A child left out in the cold, no older than twelve years, shivering, crying and lonely; no love to fill the hole that permeates their shattered heart. Why is this poor child left out in the cold? Why won’t a shelter take him in and care for him? Where are his parents? Who is at fault?
This child was abandoned to the frigid wasteland simply for admitting that they can only love a member of the same sex. Simply for being honest to those they thought they could trust… their parents. Parents, who have discarded their children simply because of the ideals that society has placed upon LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) persons, ideals such as hatred, bigotry, and dissent towards them. These are ideals that do not hold true with the facts, but simply are nothing more than misconceptions and misunderstandings of these innocent and loving individuals.
The tragic scenario above is a gruesome reality that plagues our country. These innocent children are homeless for no other reason except for the fact that they were born different. A difference so undeniably hated, so venomously despised that a further analysis seems only to provoke conviction and dispute amongst individuals, when, in actuality, it is merely addressing the simple facts. This epidemic not only curtails homeless LGBT youth who make up nearly 40 percent of all homeless youth (PDF document), but also exemplifies how LGBT people are discarded and hated by society. By just addressing the situation we can witness not only the depravity that haunts LGBT people, but also see their humanity through the hardships and despotism they face from a country and its people that refuse to allow them to live as who they are born as; free, equal, and accepted.
If the parents of these children knew and understood that one cannot choose or change their sexual orientation; could they live with the guilt of abandoning their child? Any decent person would hope not. What makes this situation worse, for real LGBT homeless youth, or, more general, displaced LGBT, is the fact that more shelters today are run off of George W. Bush’ faith-based-organization funding program (a program started that allowed religious institutions to receive more funding for charity measures, like shelters, soup kitchens, adoption and foster agencies), many of the people, who now own shelters, are faith based, and have supported measures of legal and social discrimination against LGBT persons. These include supporting ballot measures to strip LGBT people of their marriage rights, halting discrimination protection clauses in both job security and housing, and measures that forbid LGBT persons from adopting their spouse’ child.
Many of these homeless shelters not only refuse to accept these LGBT persons but some actively engage in discrimination against these innocent individuals. In Michigan, a shelter forced youth perceived to be LGBT to wear orange jumpsuits to distinguish them from the other children (NGLTF PDF report). These children were often harassed and ridiculed on a daily basis because of this. A person could say that forcing already traumatized children to wear brightly colored jumpsuits is eerily similar to how LGBT, in the concentration camps, were forced to wear the inverted pink triangle so they can be identified, separated and slaughtered from the rest of the camp. While we are far beyond the demonic clutches of Nazi Germany, our government allows these religious conservative groups to discriminate. The reason: “their actions and words are not discriminatory but simply practicing their ‘religious values and beliefs': a practice which is to be protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution.” This is quite alarming for the fact that the Declaration of Independence clearly states that life, liberty, and/or the pursuit of happiness are inalienable rights. These institutions that believe they are justified in their mistreatment of LGBT people clearly violate historic precedent.
It should be known that only a select few of religions actually perceive homosexuality in a negative light (the Abrahamic dogmas: Christianity, Islam, Judaism). In the United States however, those religions that do discriminate against LGBT persons have far reaching networks, extensive political power, and almost unlimited amounts of resources to spread their doctrine across the globe where they have a prodigious number of followers. A good example of this is the International Transformation Networks, an evangelical Christian conservative association with close ties to the Ugandan leadership, Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, and Exodus International.
For many, who are religious conservatives (mainly Christian conservatives), it is common knowledge, to them, that homosexuality is an unforgivable sin, that is ungodly, unnatural and, to some, “evil.” Others simply see it as: love the sinner, hate the sin; in which love the person but despise who and what they are; who and what they are born as. This is the basis that creates this social disconnect in people who cannot see that their mistreatment of LGBT people is directly affecting persons, and not what people describe as “sexual behavior.” However, this disconnection of behavior and being was the sole reason why such atrocities, like the Holocaust of Nazi Germany, happened and how people believed what they were doing was just, when in fact it was severely unjust. Such ideology, however, can be countered by moderate forms of the same religion, which does not hold views that homosexuality is, per se, a sin. This rhetoric fosters the image that these LGBT people seem more like an item, a useless, valueless object, and less like a “human being.” With this given evidence and seeing the hardships that LGBT people face, especially youth, one can logically assert, “Who would choose this?” The argument, however, is not “who,” but “why must homosexuality be a choice.”
