Yesterday, Anderson Cooper (the very handsome journalist) proclaimed his pride as a gay man. Although the announcement wasn't necessarily surprising, kudos to him for being a positive role model within the LGBT community. Today, a relative of mine decided to start a conversation about AC's coming out. She was peeved that the media was "making a big deal" out of his orientation. Immediately annoyed by her ignorance as to why the topic is indeed noteworthy, I proceeded to inform her.
Over the past couple of years, there are have been numerous suicides among young LGBT students in the United States. Bullying is the number one cause of these suicides. My relative's response? “I don't agree with suicide. They should stand strong.” She went on to question why so many gay people, “wait so long to come out of the closet.” Generalizations were made about there being power in numbers, and that all sorts of people – politicians and celebrities – are openly gay. She basically insisted that there was no reason for a LGBT person to ever feel alone or hopeless.
Our debate left me feeling disgusted for so many reasons. First, this extremely religious hypocrite has attempted to take her own life on more than one occasion. When I gently pointed this out to her, she said it wasn't the same thing. There are millions of people who struggle with mental disorders (as she does), many attempt or commit suicide. The power in numbers generalization applies neither here nor there. A statement along the lines of, “Oh, lots of people are sad, get over it,” is not in any way helpful or curative.
Secondly, the reason men and women are hesitant to come out is obvious. Who enjoys being ostracized, disowned, possibly attacked, having their rights challenged or denied? I drew the indisputable correlation between the current fight for marriage equality for homosexuals and the fight for legal recognition of interracial marriage in the past. She interrupted to tell me, “gay couples and interracial couples are completely different.” Not so much, actually. The arguments once used to denounce the validity of interracial marriage – abnormal, sacrilegious, corrupts young minds – are identical to those being used to denounce gay marriage right now. At the core of both arguments are religious-based bigotry, which is why separation of church and state is a beautiful, liberating thing.
Lastly, saying that a marginalized group should just ban together to solve society's problem with them is totally illogical. Those responsible for prejudice and discrimination are the ones who must be held accountable for the suffering they cause. Bullies are the best example of this. Instead of just sitting all the bullied kids in a room, telling them to bond over their various traumas, everyone as a collective should get the bullies together, and straighten them the fuck out (with counseling rather than violence, of course)! To blame the victim is to empower the aggressor.
This argument, as well as qualms with homosexuality itself, all boils down to religion. One can choose to idly sit by, or one can choose to take action. “Praying the gay away” doesn't deter the violent homophobes who bully, kill or drive LGBT people to take their own lives. Bigotry is the culprit in the lesser sector of society's struggle to embrace any and all groups deemed alternative. The causes, or really, the excuses, for said bigotry is what should be heavily scrutinized, mocked and on its way to eradication. Instead of making silly generalizations about how to solve the issues of marginalized groups, we should examine and give the proverbial boot to the fear and stupidity responsible for their mistreatment in the first place. The solution to hatred begins with compassion.
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