Too often, I make my way through my high school hallway and hear the words “homo” and “fa**ot” uttered when no teachers are around. I am not gay, but I find the words deeply offensive; I can only imagine what it must be like to be gay and hear slurs like these.
School and religious center forums on the web from around the country quickly confirm that slurs like this and far worse are typical. It may come as a shock in our politically correct, post-Obama/Brokeback Mountain/Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell age, but in urban and sophisticated cities, wealthy suburbs, and rural areas alike, homophobia is alive and well. Many of us would like to believe that we have moved past these battles and evolved into a more tolerant society, but the evidence just isn’t there. The U.S. continues to have a difficult time accepting homosexuality. Gay marriage has been passed in six states, TV and cable shows with popular gay characters, such as Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer) in Glee and Cameron Tucker (Eric Stonestreet) in Modern Family, are common and even some celebrities have come out. Yet, mainstream America is still in a closet of its own when it comes to gay equality.
Religious figures continue to harshly speak out on homosexuality, while presidential candidates such as Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachman have inferred that being gay is a disease or akin to bestiality.
When television programs, athletes such as Kobe Bryant and rappers like Eminem use homophobic words openly, kids follow suit. The root of this kind of behavior is often the home. Many parents are simply too busy, too overwhelmed by their teen's general behavior, or share their own dislike or fear of homosexuality and often use these words around the house themselves.
Gay bullying among kids has become a national epidemic. It’s sickening to read how many kids get beaten up by peers for not conforming to what the straight world finds acceptable. According to a nationally credited anti-bullying forum, as many as 160,000 students stay home on a given year out of fear of being bullied. We’ve all heard plenty of stories about gay kids who to turn to drugs or suicide because they’re afraid to tell their parents they are gay and can’t imagine a way out of their situation. The United States is supposed to be a country of diversity that welcomes and embraces people of different religions, nationalities, and ethnicities. But when it comes to sexual orientations, this isn’t true. Just as racism and anti-Semitism continues to flourish despite all of the laws passed, homophobia will undoubtedly be with us for a long time to come.
Our generation can make basic, fundamental changes to how homosexuality is perceived. Participation in LGBTQ student groups should be a mandatory requirement in all schools, educating and informing unaware about the issue. Furthermore, it should be a national requirement that all history textbooks include the gay rights movements in the U.S. and more recent advancements. Not including a section of the gay rights movement is like not including a section of the African American civil rights movement during the 1960s. Finally, youth of all ages must make a more concerted effort to stand up to homophobia. When you hear someone you know using homophobic words freely, tell them to stop. The more people that decide to do this, the less popular calling a kid a “homo” or a “fa**ot” will become.
Dan Savage’s project “It Gets Better” is a fantastic move in the right direction to prevent LGBTQ youth from taking their own lives and to have gay adults help them realize that the future is much brighter. More people need to get involved in Mr. Savage’s project, and possibly start new offshoots of Savage’s organization. The fight to stop homophobia among America youth is an uphill climb, but with more volunteers, significant strides will be made.
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