It is also a person’ own education of misinformation that taught them to believe LGBT are simply behaviors; not human beings. It is much easier to condemn a behavior and act harshly towards it, rather than harshly condemn the person; the being. Therefore, separating the being from the behavior allows individuals to accept and self justify their discrimination because they do not believe they are targeting a person, but just a small behavior they engage in. Almost similar to yelling at a child, who happily and ignorantly runs out into the street unaware of the danger of being hit by a car – these individuals feel they are doing the same but against LGBT and their behavior (although the behavior and being are one in the same).
We now understand the sin argument, which explains separation of being and behavior; however, another rhetoric often used in conjunction with the sin argument is the Creation argument: “God didn’t intend for homosexuality to exist” or simply put: “God didn’t create “homosexuals.'” Considering that many of these people believe that human life was created in the image of God, a person could logically denounce such a statement. I.E. “If God didn’t intent, nor create LGBT people, and at the same time all human beings are created in “God” image, then why do LGBT exist?” Case and point: if God created humans wouldn’t he have made provisions to make sure there were no LGBT people? Of course Rev. Rick Warren believed he had a perfect argument against the previous quote saying: “Well, God gave people free will to choose or not to choose to act on their behaviors and desires, like murder, thieves, rapist and pedophiles.” Despite Warren relating homosexuality to practices that cause immense harm to innocent individuals, do loving, committed, consensual adults wishing to live their lives by who they are hurt anyone as his examples do? No. Another thing to consider is that while a person can choose to act on their feelings, in the case of LGBT people, LGBT people never chose to have those feelings.
For those individuals who feel LGBT people should not be totally accepted, let us just look at Massachusetts, where gay marriage have been recognized and legal since 2004. Yet, despite being completely accepting of LGBT people, Massachusetts has yet to have been swallowed up by the clutches of hell, as was prophesied by opponents. Aside from Massachusetts, the nation, itself, did not falter any more than it has. The passages of Sodom and Gomorrah did not come to horrific life as was predicted; in fact quite the opposite. Massachusetts enjoys one of the lowest divorce rates in the nation: even lower than they were in the 1940s. While this seems like a simply distraction from the topic it is merely addressing that the bigotry against LGBT people is completely unwarranted and entirely unethical.
Besides the unethical nature of the bigotry, when a person is a religious conservative, they seem generally compassionate, altruistic, and loving individuals; they will attest to this in most situations. However, interject about the topic of homosexuality, and you discover a monster far more demonic and horrifying than any beast, out of any mythology, arise with torrents of contempt and condemnation against LGBT. Far stranger is that this degrading and dehumanizing rhetoric is often in the guise of a smile, a giggle, and a wink. I.E. “I don’t hate “homosexuals’ but they need to know that they will suffer an eternity in hell for their sin” or “I love “homosexuals’ but they need to understand they are living in sin.”
Due to spreading the idea of homosexuality as a “sin,” and a “choice,” religious conservatives have also led Uganda on a path that has created a Bill that will now execute LGBT persons, and jail family, friends, and coworkers who do not turn them in (3). Another thing to consider is that these same organizations, responsible for this genocide, falsely explain that homosexuality is a mental disorder — a contention that was birthed directly from the United States. This is not only false but brings up the question: “Why would these individuals wish to push the idea that homosexuality is a western idea, negating and denying the evidence that it is a person’ being that is seen all over the world?” LGBT people can be found far and wide across all continents, in all groups and in all cultures. Despite this, these religious organizations refuse to understand and accept that evidence. Another valid question to consider: “In a country like Uganda where homosexuality is looked down upon very harshly, who would choose to be homosexual?” It just doesn’t seem logical, nor does it seem real to conclude it is a choice, when there are many gay people living in fear of execution in Uganda. Of course the counter argument often brought up by Focus on the Family and Exodus international is that “homosexuality is a very hard addiction to cure.” However, it has been established in science and by many religions that homosexual orientation is not something that can be cured because it is not a sickness, an addiction, a “lifestyle” or a sin.
