need some assistance with it. It’s something I’ve seen in online spaces as well as in meatspace. It’s something that a certain strain of heterosexuals seem to embrace. I’ve heard of it in conservative media and from right-wing politicians and pundits and it often pops up in discussions of Gay/Straight Alliances on school campuses. The idea behind the concept is counterintuitive to my brain, but my confusion is probably the result of those homosexual-inducing chemtrails I’ve been huffing all my life. Because of my difficulty understanding this concept, I’m hoping one of you can aid me in coming to comprehend
Now…I understand the importance of Pride as it relates to the gay community. Originating in the wake of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, Pride is both a form of unabashed self-expression whereby we in the LGBT community show we are comfortable being who we are, as well as a public statement that there is nothing wrong with us and no need for us to hide. Historically, LGBT people have been sent the opposite message; that there is something wrong with us. That because our sexuality and gender identities deviate from the social norm we must be made to conform or be punished. As a result, LGBT people past and present have grown up in societies that display varying levels of hostility and intolerance towards us. This hostility manifests as anti-LGBT discrimination and bigotry. If you’re not familiar with the oppressive experiences of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, allow me to help:
- One of the groups targeted for purification by Nazi Germany were gay people. These ‘social deviants’ enjoyed a great deal of freedom in 1920s Germany. Unfortunately, from Munich to Berlin and beyond, members of this formerly flourishing gay subculture found themselves hunted down by the brownshirts of Adolph Hitler. The exact number of gay people who died in concentration camps is unknown, but it is estimated that roughly 100,000 men suspected of homosexuality were arrested from 1933 to 1945 ( apparently lesbians were not viewed as a threat).
- In the 1940s, the United States government conducted brain-altering procedures on nearly 2,000 former service members. Most of these people were diagnosed as being psychotic or suffering from depression or schizophrenia. Some however, were identified as homosexuals. These lobotomies involved severing the connections between the pre-frontal area and the rest of the brain. In many scenarios, patients had seizures and loss of motor function; in worst-case scenarios, the patients died.
- LGBT youth in the United States often do not have the support of their family and loved ones. This physical, emotional, and psychological stress often places LGBT youth at great risk for homelessness. 40% of the homeless youth population is LGBT. To make matters worse, those youth are at increased risk for exploitation, violence, and substance abuse.
- In 2014, 5,479 hate crimes were reported by law enforcement agencies in the United States. 5,462 of those were single-bias crimes. While the majority of the hate crimes were racially biased, roughly 20% of these attacks were on LGBT people, which means approximately 1,092 LGBT people were the victims of a reported hate crime in 2014. The actual number of LGBT hate crime victims is likely higher, as only 1,666 law enforcement agencies reported hate crimes in their jurisdiction that year (out of more than 15,000 agencies nationwide).
- LGBT youth often feel unsafe at school due bullying from those who believe their sexual orientation or gender identity deviates from the acceptable norm. Such harassment takes the form of verbal, physical, and psychological attacks against LGBT students (and those perceived to be LGBT). Adding to the stress, while some LGBT youth report their harassment, many have said school officials failed to respond. Some youth have skipped school to avoid such harassment. Unfortunately, LGBT youth do not have to be at school to experience bigotry, as many have been the victims of cyber bullying. The effects of bullying and harassment can take a physical, emotional, and psychological toll on students, leading to lower self esteem, which in turn can have an effect on grades and mental health. Sadly, many victims of bullying and harassment take their own lives (LGBT teens are two to three times more likely than other teens to attempt suicide).
- Currently, New York, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin have employment non-discrimination laws in place that cover sexual orientation. Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Hawaii, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and the District of Columbia have statewide non-discrimination laws that cover sexual orientation *and* gender identity. That leaves 28 states in the U.S. that offer no workplace anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people, and that means LGBT people can be fired or not even hired to begin with simply for being gay or bisexual or transgender. Not based on the quality of their work, but based on a fundamental aspect of their identity.
- In the United States, the decriminalization of same-sex behavior began in the 1960s and ended in 2003 with the Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas. Sadly, the right of LGBT adults to engage in consensual sexual behavior is criminalized in more than six dozen countries around the world. Depressingly, many of these countries do not just criminalize same-sex behavior; they also criminalize the existence of gay people. State-sanctioned punishment for such behavior ranges from forced psychiatric treatment to imprisonment and even death by stoning.
- One of the most potent sources of anti-LGBT discrimination and marginalization comes from religious organizations. From the FLDS (the Mormon Church) to the Roman Catholic Church, many religious institutions instill in their members-often beginning at a young age-the idea that homosexuality is an aberration, a moral failing, and a sin before their deity. Religious officials condemn homosexuals telling them they are sick and will go to hell if they do not change their “wicked ways”. And while they hardly have the language to even talk about trans people, many religious organizations condemn those whose internal sense of gender does not match the gender they were assigned at birth. This can foster a deep sense of disgust and shame within LGBT children, and is often exacerbated by intolerant friends and family. While some children grow up and reconcile their religious beliefs regarding their sexuality or gender identity, many don’t. Many commit suicide because their friends, family, and church do not accept them for who they are.
The above is far from a comprehensive listing of the myriad ways LGBT people experience discrimination today and in the past. The point of illustrating these examples, however, was not to document every single form of anti-LGBT discrimination and bigotry. The idea was to illustrate the importance of Pride as a means of pushing back against anti-LGBT intolerance and hate. From lobotomies and workplace harassment to bullying and violence by the state, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people have long experienced unique forms of discrimination tied to our sexual orientation and gender identity. It is because of that discrimination that Pride is important and is the reason why Pride exists. Without the multiple forms of oppression we experience in society, there would be no need be closeted. There would be no need to be ashamed. There would be no need for Pride. So my question is:
since heterosexual people do not have to hide their sexual orientation from their friends and family…
since straight people do not experience shame or disgust about their sexual orientation…
since straight people don’t have to worry about facing harassment, or being bullied or killed because of their sexual orientation…
since straight people don’t have to worry about being fired from their jobs because of their sexual orientation…
since they experience no discrimination based on their sexual orientation…
why the hell should “straight pride” exist?
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