Quite recently, my friends and I were at a swim team meet when we overheard a conversation a few guys were having next to us. I am not completely sure what the topic was, but one of them said: “I would feel uncomfortable if there was a gay guy on swim team.” Statistically, given that the swim team is rather large, there probably are. But my questions follow: where do students get these opinions and thoughts? Why is it drilled into everyone’s mind that being gay is wrong and why is this an ongoing issue? I believe that everyone should have the freedom to express themselves and be whoever they want to be. People should be free of the fear of judgment in identifying themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or any other sexualities or genders they feel accurately represents themselves. If gay marriage is legal in all 50 states, then why do gay communities continue to be discriminated against? Max Blau wrote that even with these new laws, gay couples are still not protected in their workplace. There are no laws in multiple states saying that you can’t be fired for your sexual orientation or gender identity. This proves that even though the legalization of same-sex marriage was a huge step for the LGBT+ community, it was only one of the first. Sadly, many other countries do not even have this basic right. In over 70 countries, gay marriage is still illegal and you can even be killed for something as simple as your sexual orientation. Clearly, there is still a long way to go before everybody accepts that everyone has equal rights, no exceptions.
As a teenager, I understand that the most influential people can easily be our parents. Often, kids will follow their parent’s political and social opinion until they are old enough to make their own. Why do parents refuse to change their opinion on the rights people deserve for something they can not change? Not only does this have a negative impact on the entire adult LGBT+ community, but it also poisons the minds of impressionable children. If a parent voices his or her opinion against LGBT+ people, the kids will voice this opinion to their friends or other students at school, spreading the word. Let’s talk statistics for a minute. In a survey sent out by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) in 2011, 82 percent of LGBT+ students said that they have to deal with bullying because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. It is sickening that students are dealing with this harassment everyday in a place they can not escape. According to a 2010 survey sent out in Britain, harassment against LGBT+ students causes over 50 percent of suicides. By ending discrimination against these students, not only would they be happier, it could literally mean the difference between life and death. Although most of the discrimination comes from fellow students, teachers play a role as well. The average high school student in America hears 26 homophobic slurs a day, and over one-third of them come from teachers. By using homophobic slurs themselves, teachers are communicating to students that such demeaning language is acceptable.
We all need to do something to end the discrimination against these people. Why is it so hard for people to accept LGBT+ individuals as humans instead of treating them like a disease that needs to be cured? Genders don’t love, people do. All people in the LGBT+ community are still people, no matter what they identify themselves as. All people deserve equal rights, no exceptions. For those who would gladly dedicate their time and energy to prove that the LGBT+ community deserves just as many rights as everyone else, I would like to ask – why don’t you? No matter who you are, you can stand up for what you believe in. If you believe that the LGBT+ community deserves just as many rights as anyone else, then be the first to show it. Stand up for someone who’s being mistreated or reach out a helping hand to those who need it, and individually, you’re already doing so much more than you know.