There are some who say that being gay is a sin, others who say it is a disease, and still others who view it as a mental affliction. In fact, it took until 1973 for the American Psychiatric Association to state that homosexuality was not a mental disorder. Although it is wonderful to look back and take note of how far we have come in such a short time, most people would agree that we are still a long, long way from accepting and celebrating homosexuality as we should.
In many areas of our country, gay men live, love, and enjoy life feeling proud to embrace who they are. But many began as confused children who took small steps to self-acceptance and grew in confidence as they became young men and proudly joined the larger community of homosexuals.
Sadly, bigotry and ignorance continue to contribute so much pain to this world, especially when it comes to young gay teens. According to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) teens are five times more likely to skip school because they don’t feel safe; and according to a survey of street youth in Seattle, 42 percent of homeless teens are LGBT. Their very identities have made them unwanted at home. Sometimes they end up living on the streets, even though it often leads to addiction, violence, rape, and death.
Statistics like this are truly heartbreaking. It is hard to imagine that we live in a world in which such hate and anger is allowed to run rampant, and that innocent kids are tortured and bullied every day just because they dare to be themselves. Luckily, there are many brave, dedicated, and driven people out there who fight to combat injustice. Perhaps one of the earliest and most iconic examples of this was the Stonewall riots of 1969, when the gay community protested the injustice they suffered at the hands of the New York police force. It was one of the first times recorded in American history that homosexuals banded together and said “no more,” and it was a powerful, historical moment that will never be forgotten.
And we continue to write new history every day. In 2011, decades after those infamous riots, New York State finally legalized gay marriage, meaning that millions of gay couples can now receive the same rights and the same dignity that straight couples have always enjoyed. And we are constantly doing more research and discovering that sexuality is really not a matter of choice. Numerous studies have shown a genetic link behind homosexuality, just as many studies have found homosexual behavior in nature from insects to animals. What an exciting time to be a part of! Someday our children’s children will look back and marvel that homosexuality was ever considered an aberration, and they will pay homage to their ancestors who fought so hard for equal rights.
Still, there is so much work to be done. New York couples are free to marry, as are couples in five other states, but it’s time every other state in the country followed suit. It’s time gay workers were not discriminated against in the office, gay teens were not tormented at school, and gay people in general were not targets of bullying and ignorance. I know we can get there — the future has yet to be written!
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