Tuesday, October 5, 2010

It Gets Better... Far Too Slowly

Of late, the number of LGBT teens who have committed suicide seems to be staggering, though this may be an artifact of increased news coverage of issues involving the gay community. The fact is, these children are not the first, and, sadly, will not be the last casualties of a culture war that has been brewing for centuries. While homosexuality may have been a run-of-the-mill occurrence in ancient Greece or Rome, the advent of Christianity, the Protestant Reformation, the Spanish Inquisition, and other such events led to the persecution of homosexuals. Is it any wonder that the common slur used for homosexuals, "faggot," is derived from a Medieval word for a bundle of sticks used to start a fire, a fire no doubt started at the base of a pole that an unfortunate gay person would find themselves tied to, to be burned before God in hopes of redemption?

What is most troubling, aside from the waste of potential good in those who have left this world by their own hand, is how these incidents came about, through the bullying of others, who found it convenient to hurl epithets and treat them as if being gay were a crime, making them out to be social lepers, or worse, God's trash. This goes beyond the bullying that has been prevalent in schools for a seeming eternity; it is vicious and virulent, a blatant attempt to torment teens who may be having trouble with their sexual identity, trying to convince them that this somehow makes them pariahs.

This bullying, and the accompanying social unrest that follows it, is, in no small measure, amplified by the vitriol and invective that floods the airwaves daily, from social, political, and spiritual leaders across this nation.  To give just a few examples:

  • Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who declared that if someone is openly homosexual, they shouldn't be teaching in the classroom
  • Boyd K. Packer, the second-highest leader in the Mormon Church, said in a sermon broadcast to millions yesterday that same-sex attraction is "impure and unnatural" and can be overcome, and that same-sex unions are morally wrong. [Courtesy, the Human Rights Campaign]
  • Focus on the Family has accused gay-rights groups of using tolerance and anti-bullying programs to introduce curricula and books into schools that promote political aims such as same-sex marriage. [Courtesy, ABC News]
  • Fred Phelps, pastor of the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, regularly organizes demonstrations at military funerals with anti-homosexual rhetoric displayed prominently on their picket signs
With intolerant and bigoted people and groups dominating the news cycles, it should not shock us that such homophobia works its way down into our schools. Far too many parents either agree with these sentiments, or are loathe to talk about controversial subjects, perhaps because of personal discomfort or mere reticence to discuss actual issues of the day with their children.

However, a groundswell is beginning to occur, as famous personalities begin to speak out about the horrors being perpetrated and the difficulties of being a member of the LGBT community when you are young. From Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" project, to heartfelt pleas from the likes of Ellen DeGeneres, Kathy Griffin, or Tim Gunn, people are beginning to speak up in a meaningful way, trying to steer the conversation away from rhetoric and toward the realization that these are, above all, human beings, people with feelings, people who may be scared, people who simply want to live their lives in peace.

Centuries in the making, the battle over the true place of homosexuality in the human race is starting to come to a head in this century. It is by no means a matter of a short amount of time; this topic and the intractable dogma surrounding it, are not so easily dispatched. There is, however, hope, for time has caused us to see more clearly the world we inhabit and our place in the scheme of things. No longer tied to the fear and fervor religion used to control humankind, our reason has shown us that homosexuality is just another human trait, another variation of the theme. It does not necessarily confer any kind of advantage, but it also does not confer any harm on the human race. Any harm that homosexuality presents to us is self-inflicted, the product of the ravings of madmen and the ignorance of the petty and tyrannical.

This would seem to be our moment, when humanity would take the next step forward toward unity, or cast all civilization asunder in a flash of global inhumanity. For those who must continue to suffer, to fend off day-after-day the assault on their psyche and body by ignorance and intolerance, it can be said that it will get better, but perhaps not soon enough to abate the terror. Many may still have to suffer, may still have to hide their true selves in fear for their sanity and their life. They are the current soldiers, those who must steadfastly stand up, with our help, to put an end to the depredation and denigration of their kind. It is their fight, but it our war, and only together can we hope to strike down the last bastions of bigotry.

1 comment:

  1. It is their fight, but it our war - I really like this, because it tells the simple truth in the simplest terms -- those of us who aren't gay aren't on the frontlines, but when this battle is won, we will all be better for it. In memory of the late great Solomon Burke who died just today: None of us are free, if one of us is in chains.