Let me tell you a bit about where I come from.
I was raised in a Southern town stereotype. Yes, everyone knew everyone else. Yes, camouflage was a part of the dress code. My parents and brother are even now living on a road with such treasures as old appliances lying in the yard, meth-addicted neighbors (mostly gone now), and two trailers jammed together to make a pseudo doublewide. My family, especially my grandparents, are the type to implement warm Southern hospitality and serve plenty of taters n’ cornbread. They are warm, kind people, if not exactly progressive, and I love them very much.
That said, living in such a small town environment meant that I had to deal with a lot of things that come along with it. I heard jokes surrounding Obama’s presidency that went along the lines of, “They call it the White House, not the Black House, for a reason!”. I saw friendships break apart because someone had a religious viewpoint that was different from the norm. One of my own family members voted for a particular candidate during one election because his wife seemed nicer than the other candidate’s and he came from a “good Christian background”.
And then, of course, there was homophobia.
After years of worrying about when to be quiet about my viewpoints and when to speak up, years of watching my more flamboyant friends be tormented, I thought college would be different. In college, I was going to be a much more unedited version of myself. In college, I would be allowed to explore my spirituality and sexuality and political ideals to my heart’s content.
So I came, I joined Listen–pretty much our version of a GSA–and I joined the Unitarian Universalist group. Now, I knew that Listen was an unofficial group. Students have been trying to get a damn GSA here since the 1990s. I learned that UUBC was not getting recognized as a Religion in Life group because it did not officially consider Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. There is, it seems, a Jewish group on campus that is recognized, but they don’t go beneath the “not considering Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior” umbrella because Judaism is a more widely-accepted practice.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are amazing students, faculty, and staff here. Most of them do not agree with our president’s choice to not allow Listen and UUBC the things they deserve. There was a small uproar over the fact that the college is not allowing domestic partnership benefits to its employees. And, to be fair, it isn’t just the president, although he isn’t shy in giving his opinion of our heathen ways. There’s also the board of trustees, and the rich old white men who wouldn’t want to donate to a college that hosted a GSA, nevermind the alumni who specifically stated that they would donate if we DID host a GSA.
Anyway, the point is, it’s not a battle against one person (even if that one person wrote a very underhanded article indirectly putting down UUBC and Listen under the assumption that we’re “self-indulgent” and don’t adhere to the correct Christian moral standards). It’s a battle against the homophobia and ignorance that plagues some of the people around here, including the ones in charge. It’s a battle for religious freedom, and LGBTQ rights, and student rights. And it’s not just here. It’s all over America, all over the world.
Why can people not marry who they want to marry, when they live and love and work and pay taxes just like everyone else?
Why do so many LGBTQ people commit suicide? Why is that, even if they aren’t LGBTQ, the mere idea that they are can lead to so much bullying from others that they feel the only way to stop it is to take their own lives?
Why is the name of God, who is supposed to be the root of all kindness and love, used to tell others they are going to burn in hell? Why, when He does not discriminate, does not turn anyone away, and loves us with a force so strong that humans cannot begin to comprehend it, are some church doors closed to letting people in?
Why is it any of your business what anyone else does in their own bedrooms, provided that it’s consensual and no one is getting hurt?
When love is the most precious thing anyone can have, the thing that moves mountains, the things that compels people to be kind to others and rescues those who would have died without it–why is the practice of that love considered illegal, or dirty, or a sin?
It makes no sense to me, and I don’t see how it can make sense to anyone else.
Yesterday, I went to the Summit at Kennesaw State University. I was surrounded by LGBTQ people and allies. I listened to the story of a boy who started a GSA at his high school, helped to give willing faculty there the opportunity to go through Safe Space training, and is even now working to push through a more specific non-bullying standard in his county that means bullying will not be tolerated because of race, ethnicity, religion, physical attributes, orientation, gender, gender expression, and so on. I listened to a man who works as a drag queen and his worries about how his son will feel about him when he realizes that he is not only Brian, but Nicole Paige Brooks, and about how his son will be treated, even raised in an environment that is much more gay-friendly than mine. I learned more about the history of the LGBTQ community than I’d ever known before, and it makes me so sad…and so full of hope that things can get better.
The biggest thing I’ve discovered in all of this, I think, is that we need not resign ourselves to the way things are. This world is not static, but for anything to happen, someone has to be pushing it. Giving up is saying that this inequality is okay when it isn’t okay. I won’t accept it. And you shouldn’t, either.