Growing up, being gay wasn’t a big deal for me. I’m from a liberal family in Seattle, where we have rainbow crosswalks and flags in almost every shop window. I was supported when I wasn’t sure about my sexual orientation, and I was allowed to identify as whatever was true to me. I still remember the first time I admitted to myself I was gay, driving down the highway just a little too fast with the windows down, screaming it into the wind. I never felt the need to officially come out to my parents, they seemed to already know, and I was able to just bring it up casually: “I’m going to see a girl Friday and I think it’s a date.”
Unfortunately, my easy experience isn’t a universal one. Even coming to Vanderbilt, I’ve been subject to many comments such as: “Wait, are you really sure you’re gay?” “Well, I think you might be the type of person that thinks you might be gay, and then pretends to be a lesbian, but is actually straight deep down inside.” “What a waste and shame.” While these comments make me angry, they are only indicative of a bigger problem. The United States still has a strong culture of homophobia, one that’s starting to leak out into Vanderbilt.
Election day was last week, and there was one election I was watching closely: Beto vs. Cruz. Despite not being from Texas, and knowing little else about the other races there, this one still was important to me. I started doing research one night, and what I found left me disappointed and angry. Ted Cruz had “introduced legislation to protect states’ Tenth Amendment right to define marriage as between one man and one woman” and he reportedly said: “I believe that engaging in homosexual conduct is a choice, and I do not believe that unelected judges should force States to adopt gay marriage, against the wishes of the people. Marriage is a fundamental building block of our society, and I have a proven record of standing and fighting to protect traditional marriage between one man and one woman.”
Think the problem is limited to Texas?
Marsha Blackburn, from Tennessee, was quoted after the Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage: “Today’s Supreme Court decision is a disappointment. I have always supported traditional marriage. Despite this decision, no one can overrule the truth about what marriage actually is — a sacred institution between a man and a woman.”
In 2017 a bill was introduced to protect and legalize discrimination against gay couples. This bill was supported by senators from Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Florida, and Oklahoma.
Mike Pence, our Vice President, said he believes that: “Congress should oppose any effort to recognize homosexuals as a ‘discreet and insular minority’ entitled to the protection of anti-discrimination laws similar to those extended to women and ethnic minorities.”
Lindsey Graham, South Carolina: “I believe in the traditional definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. Traditional marriage is an institution worth protecting and this amendment will accomplish that goal. A constitutional amendment is the only effective way to cut off the growing trend among judges to create a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.”
Additionally, as of April 2018, I can still be fired for my sexual orientation in the majority of U.S. states, including Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, with a full list below.
Homophobia isn’t a phobia, it’s a prejudice that is causes harm to more than 11 million adults in the U.S. I will not be silenced, nor will I be complacent in the current system.
States where LGBTQ discrimination is legal: