Persisting ignorance regarding sexuality

Joey Durkin, Assistant Business Manager

Transgender boy Ash Haffner, 16, committed suicide in February after enduring years of bullying. This tragic event is unfortunately not an isolated incident, as many members of the LGBT community continue to face discrimination on a day-to-day basis. A study done by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2011 found that LGBT children in grades 9-12 are four times more likely to commit suicide than their straight peers, and are four to six times more likely to inflict an injury on themselves requiring medical attention.

The United States claims to be the world leader of freedom. However, the LGBT community still faces discrimination on a day-to-day basis. On a local level, I can’t walk through the halls of the school without hearing someone casually use the word “gay” or “faggot” to insult someone or something. On a national level, there is legislation in place that discriminates against the LGBT population. For example, 13 states still haven’t legalized gay marriage and Arkansas recently passed a law, SB 202, that essentially allows discrimination against LGBT people.

In general, many people are either oblivious or apathetic about using homophobic language. People casually throw around certain terms without considering their true meanings. Think about how often you hear the phrase “That’s so gay.” Consider what this statement even means. In this context, the word “gay” is used as an insult. It is a word to describe someone’s very being, an integral part of who they are and who they’ve always been, and thus should not be an insult. The origin of the word “faggot” comes from scrap metal used to weld other pieces of metal together. In other words, it means the leftovers whose only purpose is to be melted down beyond recognition. While the casual use of this term is becoming less common as society progresses, it is still used as an insult far too often.

While homophobic language is commonly used without much thought, it has much more of an effect than users might realize. In a study done by the American Journal of Public Health in 2010, it was found that each incident of victimization of an LGBT person, be it physical or verbal, increases the likelihood of self harm by 2.5 percent.

As a society we should educate our youth from an early age about the impact of the words that they choose to use as well as what these terms actually mean. Education is essential to building a more tolerant and open-minded citizenship. Students in the public education system today are rarely taught about the extensive range of sexualities. Some of the lesser-known sexualities include asexuality, pansexuality (omnisexuality), greysexuality, polysexuality and demisexuality. I believe that more thorough and earlier education will lead to more tolerance and less homophobia.

It also needs to be recognized that sexuality is not a choice. It is not a lifestyle that can be “cured” or “changed.” A study by the American Psychological Association backs this, saying that humans can’t choose to be gay or straight, though they can choose whether or not to act on their feelings. There is no way to change the color of your skin or the circumstances into which you were born. The idea that sexuality is a choice, however, is still a common belief in today’s society, despite the progress that has taken place.

We often hear the phrase “The Civil Rights Movement is still happening.” This is very true concerning homophobia today. The previous generations are, in general, holding more traditional beliefs. It is the duty of the current generation to abolish homophobia from our communal pool of thoughts by educating those who come after us. A better and more open-minded tomorrow is in our hands, and it is our responsibility to make sure it happens.