I feel like I'm wading into murky waters here, I do not speak for anyone beside myself. I'm speaking from my own experience and from my observations.

Even though polling indicates that American acceptance of GLBT rights is shifting in our favor, and will continue to shift as time goes on, there is still a big problem in this country with homophobia. Don't freak about the word. Do you spend time around kids at all? If you do, then chances are you have heard one kid call another kid gay or a fag. I spend a lot of time around kids, and I have had many discussions with kids about those words and the fact that they are hurtful.

Maybe it's a shock to you if you are straight, but it's not like we gay people are totally straight until we turn into adults and then suddenly we are gay. There are kids out there, right now, who realize they are different than their peers, and don't understand what is going on with them. Some of those kids are living in a supportive community that doesn't shame them for who they are, but even those kids hear their peers using sexual slurs to mean that someone is different or clueless. Since a developmental part of growing up is seeking to belong, those slurs are going to hurt.

What if you grew up wanting kids and wanting to fall in love and get married but then eventually realize that you are denied those dreams because who you are is not socially acceptable? Stop and think about that for a sec, because if you are straight, you didn't have that experience, and maybe you have never considered it before.

Imagine for a second that who you are is not generally socially acceptable. Spend a few days, pausing and considering the ramifications of putting your arm around your partner each time you do it. There are people out there right now, out people, who have to consider whether each display of affection will compromise their safety.

And don't just imagine how you would deal with that as an adult, imagine growing up with that weight. Imagine that you had to fight against societal convention just to accept yourself for who you are. That's part of what coming out means.

A lot of us have had difficult journeys, (she writes, restrainedly) and we suspect that you don't really understand the terrain. That's okay, really. We all have our struggles. But the GLBT struggle is complicated by the fact that in childhood we (Americans anyway) are all inoculated with the mistaken understanding that to be gay is to be the worst thing. Even before we know what it means to be gay. And there is that belief, hiding underneath in most of us, well below the threshold of logic or memory.

I think GLBT equality will not happen until we are all willing to talk to the kids and take a zero tolerance policy on playground name calling. I think it's going to take us understanding that kids right now are suffering because of our societal prejudice.

When I think about whether or not I have "patience" to wait on getting the same right that straight people have to get married, it turns out that I do have that patience. But when I think about the kids right now that are suffering from the same institutionalized hatred that I experienced, I have no patience at all.  

Originally posted to Renee on Sat Jun 13, 2009 at 10:59 AM PDT.


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