It’s interesting to me that I can so clearly remember some of the homophobia I heard growing up. And I think it’s because it was in such stark contrast to the beautiful, kind, hilarious LGBTQA+ people I had in my life.
I have this distinct memory of someone talking about their hairdresser who seemed gay and the way that person made fun of their hairdresser in a disgusted tone. I was a child at the time and didn’t say anything or stick up for that hairdresser. It’s as if the people around me who were homophobic in their actions didn’t see LGBTQA+ individuals as people just like them. They used words like “gross” to describe lesbians and gays. And I hated hearing their dehumanizing remarks because I knew they were wrong.
But I was lucky enough to have a mother who didn’t put people in a different category based on their sexual orientation. I don’t ever remember having an explicit conversation about what it meant to be gay or lesbian. I just knew Cate was lesbian and Luciano was gay. And that didn’t change my opinion of Cate as my mom’s funny friend. As a child, I didn’t see her sexual orientation as a strange thing. I honestly didn’t even really think about it or realize it was “different” as other people might have been taught. But I also didn’t even really know she had a French accent — and she totally does. But children don’t think about dividing people until they are taught the concept by adults. It never even crossed my mind that being LGBTQA+ meant that you should have different rights in America. But today, sometimes being LGBTQA+ means you’re going to be discriminated against.
This month is Pride Month in the United States, which is celebrated to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan that led to the creation of gay rights organizations. In honor of Pride Month, I’d like to share some advice on how you can fight for the rights of the LGBTQA+ community.
In the United States, we are all given the chance to vote. So, get registered and vote for legislation that will benefit our LGBTQA+ neighbors and friends. Vote for representatives who are focused on equality for all people, and not just for what’s going to make America the richest country. At the end of the day, all we have are the people around us, so care about them. And legislation is one way we help shape public opinion. When we make it part of our law to protect the rights of our LGBTQA+ neighbors, then we can change how people see our LGBTQA+ neighbors. We will show people that LGBTQA+ individuals deserve all the same rights as everyone else.
Do you know what percentage of LGBT youth hear negative messages about being LGBT? 92 percent. Do you know what the unemployment rate of transgender individuals is in the United States? In 2017, it was three times higher than the national average. Did you also know that it is legal in 28 states to fire someone for being gay, lesbian, or bisexual? Did you know that discrimination can affect so many parts of an individual’s life? When you educate yourself on the discrimination, you’ll start to realize why it’s important that you fight for the rights of your LGBTQA+ neighbors.
Listen to an LGBTQA+ perspective
When I was getting my bachelor’s degree, I took a class on research for journalism. We had to pick a topic we were going to research on and then write a news story from our primary sources and interviews, so I decided to research the LGBT community. So I found people to interview and asked them my questions. I heard about discrimination, misunderstandings, and rejection. But I also heard about strength, perseverance, and joy. Hearing their perspectives on a variety of topics was not only eye-opening but gave me a foundation for understanding someone else’s worldview and life experiences. When we learn about other people, we learn about compassion and how we can be a friend. If you’re interested in reading some of their perspectives, here’s an article.
See something? Hear something? Say something.
Remember the story I told about being a child and not sticking up for that hairdresser? Well, the way we root out discrimination can start small. It can start by us confronting discrimination right in front of us. If someone is saying something unkind about our LGBTQA+ neighbors, we can say, “Hey, I don’t think that’s right.” Be kind, but be firm. Let people know that discrimination isn’t cool.
Just love people
Love your LGBTQA+ neighbors and be there for them when they need to talk. Let them vent their frustrations with the discrimination they face. Just love everyone regardless of their skin color, their sexual orientation, their gender, their politics. If you can do that, you’ve already done something tremendous.