the fight for gay rights
by Joshua McMurray
Flowering Love, a drawing by Jadyn Jacobson (grade 11)
Boys don’t do that. Why do you only hang out with girls? Your voice is higher than it should be. Why are you wearing that? It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. These are things I have heard a countless number of times over my short fourteen years of life. Homophobia is no joke. The CDC has reported that in the first half of 2021, around 50% of LGBTQ+ youth had considered committing suicide. To make matters even worse, 25% actually attempted. Thankfully, I am not a part of this statistic and I hope never to be, but this just goes to show that queer youth are being actively attacked in this country by both citizens and even lawmakers. There is not nearly enough attention on this subject that poses a severe, imminent threat to the queer population. Action needs to be taken, and it needs to be taken now. You can even take action by voting! Hundreds of anti-gay laws have been and are being passed, public officials are constantly making outwardly hateful statements towards queer people, and the marginalization of LGBTQ+ citizens worsens each and every day. People are crying out for help, yet we do not listen.
I’ll start off with something you’re probably familiar with; the Don’t Say Gay bill (or maybe I should say, “Don’t Say ***”). More formally known as the Parental Rights in Education Act, the bill was passed on March 28th of 2022. “The Democrat Party and their cultural allies are on a misguided crusade to immerse young children in sexual imagery and radical gender ideology,” said Louisiana U.S. representative, Mike Johnson in regards to the Don’t Say Gay Act according to CNBC. How can we let public officials say such outrageous things? Before the bill was passed, it’s not like pornography was being played for elementary school students in class. Many conservative politicians truly believe that teachers want to brainwash students with the ‘gay agenda’, when in reality, they just want the students to embrace the differences among people rather than attack and ridicule them. There is nothing wrong with showing students that they can love who they want to. I would also like to mention that Representative Johnson voted for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. And to be clear, this bill was not about religious freedom; it was a direct attack against gay marriage. The Don’t Say Gay bill stops education about sexuality and gender identity for children under 10. In addition to that, teachers are legally obligated to inform students’ parents about their sexuality if they hear that said students are queer in any way shape or form. I wouldn’t be fully against the concept of witholding sexual content or education from kids under the age of 10, but what invokes the most rage in me is the fact that teachers continue to be forthcoming about cisgendered, heterosexual relationships. As of late October, a similar bill has also been brought up in the federal congress. What you can do is vote for politicians that you know will vote for the right thing. The future of LGBTQ+ rights in the United States is in our hands.
I am sure you have also heard of the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court. This gave the states the right to decide if and/or when you can get an abortion, many of which banned it completely. This, obviously, is horrible and limits the rights and autonomy that women should have over their own bodies. However, I want to focus more on the other problems that have arisen from this overturning. Clarence Thomas is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He is referred to as the most conservative justice of the court, and also happened to vote against womens’ rights to an abortion. Amidst the political warfare between people who are Pro-Life(more so pro-controlling-women) and Pro-Choice after the reversal of the Roe v. Wade ruling, Justice Thomas publicly stated that we should reconsider laws regarding same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage as well. Only seven years ago, gay marriage became legal in the United States. Now, conservative citizens, politicians, and other public officials are already pushing to make it illegal again. This truly shows how targeted queer people have been, are, and will continue to be in the United States and the rest of the world. It’s bad enough to face criticism for being gay from people in your personal life, but to have the government act against your right to love whomever you want makes things much worse. The government is here to serve and protect us, yet they are now making LGBTQ+ citizens feel unsafe and confined in a country whose basis is the liberty and freedom of the people.
In addition to the hate that queer people face on a political level, there is also a great quantity of ridicule from average citizens. Often, this comes from a religious standpoint. Bible verses, Torah verses, excerpts from the Quran, and more have all been used against people in the LGBTQ+ community to condemn their ‘lifestyle’. Many people argue the fact that, “It isn’t what God intended.” However, what do you say to the people who don’t believe in God? You can’t push an agenda that means nothing to them. These same people also complain that homosexuals “shove their sexuality” down the throats of others. Are these homophobic people not doing the same thing to us?
Although I am only able to cover a limited number of issues amongst the LGBTQ+ community, there are many more that go without much needed acknowledgement. Despite the amount of prevailing hate in the United States against queer people, I believe that we can make a change. There are a significantly greater amount of people in support of the LGBTQ+ community than against it. We can put an emphasis on this support by making ourselves heard. By voting, educating others, and protesting the immense hate against minority populations, you can help evolve our country into the equitable, progressive place it should be.
In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my dog, family, and friends. I like riding my bike, playing volleyball, and I am an avid R&B and Indie music listener. This year in school, I have become involved with Mock Trial, Model UN, Tikkun Olam, National Junior Honor Society, and Thespians.
what is your main source of inspiration?
My mom. She is a teacher to me, my shoulder to cry on, the person I laugh hardest with, and most importantly, my best friend. She has taught me everything I know in life and I know we will continue to grow together for a very long time. She has always told me to speak up for what I think is right, and to never let anyone judge me for who I am. She is the reason I feel comfortable in my own skin and proud about my sexuality and self-identity.
what was the most difficult part of your writing process for this work?
The most difficult part about this piece was choosing which topics I thought were most important to write about. There are so many struggles and battles that the queer community faces, all of which are equally important. I felt I should pick the ones that are easily comprehensible, as I want the essay to be open to a wide range of readers.
how do you resonate with your piece? why is it personal to you?
As a gay and Jewish teen, I have experienced my fair share of prejudice from teachers, peers, family, and even people I don’t know. Knowing the struggle helps me sympathize with many others within a wide range of identities.