Eleven point seven million Americans are being persecuted for their beliefs. People protest against their right to live and love, and say that these 11.7 million nice people are committing a deadly sin by expressing themselves.
Why are our fellow Americans being punished for their beliefs? Because these people are openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. At this point, a lot of people might stop reading, convinced that these people deserve the hatred of others, and convinced that their opinion is right. But can I just ask you one question?: How would you feel if you couldn't be with the person you love?
Although I'm straight, it hurts me deep inside to know that some people are not allowed to be themselves and love who they want. I've grown up in a military family, and in traveling the world, I've learned to accept all people. When I moved to Utah, I was upset to find that not all shared my opinion. The majority of the people in this state have very strong views on things, including the rights of homosexuals.
Those 11.7 million people equal nearly five times the population of Utah. But in Utah, they are constantly discriminated against. The predominant religion in this state has a strong anti-homosexual message and as for the rest of the population, they are mostly politically conservative and still tend to hold strong hatred toward the gay community. Although there is a large group that does support gay rights, it is far from the majority.
In September 2010, five openly gay teens, ages 13 to 18, were driven to suicide due to bullying. One was Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers University. His roommate and another student secretly recorded Clementi kissing another man, and posted the video on the Internet. Tyler experienced a wave of online bullying brought on by an invasion of privacy. He applied for a new room, and complained about his roommate to school officials, but nothing was done. After his roommate tweeted that he would post more videos, Tyler committed suicide, jumping into the Hudson River.
Incidents like these make me sad, and make me ashamed to be straight. I do not like being associated with bullies and murderers. Also, I am angry that there seems to be nothing I can do to change their minds.
One of my teachers said that he felt that if it's all right to teach tolerance of gay people, then teachers should also be able to teach the opposite. I was angered, as were many people in my class. I told him, "Well, if we teach religious tolerance, by that same logic, we should be able to teach the opposite," but he firmly denied that it was the same thing. It is attitudes like this that cause so much torment for the gay community. How can they be open with themselves if they can't be open to anyone close to them, for fear of bullying?
The biggest protests about the subject have to do with the right for homosexuals to marry. Although a few states allow same-sex marriage, many others are opposed to this. Utah does not allow gay marriage, or even civil unions. Many say same-sex couples getting married ruins the sanctity of marriage. But gays are simply making a commitment to their love, and only want recognition and acceptance of this.
Another common argument is that "God hates gays," to which I must reply: Why would the open, accepting God, or whatever deity or lack thereof you believe in, hate a certain group of people He created? To those who are convinced that being gay is a choice: Why would you choose something that would bring you hatred and discrimination? Why would you want to be bullied, sometimes to death, just so you could choose to be gay?
Adam (Norberg) Loveland, a sophomore at Bonneville High, knows what that bullying is like. He is openly gay, and his bravery is not always met with respect: "Well, some are generally accepting," he said. "But sometimes I tell a friend, they get all weird around me, like I'm a disease. It's hard to deal with, but if they can't accept me for me, then they weren't good friends anyway."
Not all straight people are so closed-minded. Bonneville High has a gay-straight alliance, opening the door to acceptance, and there are straight students at school who do believe in equality for all.
I know a lot of people hate gays; I know their opinions may never change. All I can do is hope for acceptance. We are all companions in this world, part of one population; we can't discriminate against a part of ourselves.
I'm straight, but I'm not narrow-minded. If I have to, I will fight my entire life for the equal rights of 11.7 million gays. Everyone deserves love, acceptance and a chance. It will get better.
Zoe Fetters will be a senior this fall at Bonneville High. She loves music, '80s movies and Stephen Colbert. Email her at email@example.com.