Two weeks ago I wrote in my column about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride events and LGBT organizations as well as protection laws and a multitude of other issues. Since then, the response toward my opinion on those issues has been mixed, with much opposition coming from many who deal with the reality of discrimination on a daily basis and support coming from various sides of the debate. Notably, one voice of support, Aaron Strauss, wrote into The Triangle in last week’s issue in support of the reasonable voice that I provided from one side of the issue. I admire his willingness to come forth with his own opinion with the full knowledge that his viewpoint may not be widely accepted in the immediate community. I feel compelled by recent comments and criticisms of my last column to provide additional clarification and a more in-depth analysis of the opinions expressed in said column. First and foremost, some base information must be established.
Several criticisms of my last article revolved around accusations that I was naive to the LGBT struggle and that a majority of my opinions were easy to state because I have not had to deal with the same trials that a majority of LGBT individuals have had to confront. I would like to dispel those accusations by formally stating that I am in fact a member of the LGBT community and have encountered those prejudices in my life. Secondly, my opinions expressed in the prior column still hold true despite the response received from a very opinionated community of readers. With that issue cleared out of the way, I would like to begin addressing the cause of this column.
In his article, Strauss brought up his religious convictions pertaining to LGBT issues, and although I personally disagree with them, it needs to be pointed out that those opinions must be accepted by everyone in order to move forward with the issue. As an LGBT individual I felt no personal assault by Strauss’ article, even though our opinions on various social issues do not align, and why should I? I have my opinions and others have theirs, but they should not influence how I treat them or vice versa. This brings us to a very important realization that many on both sides of the social argument need to adhere to: Instead of promoting the childishness of a playground argument (which most of the debate on LGBT rights has become), both sides of the issue must be willing to listen to and respect the opinion of the opposition. Society has experienced a very minimal amount of this basic courtesy. Especially in recent years, words such as “bigot” and “homophobe” have been thrown around without any real consideration or respect. These personal attacks serve no purpose in bettering the image of the LGBT community and only propagate an image of hostility.
In almost a militant fashion, both sides of the argument have used their rhetoric and actions to increase tension against the opposition. As a result, many LGBT individuals harbor a deep resentment to religion when, in reality, they should be content with the fact that the Catholic Church even has a compassion-driven position in its Catechism. LGBT rights may not be a desired outcome for more conservative organizations such as the Catholic Church, but their position should be respected. For many Catholics to adhere to this doctrine by disagreeing with LGBT issues such as marriage is perfectly acceptable; no one should be forced to accept something that goes against their personal moral convictions. Additionally, their opinions do not make them bigoted any more than your own personal beliefs in opposition to theirs make you a bigot. The system of religion-bashing and name-calling does not help either cause any more than it does in any other argument.
This brings me to a very caustic point that I feel needs to be reiterated in detail in order for the point to hit home. In my last column I wrote about abstaining from pride events and LGBT activist groups because I believed them to serve more of an alienating purpose than a universal approach. The main reason for this analysis is negative media portrayal of pride events. While such events do invite a sense of community and culture, it is important to be careful about how we approach them. With mass media honed in on anything that is deemed “out of the norm,” portrayal of the LGBT community lingers in the minds of the outsider as a queer fetish culture. Instead of telling the story of the happy couple, America’s television screens are bombarded with images of kink, hypersexuality and promiscuity. Additionally, many were upset with my statements regarding protection of the ally status under certain legal clauses. Most cited that heterosexual cisgender individuals already possess protection from discrimination based on their gender and sexuality. I respectfully disagree; in a work environment where personal opinion and political affiliation can still make or break a career, it is important that allies are included in such documents, as even support of LGBT individuals can spark tension.
When it comes down to it, most of what the LGBT community is doing today seems to be a gigantic waste of energy. A majority of time and energy wasted intensifies the standoff between LGBT detractors and the community as described above. Controversy, hatred and intolerance will only subside once one side makes the first move toward empathy. Tearing down the foundation of another’s opinion does more to offend than it does to comfort. Unfortunately, with animosity between both parties rising to higher levels by the minute, the playground debate doesn’t look like it will be ending anytime soon.
Vaughn Shirey is a freshman environmental sciences major at Drexel University. He can be contacted at [email protected].
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