In light of all this rhetoric, it has been proven and documented by all mainstream medical and psychological associations in the United States, Canada, and Europe, that asking or demanding LGBT people to ignore who they are or to be something they are not, is extremely unhealthy to such people; even inherently dangerous; as well as completely unethical (6). Today most medical institution in the world has come to the consensus that, while we do not know for certain what is the cause of homosexuality, or more broadly: sexual orientation, we know from studies done, such as the twin studies by J.M. Bailey and R.C. Pillard that the basis of sexual orientation is mainly biological and not environmental (environmental meaning effects from upbringing, experience, or trauma). These institutions have documented and done multiple experiments that conclude sexual orientation is fixed and unchangeable. All of these test and studies have been completely repeatable. For homosexuality, these medical institutions find it to be, as the American Psychological Association says, “a normal, natural and positive variant of sexual orientation that is not a mental disorder.”
Insofar as to say, if who you are causes no harm to yourself, to the person you are with and society, and fulfills the crucial parts of a person life, like compassion, love, sacrifice, family, etc, is it not only brazen and disingenuous, but also mean-spirited, to demand that people throw that knowledge away because it is slightly different from what is considered normal? To also throw a person’ right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness away simply because a few individuals’ love seems different, when it is not? Those who discriminate against LGBT often pool their wealth into campaigns to defeat legal measures which would have ensured that LGBT people are respected as full equal citizens.
So this breaks down to the simple analysis, why must it be a choice? We looked at how LGBT youth face dire consequences for being honest with their parents. We looked at arguments and their concessions about the beliefs some individuals have against LGBT. We looked at how much effort and destruction is put forth, by those who we can now safely call “anti-gay.” There is no logical, communicable, or even a “loving” approach to telling a whole segment of society that they “choose” the hardships and despotism they must face on a daily basis. So “Why must homosexuality be a choice?” It is simply because, those who are anti-gay, wish to justify their bigotry and devalue the humanity of LGBT. One could ask themselves: “If everyone finally accepted that fact that homosexuality is not chosen nor can be changed, what would that say about the people who constantly opposed that view point and the evidence that supports it?” That is something you as the reader must conclude on your own. However, if history is a marker for conventional wisdom, it would be known that such individuals “would be” regarded with the utmost contempt and condemnation by society, as were the KKK and the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler, once they were shown under the microscope of public scrutiny.
The surface of the first layer, that delves into the many hardships LGBT people face from this perception of sexual orientation being a choice, has yet to be scuffed, let alone scratched. While some of this information seems hard to believe, it is just a small fraction of what LGBT people face from society and government in the United States. A crucial argument has been brought forth in this essay: that there is value and a human element in the lives of LGBT, but to also point out that there is no “value” in the words and rhetoric of those who willfully and ignorantly discriminate.
Chris Marshall is a student at NMC college in Traverse City, Mich. His main field of study is cognitive psychology, studying sexual orientation, and pathology. He has extensive knowledge of the Abrahamic faiths, as well as 25 other religions. He works in the community mentoring troubled LGBT teens who are mainly hurt by the religious conservatives that plague the city and just so happen to be their parents. As a survivor of ex-gay therapy, Chris helps dispel myths and misconceptions about gay people and fight against the dangerous and deadly ex-gay fraud.
For more information:
Department of Health and Human Services, and Ruth Ellis Center. Issue: Runaway and Homeless LGBTQ Youth. United States Department of Health and Human Services, 2009.
Crary, David, and Associated Press. “More Help Urged for Homeless Gay Youth.” The Task Force. 2010 National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Foundation., 30 Jan. 2007.
Wilson, Bruce. “Movement Behind Uganda’s ‘Kill the Gays’ Bill Organizing in Newark.” Editorial. Talk To Action. Rabow Law, 10 Jan. 2010.
J. M. Bailey & R. C. Pillard, “A Genetic Study of Male Sexual Orientation,” Archives of General Psychiatry 48 (1991): Pages 1089 to 1096.
J. M. Bailey & R. C. Pillard, et al., “Heritable Factors Influence Sexual Orientation in Women,” Archives of General Psychiatry 50 (1993), Page 217 to 223.
American Psychological Association. “Resolution on Appropriate Affirmative Responses to Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts.” apa.org. American Psychological Association.
Coffey, Megan, Sonoma County Civil Rights Examiner. “Low Massachusetts divorce rate another defeat for same-sex marriage opponents.” Examiner.com. 2009 Clarity Digital Group LLC, 8 Sept. 2009.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Vital Statistics Report, Volume 57, Number 19 Births, Marriages, Divorces, and Deaths: Provisional Data for 2008. Atlanta, GA: USA.gov, 29 July 2009.