By: Trever McKenzie ~Copy Editor~
Last week, an op-ed was published in the Newswire that grabbed my attention significantly. It talked about the necessity of a relationship between members of the LGBT+ community (gay men particularly) and churches (namely Catholic churches). Many things said in this op-ed moved me to issue corrections in the form of a response. I may come across as scathing in this critique, but know that I have no intention of shaming or insulting the writer of that particular op-ed.
What struck me about this op-ed is the casual nature in which the social standing of the LGBT+ community was addressed. The op-ed opens with a statement indicating that the author thinks that society, at large, believes that being gay is cool and desirable. I do not know his experiences, so I can’t say what led him to think this, but I vehemently disagree. It may seem like being gay is the new trend these days, especially with movies like Moonlight snatching awards in Hollywood and getting acclaim for breaking boundaries, but that does not mean that everyone is suddenly jumping on the ally train. There is still large-scale oppression affecting LGBT+ citizens in countries around the world. The U.S. is ahead, having recently started adopting laws that prevent discrimination in various institutions across the country, but we still have a long way to go.
Three things that the writer said were things of the past were AIDS, marriage equality and bullying. That could not be further from the truth. For example, the Food and Drug Administration only recently decided to start allowing gay men to donate blood, and only on the condition that they wait a year since they last had sex with another man. Most might recall exactly why such a ban exists in the first place: The AIDS crisis of the ‘80s, an event that went largely ignored by the government of the time. Even though testing could reveal STD infections in the blood, and even though AIDS is not exclusive to gay men by any means, the restriction persists. Intensive screening could absolutely be an option, as the concern is not entirely unfounded, but the needless restrictions based on assumptions are pointless.
While we may have marriage equality, that doesn’t mean too much. The infamous Kim Davis debacle comes to mind. Remember how she was praised for “standing up for her beliefs” despite violating a federal law and failing to do her job? Or do you remember Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act that placed the religious belief of “I don’t like gay people” above the actual gay people’s right to receive public services and not be discriminated against as a response to the marriage equality ruling that required intense pushback just to get an amendment protecting sexual orientation and gender identity? Or how about the current Republican platform that has a dissent of marriage equality written into it? Many people seem to think that their religious beliefs entitle them to determine the social standing of other people. It doesn’t sound like an issue of the past to me.
As far as bullying goes, it is absolutely not gone, not by a long shot. While cities might be getting progressively better at ratting out bullying against LGBT+ students, it’s far from gone in more rural areas. I can personally attest to the dislike of LGBT+ students in schools, having been bullied for being gay before I was even out. Bullying creates alienation and socialization issues that prevent the formation of proper relationships. It is still socially acceptable to say, “I don’t like gay people” or “I think being gay is a sin” if it’s in the name of religion, and LGBT+ people are expected to respect an opinion that literally dehumanizes them. LGBT+ still struggle with coming out, risking financial, mental and physical harm just for saying they aren’t straight or cisgender. The federal government can’t even avoid bullying LGBT+ students, having already targeted Trans* students’ right to use a bathroom. Socially, LGBT+ individuals are still not as accepted as they need to be.
If you ever want to wonder why LGBT+ people are more depressed and suicidal than their non- LGBT+ counterparts, consider that it doesn’t have to do with a lack of religion – it has to do with the large social stigma still attached to being LGBT+, which can be attributed to religion’s desire to oppress our right to live. When religion stops creating the problems, LGBT+ might consider religion worthwhile.